It is entranced into our minds that physical training improves your fitness and health and you live longer and brighter lives. However, it is also known, though less widespread, that taking more calories has opposite effects, e.g. 2011 research

We are able to show that caloric restriction slows down ageing by preventing an enzyme, peroxiredoxin, from being inactivated. This enzyme is also extremely important in counteracting damage to our genetic material," says Mikael Molin of the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology.

By gradually reducing the intake of sugar and proteins, without reducing vitamins and minerals, researchers have previously shown that monkeys can live several years longer than expected.

This implies that we should eat less, which implies that we should have less activity (we are not talking about balanced diet rather than burning fats). What am I doing wrong? I cannot understand if I should take more activity and calories or less food and minimal activity.

I see that there is a similar question, Do fit or muscular people age better?. But, it is a bit vague (as answers confirm), and thus did not receive any consideration of the key controversy. I want sharp answer on the sharp question.

  • You need to consider that the lower your body weight, the lower your resting metabolic rate is and thus the less you need to eat. So if you are overweight, diet and exercise to lose weight is undoubtedly a good thing. Also consider that your body adjusts its metabolism in response to exercise and food intake. If you exercise more, and consciously maintain a constant food intake, your metabolism will decrease, you will not just die. Therefore exercise is a good thing, provided you ensure you consciously maintain a constant caloric intake.
    – Kenshin
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 14:02
  • 2
    This particular study is a study on yeast. It's far from being applied to human cells. And, exercise is a form of calorie restriction. If you eat 2000 calories a day, and then start an exercise program that uses 800 calories a day, your net calories is now 1200. Basically, what all the studies show is that eating excess calories is damaging, eating the calories you need to maintain weight (Assuming a healthy diet) helps you live longer. It's not necessarily that you need to eat less, but that people in general need to stop overconsuming.
    – JohnP
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 16:12
  • @JohnP I wonder how you failed to see that research have addressed hominides rather than yeast but you have managed to notice that research considers the exercise as a form of calorie restriction. The article says nothing about monkey obesity and only considers calorie intake. Reducing the intake of sugar and proteins literally means the opposite. Where did you found that point about exercises (your fantasies?) and why do you upvote the answer below which says that research addresses monkeys rather than yeast? Do you understand that apes have basically human same cells?
    – valentin
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 19:07
  • @valentin - Yes, research has addressed hominids. The article that you cite, while it does say "previous research", is about enzyme activity in yeast in a current study just published. "Using yeast cells as a model, the research team at the University of Gothenburg has successfully identified one of the enzymes required. They are able to show that active peroxiredoxin 1, Prx1, an enzyme that breaks down harmful hydrogen peroxide in the cells, is required for caloric restriction to work effectively." - Reading comprehension is a wonderful thing.
    – JohnP
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 20:42

2 Answers 2


Personally I would look at the leading causes of death in (my case) the United States:

  • Heart disease: 596,577
  • Cancer: 576,691
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 142,943
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 128,932
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 126,438
  • Alzheimer's disease: 84,974
  • Diabetes: 73,831
  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 53,826
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 45,591
  • Intentional self-harm (suicide): 39,518

"General old age" isn't marked up there, and although those monkeys managed to hold on to a few more years, I don't think they're plagued by the same diseases that human beings are.

This is one of those times where I think the difference between humans and apes becomes clear. Monkeys don't work office jobs, don't drive cars, don't sit on sofas, and didn't have a more than 2x increase in their life expectancy in the last two thousand years. Medical care has allowed us to far surpass our old average life expectancy of ~30 years.

I think the more important question, and it's assumptive to think the monkey-calorie study answers it, is:

Does a reduced calorie diet mean a human being will live longer, given that the leading causes of death are completely different in humans and monkeys?

You and I have a completely different set of challenges then a monkey does, so the mechanisms we need to employ for our health are likewise very different.

For all the primary causes of death except for nephritis, exercise has been shown to seriously reduce your chances of ending up with one of them (it even addresses depression which is linked to suicide).

For Alzheimer's (2010 study):

Although extensive studies are required to understand the mechanism, it is clear that physical exercise is beneficial in the prevention of AD and other age-associated neurodegenerative disorders.

For heart disease (2003 study):

Although the effect of an exercise program on any single risk factor may generally be small, the effect of continued, moderate exercise on overall cardiovascular risk, when combined with other lifestyle modifications (such as proper nutrition, smoking cessation,and medication use), can be dramatic.

Strokes (2004 study):

Moreover, data from studies involving stroke and able-bodied subjects have documented the beneficial impact of regular physical activity on multiple cardiovascular disease risk factors and provided evidence that such benefits are likely to translate into a reduced risk for mortality from stroke and cardiac events.

Cancers are too numerous to make sweeping statements about, but the National Cancer Institute has demonstrable evidence of exercise playing a significant role in reducing multiple cancer risks.

Diabetes is clearly reduced by nutrition and exercise, and half of "accident deaths" are from falls, many of which in the elderly although perhaps not fatal start a chain reaction of events through broken hips and then lack of physical movement. Increasing balance and coordination reduces falls, and this has been demonstrated with fitness as well (2006 study):

Power training improves balance, particularly using a low load, high velocity regimen, in older adults with initial lower muscle power and slower contraction.


The study on the monkeys did not show a reduction in the primary (or even secondary) causes of death in humans. As such I think it's quite a leap to think it applies to humans in any material way as the challenges to our mortality are fundamentally different than that of a monkey.

  • +1 for a great summation. Wish I could give a second +1 for "Does a reduced calorie diet mean a human being will live longer, given that the leading causes of death are completely different in humans and monkeys?"
    – JohnP
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 17:57
  • Eric, This is praiseworthy comment. However, they target people neverthelss and it is appropriate since the major lethal contributors from your list are considered. Furhtermore, 2/3 of them are obesity-related, thus calory limitation is even more appropriate for people than for monkey. I do not know how to comment @JohnP who dislike identifying yeast with people but is happy when we identify them with monkeys.
    – valentin
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 14:28
  • 1
    @valentin - Because monkeys are very similar to us biologically, which is why they are used so extensively in testing. Yeast is a unicellular organism. Also, "2/3" of his list is not obesity related. Obesity may be a complicating factor, but not a contributing one.
    – JohnP
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 15:52
  • @JohnP Water is liquid. This does not mean that studying yeast, as you say, tells anything about monkey. Strokes, heart deseases and even diabetis imply intaking to much energy. I do not think that accidents are appropriate. They are even more likely in jungles. All other deseases, cancer and Alzheimer, are though not obessity-related, present on the research list. So, I do not understand your pretence to the research.
    – valentin
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 18:58

A recent study suggests that things are more complex, and it's not clear whether caloric restriction works or doesn't work. We do know that fit people live longer and have fewer health issues. Seems like an easy decision to me.

  • 1
    I wonder why nobody remarks this answer as inappropriate since it tests yeast and addresses monkey instead of people.
    – valentin
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 12:21
  • @valentin - You really need to get over your butt-hurt about people not liking certain things. Or is that too much to ask on a site that your profile states "is controlled by criminals"?
    – JohnP
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 20:38
  • @valentin - The studies mentioned and talked about in Eric's link are about monkeys. Yes, the word yeast is mentioned, but it isn't about yeast. Just like your article mentions monkeys, but is not about them. And, this article brings up an interesting point in that calorie restriction in early life (< 7 years) does not have the same benefits as when it is started in later life.
    – JohnP
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 20:46
  • @JohnP Criminals always want others to shut up about bad things. They can call your feeling of disharmony, a "butt hurt" and frighten you with authority.
    – valentin
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 21:00
  • @valentin - You're really out there. I have no authority.
    – JohnP
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 21:28

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