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Inside Peek At the Science of CR and Raw Foods

Published: (November, 2011)

Inside Peek At the Science of CR and Raw Foods

Just got back from a week in Vegas ...

That's the kind of line that gets predictable responses. How much did you lose?Nothing. How much did you win? A lot, actually. But not in money, and I didn't so much as slow down at the slots or the blackjack tables. In fact, I spent my days in Las Vegas at a conference focusing largely on scientific research relating to calorie-restricted diets. Ironic, isn't it, in the home of the ten- dollar, eat-till-you-die buffet?

I met some interesting people--scientists dedicated to and passionate about their research, and about possibilities for enriching and extending human life.

In the months to come I'll be writing about many of the new things I have learned at the conference. Now, however, I want to give you just a general overview.

It's an established fact that a calorie-restricted (CR) diet is the most effective method of lifespan extension across a whole range of species from yeast, worms, and fruit flies, to rats and mice. CR considerably delays or eliminates the onset of such diseases as cancer, diabetes and heart disease in animals generally, including other primates physiologically similar to us. 

The Raw Food Phenomenon

The big and small of a raw-food lifestyle.

A growing body of research shows that the same beneficial results are happening to people. However, new data was presented that vegans (even without restricting calories) get the same health benefits as CR practitioners.
This conference took a new direction. I noticed there was a shift from "Calorie Restriction" to "Dietary Restriction." Two presenters strongly advocated that real success is to be found not in mere calorie restriction per se, but in a diet that recognizes that food composition is every bit as important as calories. As you might guess, I definitely think this idea is a step in the right direction.

One of the most interesting scientists I met at the conference: Luigi Fontana, who holds MD and PhD degrees and is with the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Geriatrics and Nutritional Sciences at Washington University. Dr. Fontana was one of the main draws for me to this conference, as he is one of very few scientists able to proclaim any robust acquaintance with the raw foodists. He has done practical research on populations of vegans, even raw vegans.

I outline some highlights of Dr. Fontana's thought provocative research on raw food vegans in this article: The Science of Raw Foods.

Science Needs You!

We are what we eat. An old truism, to be sure, and one which raw vegans may grasp as firmly as anyone.

We are also, in part, what lives within us. The human gut, and that of other mammals, contain large numbers of living organisms--microbiota --dependent upon our bodies and upon what we eat, and which figure in our digestion. 

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There may be no more significant human population to study, in this area, than the small and hard-to-gather population of raw vegans.

Why are raw food studies so hard to find? It's because we are hard to find. You can fill a stadium anywhere in North America with people suffering from diabetes, but in some cities filling more than a phone booth with raw vegans is a stretch. Dr. Luigi Fontana seeks your assistance in his important study: "Effects of a raw food diet on gut microbiome health." 

Announcing an Extraordinary Opportunity for Raw Foodists: Participate in Cutting Edge Scientific Research!

Dr. Fontana writes: 

"At Washington University in St. Louis we are studying the effects of a long-term raw food diet on gut microbiome ecology. That is, we want to see the effects of a raw food vegan diet on the type of bacteria living in the colons of people eating a raw food vegan diet for at least THREE years. It seems highly possible that the composition of microbial communities in the gut affects both the extraction of energy from the diet, and a person's metabolic health.

The study is very easy. It is in no way invasive. And you do not have to travel to St. Louis! We will ask you to collect just three stool specimens one month apart, and to record what you are eating (a 7-day food diary) before each stool collection."

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Yes, you've read it right. I am, asking you to sign up for a scientific study involving, well...stool. Yours. A little different from my usual text--a new raw food recipe or a tip to give your skin a glow. It's that word "stool." Let us pretend no one's laughing. 

So ... here's the straight poop: Dr. Fontana's research team will make this easy and comfortable for you. They'll send you an easy-to-use, sanitary container, with simple instructions on how to collect the stool sample. Once your sample is collected, you can send it back to Dr. Fontana's lab--already prepaid by the research study team, of course--in the FedEx box provided. (And, yes, FedEx does even know what it's carrying!) Researchers also will ask you to measure your body weight and height on the day of stool collection.

On behalf not only of Dr. Fontana, but of myself and health seekers everywhere, I hope you'll participate. The effort on your part is minimal, and the rewards, for science, the raw foods community and general population, may be great.

If you're interested in participating, please email me at: Write FONTANA STUDY in your subject line, and I'll be glad to connect you with Dr. Fontana. His research team will decide whom to include in the study, and will communicate with selected participants directly.