Dear Dietician: Can cutting calories add to lifespan?

Leanne McCrate

Dear Dietitian,

I just read an article that said a permanent 25 percent to 30 percent reduction in caloric intake produces anti-aging benefits and results in a longer lifespan. Is this true?

Seth

Dear Seth,

Leanne McCrate, RDN, LD, CNSC

Let us first define anti-aging. It is not the presence of fewer wrinkles and looking younger. Rather, it is slowing down the aging process by decreasing disease. Studies have been performed on animals whose caloric intake was reduced by about 30 percent, resulting in a longer lifespan. But does this transfer to humans?

The CALERIE study (Comprehensive Assessment of Long-term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy) involved more than 200 healthy, non-obese adults. One group of participants (CR) was assigned a diet with a 25 percent reduction in calories, so a 2000-calorie diet became a 1500-calorie diet. Interestingly, the CR group achieved an 11.9 percent calorie decrease instead of the assigned 25 percent reduction. The results were compared to a control group that maintained their regular diet (AL, for ad libitum).

At the end of two years, the CR group had lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels compared to the AL group, thereby reducing the risks of heart disease and stroke. Improved insulin sensitivity was another benefit found in this group. Not surprisingly, the CR participants also enjoyed about a 15-pound weight loss during the two-year period.  

The CALERIE study results show that moderate calorie reduction over time likely will improve health. However, it fell short of positively linking calorie restriction to longevity.

Until next time, be healthy!

Dear Dietitian

Reference

1.      Kraus, W, Bhapkar, M, Huffman, K, et al. Two years of calorie restriction and cardiometabolic risk (CALERIE): exploratory outcomes of a multicenter, phase 2, randomized controlled trial. The Lancet July 2019; 7 (9): 673-683. doi:10.1016/S2213-8587(19)30151-2

Leanne McCrate, RD, LD, CNSC, is an award-winning dietitian based in Missouri. Her mission is to educate consumers on sound, scientifically-based nutrition. Do you have a nutrition question? Email her today at deardietitian411@gmail.com. Dear Dietitian does not endorse any products, healthy programs, or diet plans.