Juan Ponce de Leon traveled to the new world in search of the fountain of youth - today, the NY Times Science Section reveals the secret to extended life: caloric restriction.
In a study involving rhesus monkeys, one group of monkeys received ~50% fewer calories than another group - 445 vs 885 per day. The results are startling and "cast doubt on the long-held scientific and cultural beliefs regarding the inevitability of the body's decline."
The well-fed animals suffer from obvious signs of age, relatively more frequent incidents of diabetes and cancer, and a higher mortality rate. For humans, caloric restriction would involve reducing, on average, daily consumption of calories from 3,000 to 2,000.
Scientists are working on mechanisms other than all of us becoming ascetics to provide similar results. The story discusses an interesting experiment with earthworms whereby a mutation of the gene daf-2 led to a 6x increase in life span. The gene appears to "trick" cells into thinking that nutrients (insulin) are not available and in turn prolongs the live of each worm cell.
Increasing insulin and calorie consumption appears to accelerate cell death and reduce life span - I suppose the next time we drive by In-N-Out Burger, we will need to decide if that double-double is worth it after all!:)