Calorie Restriction for Tall People

We have a saying we often bandy about: “The small shall inherit the earth.” And, indeed, knowing that eating fewer calories can lead to a longer and better life, I am envious of those who are short and can take in few calories to maintain their smaller body structure.

Some who follow a low-calorie lifestyle let their BMI drop lower and lower – thinking that the lower you go, the more life extension is gained. But that theory has little practical chance of succeeding when bone density is well known to decrease in sync with body weight. For as has been well established, osteoporosis leads to increased fracture risk and often death. See the Osteoporosis Prevention section (available to full members) on for more on this important topic.

Papers like this one support the relationship between height and longevity:

Is height related to longevity?

Samaras TT, Elrick H, Storms LH.

Life Sciences. 2003 Mar 7;72(16):1781-802.

Over the last 100 years, studies have provided mixed results on the mortality and health of tall and short people. However, during the last 30 years, several researchers have found a negative correlation between greater height and longevity, based on relatively homogeneous deceased population samples. Findings based on millions of deaths suggest that shorter, smaller bodies have lower death rates and fewer diet-related chronic diseases, especially past middle age. Shorter people also appear to have longer average lifespans. The authors suggest that the differences in longevity between the sexes is due to their height differences because men average about 8.0% taller than women and have a 7.9% lower life expectancy at birth. Animal experiments also show that smaller animals within the same species generally live longer. The relation between height and health has become more important in recent years because rapid developments in genetic engineering will offer parents the opportunity to increase the heights of their children in the near future. The authors contend that we should not be swept along into a new world of increasingly taller generations without careful consideration of the impact of a worldwide population of taller and heavier people.

PMID: 12586217

Reproduced with appreciation from the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s Medline database, accessible online

While it may be that the hallowed domain of supercentenarians has so far been reserved for shorter folk , those of us who are tall can do quite well by following CR Way principles for a longer, better life.

Consider my Uncle Pat McGlothin , who at 90 was just featured on the cover of the City View Magazine, the “what’s going on” magazine for my hometown Knoxville, Tennessee. In his youth, Pat was a quite tall: 6 feet five and a half inches. He had extraordinary athletic abilities, which earned him a place as a relief pitcher for on the Brooklyn Dodgers Teams of 1949 and 1950, one of the greatest baseball teams in history. Here’s more: McGlothin was an Artful Dodger

For years, baseball promoters flew Pat and some of the other retired team members to New York, where they were mobbed by baseball enthusiasts, hoping for autographs on bats, pictures, and the like. But that came to and end, because the other players passed from this earth while Pat still thrives at 90 – still working as an entrepreneur, as he has for half a century.

Pat is one of millions of undeclared calorie restrictors who limit calories enough to get real health benefits. I have talked with him about it several times about it and he always reassures me, “I  have never been a big eater.”

When Meredith I sat down with him for a CR meal a few years ago, he ate less than all the rest of us and that was not the first time.

He has other characteristics, too, that may help him achieve his goal of becoming a centenarian. Pat has quite a positive attitude – always helping family and friends with things they are involved with. And he has a serene outlook on death, which has strong faith underpinning it – characteristics of centenarians we list in the guide to becoming a centenarian.

Although he does not eat an optimal-nutrition diet, he has always been mindful about choosing better foods rather than just devouring fast food. An optimal-nutrition diet may not matter as much, anyway, as total calories since some centenarian diets are low in calories as well as nutrients.________________________________________________________

Shortly after we wrote this blog post , our perceptive friend, Al Pater also shared a paper that is relevant to this discussion of height and longevity:

A comparison of anthropometry, biochemical variables and plasma amino acids among centenarians, elderly and young subjects.
Chan YC, Suzuki M, Yamamoto S.
J Am Coll Nutr. 1999 Aug;18(4):358-65.
PMID: 12038480


OBJECTIVE: Aging health is associated with nutritional changes which are not
well understood and were therefore evaluated in this study by comparing the
nutritional status of centenarians and elderly (in their 70s) relative to young

SUBJECTS: The participants were 27 young subjects (10 males, 17 females), 40
healthy elderly (20 males, 20 females) and 32 centenarians (9 males, 23

METHODS: The activities of daily living (ADL), height, weight, body mass index
(BMI), biochemical variables (total protein, albumin, triglycerides as well as
total, HDL, LDL and VLDL cholesterol) and plasma amino acid profiles were

RESULTS: Compared with young subjects, lower (p<0.05) height, weight, total
protein, albumin and albumin/globulin (A/G) ratio and total cholesterol for
centenarians and height, albumin and A/G ratio for elderly were observed in both
genders. Total cholesterol of male centenarians was lower than in young and
elderly subjects and total and LDL cholesterol concentrations of female elderly
were higher than those of young and centenarian subjects. However, the
cholesterol concentrations of all the centenarians were within the reference
range. The ratios of essential amino acids to nonessential amino acids were
significantly lower (p<0.05) in the centenarians than the young subjects. Clear
changes in individual amino acids with aging were lower (p<0.05) branched chain
amino acids and methionine and higher proline and cystine, which are similar to
the amino acid profiles in liver deterioration.

CONCLUSION: The results suggest that the centenarians had poor nutritional
status, which may be due to their decreased metabolism and the possibility that
only short, slender individuals with low lipids, protein and essential amino
acids are those that tend to survive to be centenarians.

I appreciated supporting observations about centenarians:

“Most centenarians tend to be short or small. It has been observed that if you want to live to be 100 it is best to be short and lean and to restrict your protein intake. Okinawan male centenarians average 1.48 metres (4 foot 10). If adjusted for shrinkage with ageing their youthful heights were probably about 1.52 metres (5 foot). A recent Cuban centenarian study found youthful male height averaged about 1.55 metres (5 foot 1). Similar findings have been found for Poland, Hungary and Sardinia.”

Excerpted from: Human growth, height, size: Reasons to be small Published on March 15, 2011 By Thomas Sama

 This commentary originally appeared in World Nutrition, the monthly on-line journal of the World Public Health Nutrition Association. Association. 

In his latest review paper, Calorie restriction and prevention of age-associated disease, Dr. Luigi Fontana reinforces the advice about protein intake, which we believe should be considered  by tall people (and anyone else who wants to increase their chances for living longer and better)

“…, a moderate restriction of protein intake may have additional beneficial effects in preventing cancer. “

We are following this advice.




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