Dr. Robert N. Butler is the President and CEO of the International Longevity Center. Whether through his many appearances in front of the United States Congress, or his hundreds of interviews with the media, Dr. Butler has worked tirelessly for decades to push population-aging issues into the public discourse. As a gerontologist and psychiatrist, Dr. Butler recognized discrimination against the elderly as early as 1968, coining the term "ageism." Eight years later, the publication of his Pulitzer-prize-winning "Why Survive? Being Old in America" solidified his reputation as someone who foresaw the impact that aging would have on American society. A founding director of the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health, as well as the nation's first department of geriatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Dr. Butler often consults for television and radio. He is the author of some 300 scientific and medical articles. Source: The International Longevity Center
Question: Does calorie restriction slow aging?
Robert Butler: There is a lot of truth to that. It applies to almost every species in which it has been studied and it is now a process being studied in monkeys, which are the closest we have from an evolutionary point of view, a group that is being studied. So, far it looks like they are doing better and staying healthier under caloric restriction. We don't know yet about the length of life because we haven't had the study going on that long, but it was justified to now start studying it in human beings and so there are three universities where caloric restriction is being studied in human beings.
Question: Why is restriction effective?
Robert Butler: Well, too many calories, I mean there is an appropriate number of calories, but too many calories add obesity and America is the heaviest nation in the world. Definitely, it is a disaster. In fact, we are now seeing type 2, which means old age diabetes in 10 year old children and that means they are going to have more coronary heart disease, more diabetes, more arthritis and they are going to die younger. It could be first generation that actually lives less long than their parents.
Question: Are there any other benefits?
Robert Butler: Well, you feel stronger and better. We of course know that the caloric restricted diet is going to be very unpalatable for most people. There is too much of a restriction. So, what is now being studied are the ingredients. Why it happens? And if we can put that into a medicine, we would therefore be able to sort of speak have our cake and eat it too and there is a chemical called resveratrol and a series of genes called SIRT1s, which may account for caloric restriction and if so, that is a very important step forward in understanding the basic biology of aging and longevity.
Question: Are there any negative side effects?
Robert Butler: Well, they do have less sexual libido. They may not feel as energetic because they are not getting as much food. Other than that, we don’t know of any truly serious consequences, but as I said it would be much better if we could find the appropriate pharmacological agent or drug that would do the job of caloric restriction without the more unpleasant aspects like having such a restricted diet.
Recorded on: Mar 17 2008