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We Have Birthed a New Podcast Baby

Yesterday, the Skepchicks debuted a new podcast called Curiosity Aroused! This show can be found at curiosityaroused.com, via RSS, and it also has its own iTunes listing under the culture section.

If you’re already subscribed via the Skepchick podcast, you’ll continue to receive CA until one day in the future when we may decide to split them up completely (but we’ll let you know first). If you don’t want any of the goofy Skepchick specials and interviews, feel free to just subscribe to CA.

If you liked what you heard of CA, you can help us out by giving us a good rating on iTunes and Zune!

Future episodes are on their way, dealing with vitamins, history, geology, and any other questions that happen to capture our curiosity. Our first episode, which is now live, is all about calorie restriction. Skepchick Stacey Baker wrote up some notes for you, which you can find after the jump.

01 Fewer Calories, Longer Life?

Show notes courtesy of Stacey Baker:

What is calorie restriction? Weight Watchers? South Beach? Does is involve Richard Simmons?

Lowering calorie intake can be a successful way to reduce body weight, but episode 01 of Curiosity Aroused examines calorie restriction as a permanent lifestyle adopted in hopes of extending lifespan by up to 40%.

40%. That’s a lot.

With the exception of Methuselah, of course, the oldest humans live about 120 years. So, we’re talking about living up to 168 years. But that’s not all. Enthusiasts also claim that CR improves quality of life. So we’re talking about 168 years that, you know, don’t include 80 or so years of wishing you were dead.

But proponents warn, you can’t just live on coffee and cigarettes and expect results. The calories you consume must be of high quality. And so they refer to their lifestyle as Calorie Restriction with Optimal Nutrition (CRON).

Is there any science behind CRON, or is it complete bullshit? ß-more-à

I invited licensed nutritionist, Monica Reinagel, to the podcast to help me examine the science, or lack of science, behind CRON. Monica is a dynamic and intelligent person who’s involved professionally in both science and the arts. In addition to her formal education, she is an author, a professional opera singer, a podcaster, and a blogger. She sorts out the facts from the BS on her short podcast, The Nutrition Diva’s Quick & Dirty Tips, and goes more indepth on her blog at Nutrition Data. For more information about Monica Reinagel, see the links below:

www.monicareinagel.com

www.nutritiondata.com

http://nutritiondiva.quickanddirtytips.com/

Proponents of calorie restriction make two major claims:

Lifespan can be extended by up to 40%

Quality of life can be improved

For this reason, the science behind CRON isn’t black and white. It’s a tricky topic.

The former claim is backed up by a multitude of scientific experiments…on mice. And roundworms. And fruit flies. Etc. (For more information, see this article:http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/29/science/29aging.html?scp=5&sq=calorie%20restriction%20mice&st=cse)

The latter claim is something most of us probably already know. Maintaining a lower body weight**, and eating highly nutritious food does improve health and prevent some diseases. And having less diseases does make life more fun.

Testing the science of life extension via calorie restriction in humans is problematic at best, impossible at worst. Probably impossible, actually. The tremendous willpower to NEVER cheat or binge (ever), and the inability of scientists to gather a large, properly cross-sectioned group willing to do this, and be monitored so we know they are NEVER cheating is intimidating. Not to mention, a 168 year study would take multiple generations of scientists. And, to really test the 168-year-claim, you’d have to test a sample over their entire life. You know, have your children counting calories. No birthday cake, little Johnny!

The closest we’ve come is a study currently being conducted on rhesus monkeys at the University of Wisconsin. The study began in 1989, and the results aren’t yet conclusive because the maximum lifespan of a rhesus monkey is 40 years. So, the extended lifespan would be 56 years, and the study has been in progress for 21 years. I bet it’s like watching paint dry. “Are they still alive?” “Yep, still alive!”

(For more information on the rhesus monkey study, see this article:http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/10/science/10aging.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=calorie%20restriction%20monkeys&st=cse)

If the lack of supporting evidence hasn’t scared you off, how about the lifestyle? How much fun is eating out when you have to divine and record all of the ingredients in your meal? What about holiday dinners with the family? What about…drinking?? I can’t count shit after 2 rum & diets. Srsly. (To get an inside look at the life of an actual CRONner, go here: http://www.mprize.org/blogs/ or here: http://nymag.com/news/features/23169/)

In episode 01 of Curiosity Aroused, Monica further elaborates on the (alleged) mechanism behind calorie restriction, the challenges of the lifestyle, and gives her own personal opinion on the most scientifically supported approach to improving your chances of living a long and healthy life. Tune in.

** Note: CRON can cause one to be underweight, which can also be unhealthy.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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16 Comments

  1. Oh great. Like I really need ANOTHER podcast to listen to. I don’t have enough time to listen to all the other podcasts I already subsc–

    Okay, fine, I’ll subscribe.

    Okay, actually, I’m really looking forward to it.

    Woo hoo! Downloading now!

  2. Zune? I have heard tell of this “Zune” but have neither seen nor met anyone who has one. I suspect them to be mere urban legend. If you’re going to put out some crazy notion like Zune ownership out there, you’re going to have to provide proof they exist. Anecdotes won’t suffice either!

  3. I was delighted to see this podcast show up in my skepchick RSS feed. It was very well done and a pleasure to listen to.

    Science News recently covered the primate research. The preliminary data, increased quality of later life, are in. So we know the basic principle probably applies to humans.

    It will be interesting to see where this leads. I agree that CRON is a lifestyle that very few people could stick to no matter how wonderful the results may (or may not) be. My guess, and I really hope this is true, that many of the rewards can be reaped with a much less intensive regimen. I started trying something along these lines a few years back. About 1200 calories in five meals, with more in the morning and less in the evening. The only significant change I notice is my sleep is much better. I think this is mostly due to no large evening meal and no regular booze.

  4. The story I heard from a scientist who works with CR in mice, is that they don’t age as much, but they still die as much, and not from any obvious cause. This makes sense given the model – that running on near-zero resources causes aggressive “garbage collection” of junk cells and junk in between cells. The aging problem recedes, but you’re still on near-zero resources. So the first serious infection to wander past kills you.

  5. Will this be a round robin, every skepchick getting a turn, or just a few people?

    I listened to it, and was quite pleased. It didn’t set out to just debunk a myth, but show that there are gains and losses, then tell the listener some ideas to include in a cost-benefit analysis.

    While I would love to look like a beanpole, because I know a lot of people are superficial, the cost-benefit analysis for me doesn’t work in my favor, as I like to eat, I don’t like being hungry, and I like to dine out occassionally.

    @marilove: Get a job really far away, run your ipod through your car speakers, and listen to them on your way to and fro work, and on lunch. That’s what I do and I get about 15 hrs of podcast listening in a week. Your listenage may vary.

  6. It doesn’t look like most of your podcasts are being properly enclosed in the Skepchick Podcast RSS feed. If the files aren’t enclosed in the feed, automatic podcast downloaders don’t see them. (Which is important for those of us who hate how Apple does business.)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS_enclosure

    The only episodes that are properly enclosed are from 11/14/09, 2/20/09, and 12/23/08.

    The CA feed seems to be working fine.

  7. Zapski, I’ve owned both a zune and an ipod. Zune is a sturdier and more reliable product, with a much better interface, and superior software. Unfortunately, there’s no way to rate or review podcasts on the Zune network afaik, though.

  8. Just listened to episode 1. Nicely done.

    But.

    In several places, there was “stutter” in the audio. I’m no expert, but I’ve heard that before when either MP3 compression was too aggressive, or audio was compressed for recording, decompressed for editing, then compressed again for distribution. If possible, try recording in a format with no compression losses, e.g. uncompressed WAV or FLAC.

    Also, the audio levels didn’t get normalized very well. Some of the audio clips were loud enough to hurt my ears as I listened, even when Rebecca and Stacey were too quiet to make out easily. I recommend using The Levelator (http://www.conversationsnetwork.org/levelator) which is free of charge and will help eliminate that problem.

    Good first episode, barring a couple of technical problems.

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