At least that’s the conclusion that scientists have come to after studying thin mice. Thankfully the thin mice were between the Paris and Milan fashion shows (gives a whole new meaning to catwalk, no?) and were available for research. All that exercise stuff that everyone’s so worked up about? Totally last season. The intrepid researchers found that mice that are thin because of caloric restriction live longer than mice that are equally thin because of exercise. No word on if the thin mice chain-smoked or did heroin although one admitted to partying with Lindsay Lohan before going to mouse rehab.
You read me right: If you want to live longer, eating less is more important than exercising – even if the end weight is exactly the same. I’ll wait while your head explodes. And lest you get all indignant because last you checked you were not a mouse, two prior studies examined the same thing in human beings and came to the same conclusion.
The Three Little Mice
Grab your pillows children because I have a bedtime story for you. Once upon a time there were three little mice. One day their wealthy father died, leaving a princely sum to whichever mouse lived the longest.
The first mouse was broken down from years of being compared to his older brothers and having no money for therapy, decided to just give up and watch TV and eat potato chips for the rest of his life. On the side he ran a successful blog snarking at various TV celebrities but lacking for real companionship, he took up drinking alone and anyone who has seen Silence of the Lambs knows where that leads.
The second mouse was your typical overachiever attention-whore and in an effort to escape the legacy of competition left by his late father took up Iron Man competitions interspersed with ultra-marathons. He eventually got his own TV show as a personal trainer for spoiled celebrities which, ironically, won him a space of honor on his little bro’s website. Not that he ever knew it. His Achilles heel, however, was his love of good food and so he too ate whatever he wanted.
The third mouse was a serious computer programmer with a penchant for oversleeping and the irritating habit of being on time even when being spontaneous. So involved was he with his open-source revolution that he often forgot to eat, going long stretches where all he consumed were wee bites of cracker and gouda.
So one day when their father’s attorney came a huffin’ and a puffin’ fit to blow their doors down, he found the first little mouse in a diabetic coma and summarily disinherited him. It was harder to judge between the second and third mice though, seeing as they were both lean. Finally the attorney decided he would just have to wait it out and see which one bit the proverbial dust first. (Thankfully mice have a pretty short life span and the attorney was a human. What – you thought he was going to be rat? Pig.)
Unfortunately the attorney found the first mouse’s blog and laughed so hard that he choked on a peanut and died before either of the two remaining mice. But I will tell you the end: the programmer outlasted the jock. Moral of the story: the geek shall inherit the earth. Alternate moral: know when to give up on a bad analogy that you just can’t finish.
If exercising is better than nothing but calorie restriction is better than even exercising, why is this so? The researchers anticipated your question and examined whether the results were due to exercise causing some kind of cellular damage or if calorie restriction altered something in the body that extends life. They found the latter to be true.
Specifically, calorie restriction lead to hormonal benefits that made both the people and the mice in all three studies live longer. The Silverman (as in Sarah) lining to this cloud:
“However, calorie restriction studies are difficult to carry out in people because participants often complain of feeling hungry, lethargic, and cold.” Ah, said like a true researcher!
Personally, I would like to live to be 100 but preferably without feeling hungry, lethargic and cold (there’s an epigraph for your tombstone!). Science might just have an answer to that but I’m warning you, you’re not going to like the first suggestion;)