Reducing calories without depriving the body of necessary vitamins and minerals — a practice known as calorie restriction — is linked to changes in the body that may slow the progression of age-related disease, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) study. The findings were published in the scientific journal Aging Cell.
Researchers made these conclusions after examining data, including muscle biopsy findings, from a prior NIH-supported study called Comprehensive Assessment of Long-Term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy (CALERIE).
Money Talks News’ recent article, “Cutting Calories by This Much Could Slow Aging,” notes that other studies have found an association between moderate calorie restriction and improved health in lab animals.
The researchers behind the new study wanted to know if the same benefits apply to humans who cut back on calories. They found that CALERIE participants who dropped their calorie intake by 12% over two years activated most of the biological pathways key to healthy aging. (Biological pathways are ways that cells in the human body send signals to other cells, a process that sometimes can result in essentially turning specific genes on or off.)
On average, these participants lost 20 pounds over the first year and then maintained weight over the second year.
The study found that while calorie restriction reduced muscle mass, it did not trigger a loss of muscle strength.
This suggests that calorie restriction actually boosts the amount of force each unit of muscle mass generates, a concept known as “muscle specific force.”
In a summary of the study findings, Dr. Luigi Ferrucci, a study co-author and scientific director at the NIH, says, “A 12% reduction in calorie intake is very modest. This kind of small reduction in calorie intake is doable and may make a big difference in your health.”
The researchers confirmed that calorie restriction impacts the same biological pathways in humans as it does in mice and primates. In one example, restricting calories essentially slows inflammatory genes, leading to less inflammation.
Ferrucci says, “Since inflammation and aging are strongly coupled, calorie restriction represents a powerful approach to preventing the pro-inflammatory state that is developed by many older people.”
Reference: Money Talks News (Oct. 24, 2023) “Cutting Calories by This Much Could Slow Aging”