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Calorie restriction can help maintain heart health, even for people of normal weight
Reducing the daily intake of just 300 calories (6 Oreo cookies) of normal or slightly overweight adults reduces the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The results of a two-year randomized controlled trial of 218 people aged 21 to 50 are described in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.
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Reducing the daily intake of just 300 calories (6 Oreo cookies) of normal or slightly overweight adults reduces the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The results of a two-year randomized controlled trial in 218 people aged 21 to 50 years are described in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.
Even before weight gain reaches obesity levels, overeating can cause inflammation. Systemic inflammation is commonly associated with the so-called "Western diet" (processed foods, excess sugar, carbohydrates, fat, and red meat) and is a significant risk factor for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, and accelerated aging in general.
One strategy to tackle the problem is a calorie-restricted diet, which provides the same nutrients as regular meals. Its benefits are obvious to people who tend to overeat or have a BMI of 25 or higher. But some calorie reduction is beneficial, even if you're in a healthy weight range, according to new research.
This experiment is part of an ongoing collaboration between Duke University and the US National Institutes of Health. According to the research hypothesis, not only does weight loss lead to better health, but because calorie expenditure exceeds calorie intake, some more complex metabolic changes occur.
"There is something about calorie restriction, some mechanism that leads to these improvements that we do not yet understand," said Professor William E. Kraus, lead author of the study.
During the first month of the experiment, the participants switched from 4 meals to 3 meals a day, reducing their daily calorie intake by 25%. They chose from six different meal plans based on their own preferences and needs. Participants also attended group and individual counseling sessions during the first six months of the experiment to facilitate the transition to a new diet.
At the same time, members of the control group continued to eat as usual and met with researchers once every six months.
Participants were asked to maintain a 25% reduction in caloric intake for two years. While many were unable to stick to a strict diet, they nevertheless cut their meals by about 12% on average. This made it possible to lose and maintain an average of 10% of the weight (71% of which was pure fat).
Throughout the experiment, researchers regularly tested the biomarkers of metabolic syndrome - insulin resistance, glucose tolerance, high blood pressure, high triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
The scientists noted that after two years of caloric restriction, biomarkers indicated a decrease in inflammation and, therefore, in the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and cognitive decline.
“This shows that even minor changes like the ones we used in this study could reduce the burden of diabetes and cardiovascular disease … People can do this quite easily just by observing their little weaknesses here and there., or, perhaps, reducing their number, for example, without snacking after lunch, "- concluded Kraus.