Will Eating Less Protein make you Younger?

Have you ever wondered if eating less protein could make you younger? In a video titled “Will Eating Less Protein Make You Younger?” by What I’ve Learned, the concept of protein consumption and its impact on aging is explored.

The video discusses a 2016 study that suggested a low protein, high carbohydrate diet could potentially increase lifespan. However, the data used to support this idea is based on a period of food scarcity in post-World War II Okinawa.

The Okinawan traditional diet, which is believed to contribute to their long average lifespan, actually includes a significant amount of pork, contradicting the notion of a meat-free diet.

Additionally, muscle protein synthesis and the importance of exercise are highlighted, as increased protein intake and physical activity can stimulate muscle growth and promote overall health.

The video challenges the idea that consuming less protein will lead to increased longevity, emphasizing the importance of protein quality and the potential benefits of animal proteins compared to plant proteins.

Ultimately, the article aims to examine the claims surrounding protein consumption and provide a deeper understanding of its role in aging and overall wellness.

The Idea that Eating Less Protein May Make You Younger

Introduction to the concept

Have you ever wondered if eating less protein could actually make you younger? It’s an intriguing idea that has gained attention in recent years. The concept is based on the Okinawan people, who have a reputation for their long average lifespan. A 2016 study suggested that a low-protein, high-carbohydrate diet can increase lifespan. But is this claim really supported by evidence? Let’s take a closer look.

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Discussion of the Okinawan people’s long lifespan

The Okinawan people, who inhabit the islands of Okinawa in Japan, are known for their remarkable longevity. They have consistently been found to have one of the highest life expectancies in the world. This has sparked interest in their lifestyle and diet as potential factors contributing to their long lifespan.

The Okinawan Traditional Diet

High carbohydrate to protein ratio

The traditional Okinawan diet is believed to have a high carbohydrate to protein ratio. It is said that Okinawans derived most of their calories from carbohydrates, particularly from sweet potatoes. This is in contrast to traditional Western diets, which tend to be higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates.

Minimal meat or fish

Another key feature of the Okinawan diet is the minimal consumption of meat or fish. Unlike many other populations, Okinawans did not rely heavily on animal sources of protein. Instead, they had a predominantly plant-based diet, with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains.

Based on a period of food scarcity

It is important to note that the data used to support the idea of a low-protein, high-carbohydrate diet in Okinawa is based on a period of food scarcity that occurred right after World War II. During this time, Okinawans faced a shortage of food and had to rely heavily on the available resources, such as sweet potatoes.

The Role of mTOR in Aging

Introduction to mTOR

To understand the potential impact of eating less protein on aging, we need to explore the role of a growth regulator called mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). mTOR is a protein that plays a crucial role in various cellular processes, including cell growth, metabolism, and aging.

mTOR activation and aging

Some studies have suggested that excessive activation of mTOR may contribute to the aging process. When mTOR is constantly activated, it can lead to impaired cellular function and an increased risk of age-related diseases. Therefore, reducing mTOR activation has been proposed as a potential strategy to promote longevity.

The potential impact of reducing mTOR activation

One hypothesis is that by eating less protein, particularly animal protein, mTOR activation can be reduced. Animal proteins, such as those found in meat and fish, are known to stimulate mTOR activity. Therefore, consuming less animal protein may help to suppress mTOR activation and potentially slow down the aging process.

Contradictions in the Okinawan Diet

Significant amount of pork in the diet

Despite the notion that the Okinawan diet is primarily plant-based, historical evidence suggests that the consumption of pork was a significant part of the Okinawan diet. Pork was considered a valuable source of animal protein and was highly valued in Okinawan cuisine.

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Devastation and recovery of the pig population

During World War II, the pig population in Okinawa was devastated, resulting in a shortage of pork. However, the pig population quickly recovered, and pork remained a staple in the Okinawan diet. This contradicts the idea that the traditional Okinawan diet was devoid of animal protein.

Drop in Okinawa’s life expectancy in 2005

In 2005, Okinawa experienced a notable drop in its life expectancy, falling from the top to the 26th place among Japanese prefectures. This decline in life expectancy occurred despite the Okinawan diet supposedly promoting longevity. This raises questions about the effectiveness of the Okinawan diet in extending lifespan.

Protein Intake, Exercise, and mTOR

mTOR activation by carbohydrates, insulin, and leucine

While reducing protein intake may seem like a plausible way to lower mTOR activation, it’s important to consider that mTOR can also be activated by other factors, such as carbohydrates, insulin, and certain amino acids like leucine. Carbohydrates, in particular, are known to activate mTOR through the release of insulin.

Benefits of increased protein intake and exercise

It is worth noting that increased protein intake and exercise have been associated with various health benefits. Both protein and exercise stimulate mTOR, which promotes muscle protein synthesis and growth. Having more muscle mass has been linked to longevity and improved overall health.

Link between muscle wasting and higher risk of death

Muscle wasting, also known as sarcopenia, is a common issue among the elderly. It is associated with a higher risk of death and reduced functional independence. Adequate protein intake and regular exercise can help prevent and manage muscle wasting, contributing to a healthier and potentially longer life.

Animal proteins vs. plant proteins

When it comes to protein quality and the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis, animal proteins have been found to be more beneficial than plant proteins. Animal proteins, such as those found in meat, contain higher levels of leucine and provide a higher quality of amino acids for muscle growth and maintenance.

Increased consumption of animal protein in Japan

In recent years, the Japanese population, including that in Okinawa, has experienced an increase in the consumption of animal protein. This shift in dietary patterns suggests that a low-protein diet may not be ideal for promoting longevity in modern-day Okinawans.

Anabolic Resistance and Protein Quality

Anabolic resistance in the elderly

Anabolic resistance is a phenomenon that occurs in the elderly, making it harder for them to build muscle and digest protein. As individuals age, they require more leucine-rich protein and resistance exercise to stimulate muscle protein synthesis effectively.

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Importance of protein quality

Protein quality is a critical factor in supporting muscle growth and maintenance. Animal proteins, as mentioned earlier, provide higher quality amino acids that are more effective at stimulating muscle protein synthesis compared to plant proteins.

Animal proteins providing higher quality amino acids

Animal proteins are known to contain a complete profile of essential amino acids, including higher levels of leucine. This makes animal proteins more effective in supporting muscle growth and combating age-related muscle loss.

Study on animal protein and carbohydrate consumption in Okinawa

A study conducted in Okinawa found that those who lived the longest consumed more animal protein and less carbohydrate. This contradicts the idea that a low-protein, high-carbohydrate diet is the key to longevity. The study suggests that the prioritization of pork in the traditional Okinawan diet may have contributed to their overall health and longevity.

Lack of evidence supporting the idea of consuming less protein for longevity

While there is some evidence to suggest that reducing mTOR activation may play a role in promoting longevity, the idea of consuming less protein for this purpose is not supported by robust scientific evidence. It is important to consider the nutritional needs of individuals, particularly the elderly, who may require higher protein intake to maintain muscle mass and overall health.

The Importance of Resistance Exercise and Hydration

Benefits of resistance exercise

Resistance exercise, such as weightlifting or resistance training, is essential for maintaining muscle health and promoting muscle protein synthesis. Regular resistance exercise has numerous health benefits, including increased muscle strength, improved bone density, enhanced metabolic function, and better overall physical performance.

Supporting muscle health and protein synthesis

Resistance exercise stimulates mTOR activation, which in turn promotes muscle protein synthesis. This process is crucial for maintaining muscle mass and preventing muscle wasting, particularly in the elderly. Combining resistance exercise with adequate protein intake is vital for supporting muscle health.

The role of hydration with electrolytes

Staying properly hydrated is essential for optimal physical performance and overall health. Hydration becomes even more important during exercise, as it helps regulate body temperature, transport nutrients, and maintain proper electrolyte balance. Electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium play a crucial role in hydration and muscle function.

Impact on performance and energy levels

Resistance exercise and adequate hydration can significantly impact exercise performance and energy levels. By supporting muscle health and protein synthesis, they contribute to enhanced strength, endurance, and overall physical fitness. Proper hydration also helps prevent fatigue and improves recovery after exercise.


In conclusion, the idea that eating less protein may make you younger is a complex concept that requires careful consideration.

While the Okinawan people have been associated with a long average lifespan, the actual Okinawan diet includes a significant amount of pork, suggesting that their traditional diet was not strictly meat-free.

The activation of the growth regulator mTOR is believed to play a role in aging. Some studies have suggested that reducing mTOR activation by eating less protein may promote longevity. However, it is important to recognize that mTOR can be activated by other factors, such as carbohydrates and certain amino acids.

Furthermore, increasing protein intake and engaging in regular exercise have been shown to have numerous health benefits, including muscle growth, improved physical performance, and a reduced risk of age-related muscle wasting. Animal proteins have been found to provide higher quality amino acids for muscle synthesis compared to plant proteins.

Overall, while there is still much to learn about the relationship between protein intake, mTOR activation, and longevity, it is clear that protein intake and exercise are crucial for maintaining muscle health and promoting overall health.

It is important to consider individual nutritional needs and focus on a balanced approach to nutrition and physical activity for optimal health and wellbeing.