A paper just published in PLoS Genetics has found that diet restriction suspends development in nematode worms, and doubles their lifespan. The study found that C. elegans could be starved for at least two weeks and still develop normally once feeding resumed. Because the meter isn’t running while the worm is in its arrested state, this starvation essentially doubles the two-week lifespan of the worm. This may suggest a similar mechanism is operating in primates (and humans?) on calorie-restricted diets.
Over the last 80 years, researchers have put a menagerie of model organisms on a diet, and they’ve seen that nutrient deprivation can extend the lifespan of rats, mice, yeast, flies, spiders, fish, monkeys and worms anywhere from 30 percent to 200 percent longer than their free-fed counterparts.
Of course, if your extended life span is spent obsessing about counting calories, and thinking about it, and telling your friends obsessively about it, others may not think the extra years are a benefit.