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NIH Record - 75th Anniversary - National Institutes of Health

Moderate Calorie Restriction Has Health Benefits

Spaghetti and red sauce on a white plate next to silverware

Photo: inga nielsen/istock

Moderately reducing caloric intake over a period of 2 years significantly improved cardiometabolic risk factors in young and middle-age, non-obese adults, according to new findings from the Comprehensive Assessment of Long-term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy (CALERIE) trial. The study is a multicenter randomized controlled trial supported by NIA and NIDDK.

According to the researchers, there are no pharmacologic agents with such profound effects on such a broad range of cardiometabolic risk factors. The study was published online July 11 and will appear in the September print edition of The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology

Compared to the control group, the calorie restriction group experienced significant improvements in multiple cardiometabolic risk factors, including waist circumference, blood pressure, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin sensitivity and fasting glucose, and C-reactive protein (a marker of systemic inflammation associated with multiple chronic conditions and diseases of age).

Calorie restriction was found to improve risk factors for the development of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and related deaths well below clinical risk thresholds. This speaks to the impact that the dietary practice might have, even when adopted by younger people in good health.

CALERIE was the first trial that investigated the effects of 2-year caloric restriction in humans, following on evidence from several model organisms showing that calorie restriction increased both health span and life span. More than 200 young and middle-age normal-weight or moderately overweight adults were randomly assigned to follow either a calorie-restriction diet or their usual diets. After 2 years, participants in the experimental group had reduced their daily caloric intake by 12 percent and maintained, on average, a 10 percent loss in body weight.

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