While having surgery is always a last option, there is a time and place for most surgical procedures. If someone has tried everything and surgery is the only option remaining, we need to consider what can be done to improve the outcome.
With this particular recommendation, however, the audience is far more extensive then just surgical patients and likely extends to anyone owning a human physiology.
You see, one of the most powerful tools for avoiding chronic disease and increasing longevity is calorie restriction without nutrient restriction. This is the ONLY approach in the medical literature that has been shown to extend lifespan consistently in mammals. This means that your 1200 calories / day comes from broccoli, not a Big Mac Value Meal.
Most of the research suggests that the reason this approach is effective is because it increases both the number and the efficiency of our mitochondria. (If you’re scratching your head trying to remember what that dust covered snippet in the back of your brain from high school biology is–the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell–they produce energy for the cell) The better our mitochondrial health and our cells’ ability to produce energy is, the healthier we are. In other words, death begins with poor mitochondrial function.
This may be why we’ve seen insulin-dependent diabetics off their insulin in one week with a very low calorie diet. This is powerful stuff. There are some who think that calorie restriction may be a very powerful adjunct to chemotherapy because normal cells will respond to the calorie restriction by protecting themselves, but the cancerous cells won’t, leaving them more susecptible to the chemo. Pretty cool, huh? (And also why “Boost” is arguably the absolute most toxic thing you could give to a cancer patient….)
So, what does this have to do with surgery?
This particular study looks at hypocaloric parenteral nutrition and it’s effect on surgical outcomes. Parenteral nutrition is nutrition that is put directly into the body via IV (as opposed to enteral nutrition, which is pumped directly into the stomach via a PEG tube). Granted, if someone is on parenteral nutrition already, there are some serious health problems. So what did the researchers find?
- Complications related to infections dropped 40% (in larger trials, this number plummeted to 79%)
- Length of hospitalization was 2.49 days less, 95%CI −3.88 to −1.11, P = 0.0004; I2 = 48%)
This is powerful stuff. But do you notice that we didn’t GIVE anything. Not a drug. Not a vegetable. Not an herb. All that was done was a lowering of the calories in.
As mentioned, this review looked at patients undergoing surgery. Can we make a jump and hypothesize that calorie restriction without nutrient restriction may lower rates of infections and improve health in non-surgical patients? I think, based on the overwhelming evidence, that the answer is a clear yes.