Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Is Moderate Exercise better than Heavy Exercise?

I exchanged emails recently with the nutritionist Jeff Novick. I was seeking his opinion about the consumption of nuts/seeds on a daily basis. Jeff differs from Dr. (Joel)Fuhrman. Jeff claims that no research supports the health benefits of more than 2 oz. of nuts/seeds daily. Joel takes the opposite position and claims that no research demonstrates that more than 2 oz. of nuts/seeds per day is harmful. Dr. Fuhrman advocates nuts/seeds as a healthy way to get extra calories if you are very active. He sees nothing wrong with fat intake that is 20%, 30% or even higher if the fat you are consuming comes from healthy whole foods sources like nuts, seeds or avocados.

Jeff also believes that fewer calories are better than more calories, even for healthy individuals who do not risk weight gain from the higher calorie diet. During our exchange Jeff referred to those who are on low calorie life extension (Calorie Restriction) programs who generally maintain low to moderate exercise levels and keep their calorie intake per day very low (1400-1800 calories/day, for example). Low calorie, high nutrient diets have been linked in research to longer lifespans. See the website on this topic.

My email exchange with Jeff prompted the following exchange with Dr. Fuhrman on his Ask the Doctor forum.

Dr. Fuhrman,

I was talking with someone the other day who does Calorie Restriction for life extension. He asked me whether I would consider that and I described my ETL regimen. I told him that calorie restriction wouldn't work for me because I need extra calories for my cycling and other exercise. I told him I didn't think it was harmful for a healthy lean individual to consume more healthy calories to offset exercise.

He told me, from a life extension standpoint, it is better to only exercise moderately and keep calorie intake down. He cited research that he claimed confirms that a moderate exerciser with a BMI or 22 and a 1800 calorie diet will live longer than a heavy exerciser with a BMI of 22 and 2800 calorie diet. Both individuals eat a good high nutrition diet.

Do you agree with that? From a life extension standpoint is it better to exercise less and consume fewer calories?

Dr. Fuhrman's response: It depends on the amount of exercise. Likely the moderate exerciser eating less will have a greater probability of super-longevity.

Ironically, Dr. Fuhrman's response leads to the counter-intuitive conclusion that heavy exercise can lead to a shorter life when compared to someone who consumes a low calorie diet and exercises moderately.

For me, life would be pretty bleak if I couldn't continue my exercise routines, which I guess would be considered more than moderate. Even though my eating style is excellent, my BMI is over 24 and I do not consume a low calorie diet.

The whole Calorie Restriction movement is very interesting to me, but I doubt whether I would follow it. I will be doing more research on this topic and posting my thoughts here.

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