Some not so good news for the “calorie restriction” folks

Severe Diet Doesn’t Prolong Life, at Least in Monkeys

That was the headline for an article about “calorie restriction” in the New York Times on 8-29-12 (See link below). While researching the optimal diet for humans back in 2003, I explored many kinds of diet-styles, some of which would be labeled severe or extreme by the mainstream. They included fruitarian, raw-foodist and calorie-restriction.

Ultimately, I chose the whole foods, plant-based diet-style that was recommended by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Neal Barnard and other prominent physicians that I know and respect. I was looking for a diet-style that would promote health, reverse disease and be relatively convenient for my lifestyle. I finally concluded that a simple and easy diet that reversed heart disease and type 2 diabetes was good enough for me. I later designed our 4Leaf concept around that premise as described by Dr. Campbell thusly:

The closer we get to eating a whole foods, plant-based diet; the better off we will be.

Rhesus monkeys didn’t fare too well on the CR diet.

What about the “calorie restriction” diet? That’s the “severe” diet that has been featured in the news this past week. Wikipedia defines CR as a dietary regimen that has been shown to increase both median and maximum lifespan in a variety of species.

But they point out that there has never been a randomized clinical trial of CR in humans. They mention the first study in primates, the one that began at the University of Wisconsin in 1989 and whose results were reported this week. From the article by Gina Kolata in the New York Times:

The results of this major, long-awaited study, which began in 1987, are finally in. But it did not bring the vindication calorie restriction enthusiasts had anticipated. It turns out the skinny monkeys did not live any longer than those kept at more normal weights. Some lab test results improved, but only in monkeys put on the diet when they were old. The causes of death — cancer, heart disease — were the same in both the underfed and the normally fed monkeys.

That’s certainly not good news from the calorie restriction folks, but I doubt they will change their eating habits because of it. There is a group called The Calorie Restriction Society that was formed in 1993 and I have included a link to their site below in case you’re interested. Here’s a paragraph about their philosophy from that website:

Calorie Restriction (CR) is the consumption of a diet with adequate quantities of all essential nutrients, except that the energy content of the diet (caloric intake) is safely reduced (by as much as 10-40%) below the amount of energy (calories) that the body would tend to naturally desire, absent any special dietary measures.

As any scientifically responsible review of research in the field of gerontology will quickly reveal, the only valid life-extension method that has any proven scientific backing behind it at all is Calorie Restriction (CR), from which “The Calorie Restriction Society” derives its name.

Dr. Roy Alford, shown here with Biosphere 2, where he spent two years. Is that a glass of milk in the picture?

While studying about the “optimal diet” for humans back in 2003, I discovered Dr. Roy Walford, who is one of the pioneers of the calorie restriction theory. Among other things, he was one of eight people who lived in Biosphere 2 for two years (91-93).

Although I respect much of his work and have read at least one of his books, I ultimately chose not to follow his regimen when it came to “calorie restriction.”Later I heard that he died at the age of 79.

From Wikipedia: Roy Lee Walford, M. D. (June 29, 1924 San Diego, California, USA – April 27, 2004) was a pioneer in the field of caloric restriction. He died at age 79 of respiratory failure as a complication of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s or motor neurone disease). He was a leading advocate of calorie restriction as a method of life extension and health improvement.

The Bottom Line and the Good News. With our recommended 4Leaf diet-style, you can eat all you want of the right food for humans—whole plants, still in nature’s package. That means no calorie counting, no constant effort to cut back on calories and certainly no calorie restriction. Another problem I have with the CR theory is that they appear to advocate seafood and dairy, which are simply not a part of our 4Leaf formula.

Not only will our simple 4Leaf diet reverse chronic disease, it is also the single biggest step that humans can take toward returning to living in harmony with the rest of the planet. And you can easily get started for less than $50 with this handy kit:

The J. Stanfield Hicks family — no calorie counting here. Photo by J. Morris Hicks in Rhode Island, 9-2-12

Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from

Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Diagnostic Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to

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J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page or some great recipes at Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

Got a question? Let me hear from you at Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.

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Blogging daily at…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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3 Responses to Some not so good news for the “calorie restriction” folks

  1. Denise says:

    That picture of your family looks great! That’s how kids used to look!

  2. Linda201 says:

    It seems to me that the study would have provided more information (and better conclusions) if there were a third group. “Skinny” and “normal-weight” are not, obviously, the only conditions in which humans find themselves. What about overweight/obese? There should have been a third group of monkeys who were fed excess calories and got fat, not just one group whose calories were restricted to the degree that they stayed “skinny,” and one group whose calories were restricted to the degree that they maintained “normal” weight.

  3. Leo S. says:

    Turning to a whole-plant food diet will probably be calorie restricting compared to the normally- eaten SAD but at the same time might provide more essential nutrients and hopefully better cellular integrity and function.

    Nathan Pritikin also allowed milk in his program. He died at 69 while being treated for leukemia. ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) was mentioned in your blog. The following link, from your video list, shows many conditions which might be due to dairy consumption, at the 42:00 minute mark. There is much interesting information in the video. See it in segments if necessary.

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