Calorie Restriction Can Influence Pace of Aging

Early studies suggest that a consistent reduction in caloric intake can slow the rate of aging and metabolism, protecting against age-related diseases.

Initial studies conducted among humans indicated that decreasing calorie intake by 15% for a period of two years slowed metabolism and the rate of aging. The research findings, published in 2018 in the journal Cell Metabolism, suggest that such curtailing of caloric intake decreased systemic oxidative stress, which has been associated with age-related neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and others. CALERIE (Comprehensive Assessment of the Long-Term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy) represents the first randomized controlled trial to assess the metabolic effects of calorie restriction in non-obese humans.

“Restricting calories can slow your basal metabolism, and if by-products of metabolism accelerate aging processes, calorie restriction sustained over several years may help to decrease risk for chronic disease and prolong life,” said lead author Leanne M. Redman, an associate professor of clinical sciences at Pennington Biomedical Research in Baton Rouge, LA. Numerous factors, including antioxidant mechanisms as well as dietary and biological factors, influence metabolism, Redman noted. However, experts believe that a slower metabolism significantly benefits healthy aging and that organisms that process energy most efficiently are likely to experience the greatest longevity.

Despite the fact that weight loss was not the aim of the study, participants in the study group who adopted a calorie restriction intake pattern over the two-year period lost an average of about 19 pounds. Additionally, researchers identified no adverse effects such as anemia, excessive bone loss or menstrual disorders. Redman noted, “We found that even people who are already healthy and lean may benefit from a calorie restriction regimen.”

Calorie restriction occurs by reducing the average daily caloric intake below a typical or habitual level, but without deprivation of essential nutrients or danger of malnutrition, according to the National Institute on Aging. Calorie restriction should not be conflated with starvation diets. In human trials the weight loss realized through calorie restriction resulted in body weights within the normal or overweight range.

Most calorie restriction trials conducted among humans have involved specific limitations such as the observation period or number of participants. Experts continue to explore the long-term benefits and risks of calorie restriction as well as identifying particular eating patterns’ biological effects on metabolism and aging.

Because some aspects of calorie restriction may sound appealing in your particular situation, be sure that any dietary pattern provides your body with sufficient nutrients. Before making any abrupt changes in your eating pattern, discuss the potential benefits and risks with your provider. Medical literature provides evidence for other lifestyle changes you can adopt in order to remain healthy as you continue to age. For example, always eat a balanced diet of nutritious food in moderate amounts. Don’t smoke, limit alcohol intake and engage in regular exercise. By making judicious lifestyle choices, you can influence your own health to some degree. 



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