Epidemiological and experimental data indicate that diet plays a central role in the pathogenesis of many age-associated chronic diseases, and in the biology of aging itself. Data from several animal studies suggest that the degree and time of calorie restriction (CR) onset, the timing of food intake as well as diet composition, play major roles in promoting health and longevity, breaking the old dogma that only calorie intake is important in extending healthy lifespan. Data from human studies indicate that long-term CR with adequate intake of nutrients results in several metabolic adaptations that reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Moreover, CR opposes the expected age-associated alterations in myocardial stiffness, autonomic function, and gene expression in the human skeletal muscle. However, it is possible that some of the beneficial effects on metabolic health are not entirely due to CR, but to the high-quality diets consumed by the CR practitioners, as suggested by data collected in individuals consuming strict vegan diets. More studies are needed to understand the interactions among single nutrient modifications (e.g. protein/amino acid, fatty acids, vitamins, phytochemicals, and minerals), the degree of CR and the frequency of food consumption in modulating anti-aging metabolic and molecular pathways, and in the prevention of age-associated diseases.
Keywords: Calorie restriction; Diet quality; Disease prevention; Health; Lifespan; Vegetarian diet.