Life Extension Magazine®

Couple on beach following the CR Way for protection benefits

Protection from Disease: The CR Way

For the past 76 years, scientific studies have confirmed the pro-longevity effects of calorie restriction. Most people erroneously believe adhering to a reduced calorie diet while staying optimally nourished is nearly impossible. Find out how easy it really is—and the latest supportive human data.

Scientifically reviewed by Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, in August 2023. Written by: Paul McGlothin and Meredith Averill.

Protection from Disease: The CR Way

If you are over 65, you have an 80% chance of having at least one chronic disease such as: type 2 diabetes, cancer, or some form of cardiovascular impairment.1 Moreover, you have a 50:50 chance of having two chronic diseases1 that almost certainly seriously compromise your quality of life and cost great expense for medications.

Even if you are much younger—in your teens, twenties, or thirties, perhaps—research2,3 shows that you are likely to have already begun the age-related decline that will lead to disease in many systems—particularly if you eat a standard Western diet and are overweight.

But the good news is that both epidemiological studies and clinical trials indicate that calorie restriction, which forms the CR Way’s foundation, can prevent and even reverse many chronic diseases.1 This holistic low-calorie lifestyle is often written about in Life Extension Magazine®.4-7

For a long time, gerontologists postulated that humans who followed a nutrient-dense, low-calorie diet would gain the disease protection benefits seen in thousands of animal studies.

Slower cardiovascular aging

A breakthrough came in 2002 from Drs. John Holloszy and Luigi Fontana, when we helped them start studies of humans who had been consistently practicing calorie restriction for six years or more. These individuals maintained daily food intake of 1,780 calories, so they hardly felt deprived.

We spent months working with Dr. Fontana to put together a cohort that met the criteria. So the drama was high when the CR practitioners began arriving at Washington University in Saint Louis School of Medicine to participate in that first human CR study. No one knew if our results would be in line with the animal data or just indicate weight loss and not much else.

Fortunately, Drs. Holloszy and Fontana knew where to find the answer—the cardiovascular system. Dr. Timothy E. Meyer from the Cardiovascular Biophysics Lab at Washington University joined them to help analyze our cardiovascular function and artery health.

One of the tests flashed our carotid artery images on a computer screen, allowing the amount of plaque accumulation to be measured. We were tense at first, wondering what Dr. Meyer would see, then he exclaimed, “Your arteries are like 30-year-olds’!” yet we were in our fifties at the time.

Soon the study results were reported8 and Drs. Fontana and Holloszy became heroes for those who want to live longer and better. “It’s very clear from these findings that calorie restriction has a powerful, protective effect against diseases associated with aging,” Holloszy said. “We don’t know how long each individual actually will end up living, but they certainly have a much longer life expectancy than average because they’re most likely not going to die from a heart attack, stroke, or diabetes.”9 Dr. Fontana added: “These effects are all pretty dramatic. For the first time, we’ve shown that calorie restriction is feasible and has a tremendous effect on the risk for atherosclerosis and diabetes.”9

What You Need to Know: Protection from Disease: The CR Way
  • Individuals over age 65 have an 80% chance of suffering from at least one chronic disease, and a 50% chance of suffering from two chronic diseases.
  • In fact, age-related decline can begin as early as the teenage years.
  • One of the most powerful ways to prevent and reverse age-related disease is to follow a calorie-restricted diet—that is, a nutrient-dense, low-calorie diet.
  • Research shows that calorie-restricted animals live longer, healthier life spans, while human studies show that calorie-restricted individuals demonstrate physiological markers consistent with younger, disease-free people.
  • Scientists believe that calorie restriction may offer benefits for preventing heart disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disease.
  • A program called The CR Way offers an easy-to-follow blueprint for implementing calorie restriction in your own life.
  • This comprehensive program helps address many of the factors that cause overeating, such as emotional distress.
  • Those who follow The CR Way program report abundant energy, optimistic mood, and vibrant health.

Over the next few years, results from Washington University and other labs confirmed the astounding disease-prevention effects for humans of a CR diet:

  • Slower cardiovascular aging8
  • Lower blood pressure8
  • Reduced cholesterol/LDL/ triglycerides8
  • Less arterial plaque formation8
  • Lower glucose levels8
  • Less inflammation8
  • Lower levels of growth factors—reducing cancer risk8
  • Better cognition (Germany)10
Slower cardiovascular aging

Building on this research, The CR Way integrates complementary practices that may enhance CR’s disease-protection benefits even more. Consider cancer, for example, which is known to be inhibited by calorie restriction.11 Many forms of cancer cells depend heavily on glucose to fuel their growth.12 The CR Way offers low-GI (low glycemic index) eating plans to increase the difficulty for cancer cells to get the glucose they need. Malignant tumors also rely on angiogenesis—the formation of new blood vessels, which deliver oxygen and glucose—essential to tumor growth. It is no accident that many CR Way-recommended foods, especially in the cancer-prevention protocol, are anti-angiogenic.

Another disease state addressed by The CR Way is obesity. For many, overeating is due to emotions—eating for comfort.13 To help people feel happier, The CR Way to Happy Dieting14 makes it easy and fun to follow a low-calorie diet and to let comfort foods go. This multimedia guide offers video, podcasts, meal plans, and food choices so dieters have the tools at their finger tips to help them achieve their weight-loss goals.

The first stop on The CR Way to combating obesity or any other disease is one’s doctor, who can be a valuable partner in supporting this healthful lifestyle. In fact, many doctors and scientists follow a CR Way lifestyle. While not intended to be a replacement for medical treatment from a physician, the CR Way to Disease Protection does change lives. It is an important benefit of the CR Way to Optimal Health Membership, made available in partnership with the Life Extension Foundation®.

In addition to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity, The CR Way has been shown to positively affect:

  • The CR Way
    Alzheimer’s disease
  • Hearing loss
  • Kidney disease
  • Macular degeneration
  • Migraine headaches
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sarcopenia (muscle loss)
  • Senile dementia

People who travel The CR Way want to get the most out of life. They want to enjoy themselves and not be saddled with disease. Or if they do have disease, they want to increase their chances of survival and a good quality of life.

While helping protect against disease, The CR Way fills your body with energy and optimism—making it easier to enjoy life more and excel in the things that matter to you.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at

People who travel The CR Way want to get the most out of life. They want to enjoy themselves and not be saddled with disease.

Editor's Note

Science continues to evolve, and new research is published daily. As such, we have a more recent article on this topic: Growing Older and Healthier the CR Way®: Wonderful Possibilities!


1. Fontana L. Modulating human aging and age-associated diseases. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2009 Oct;1790(10):1133-8.

2. Salthouse TA, When does age-related cognitive decline begin? Neurobiol Aging. 2009 Apr;30(4):507-14.

3. Wieczorowska-Tobis K. Organ alterations due to aging. Pol Arch Med Wewn. 2008;118 Suppl:63-9.

4. McGlothin P, Averill M. Reports: The benefits of a CR Way™ diet. Life Extension Magazine®. 2011 Mar;17(3):64-8

5. Faloon W. Reports: Critical need to control fasting and after-meal glucose levels. Life Extension Magazine®.2010 Oct;16(10):68-71.

6. McGlothin P, Averill M. Calorie restriction can be easy! Making the world’s most healthful diet user-friendly. Life Extension Magazine®. 2010 Oct;16(10):72-7.

7. McGlothin P, Averill M. The calorie restriction society research project. Life Extension Magazine®. 2007 Jul;13(7):72-5.

8. Fontana L, Meyer TE, Klein S, Holloszy JO. Long-term calorie restriction is highly effective in reducing the risk for atherosclerosis in humans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Apr 27;101(17):6659-63.

9. Available at: Accessed April 26, 2011.

10. Witte AV, Fobker M, Gellner R, Knecht S, Floel A. Caloric restriction improves memory in elderly humans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Jan 27;106(4):1255-60.

11. Hursting SD, Smith SM, Lashinger LM, Harvey AE, Perkins SN. Calories and carcinogenesis: lessons learned from 30 years of calorie restriction research. Carcinogenesis. 2010 Jan;31(1):83-9.

12. Kim JW, Dang CV. Cancer’s molecular sweet tooth and the Warburg effect. Cancer Res. 2006 Sep 15;66(18):8927-30.

13. Polivy J, Herman CP. Distress and eating: why do dieters overeat? Int J Eat Disord. 1999 Sep;26(2):153-64.

14. Available at: Accessed April 26, 2011.