Why even slim people can benefit from calorie restriction

    Abdulaziz Sobh

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    Even thin people can benefit from restricting their calories; Reducing daily caloric intake by around 300 per day can significantly improve cardiometabolic health markers.

    This is the main conclusion of a randomized controlled trial that lasted 2 years and included 218 people, aged 21 to 50, without obesity.

    Dr. William E. Kraus, a cardiologist and distinguished professor of medicine at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, is the lead author of the new study.

    Dr. Kraus and his colleagues explain in their article that some cardiometabolic markers such as cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular death even when they are within the ranges that professionals in the health they consider normal.

    On the other hand, numerous studies have suggested that the restriction of calories benefits both the life span and the life of a person. However, are these benefits due to weight loss?

    The researchers began their new study based on the hypothesis that it is not just about losing weight, but also about some other more complex molecular mechanism that explains the benefits of calorie restriction for cardiometabolic health.

    Then, they set out to test their hypothesis, and since then they have published their findings in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

    How calorie restriction helps metabolic health
    All trial participants had an average body mass index (BMI) of between 22 and 27.9. To begin with, the researchers randomly assigned them to one of two groups: one group reduced their caloric intake by 25% (the intervention group), and the other group did not change their caloric intake (the control group).

    Participants in the intervention group ate three meals per day and were free to choose between six different meal plans. They also "attended individual and group counseling sessions during the first 6 months of the trial." The study began in May 2007 and continued until February 2010.

    During this time, the remaining participants in the control group continued with their regular diet.

    Not all participants in the intervention group managed to maintain a 25% reduction in calories during the entire study period, but they did reduce their intake by almost 12%, on average.

    After the intervention, the participants in this group lost and maintained the loss of 10% of their weight, 71% of which was fat mass. The caloric restriction resulted in important cardiometabolic benefits.

    Specifically, "the restriction of calories caused a persistent and significant reduction from the beginning to 2 years of all conventional cardiometabolic risk factors measured," the authors write. This included changes in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL), and systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

    In addition, the "calorie restriction resulted in a significant 2-year improvement in C-reactive protein." This is a marker of inflammation that scientists have related to heart disease, cancer, and cognitive decline. Insulin sensitivity and markers of the metabolic syndrome also improved.

    The benefits remained solid after Dr. Kraus and the team performed a sensitivity analysis that adjusted the results for relative weight loss.

    This shows that even a modification that is not as serious as the one we used in this study could reduce the burden of diabetes and cardiovascular disease we have in [the United States]. "

    Dr. William E. Kraus

    "People can do this quite easily by simply observing their little indiscretions here and there, or maybe by reducing the amount of them, like not eating snacks after dinner."

    "There is something about caloric restriction, some mechanism that we do not yet understand that results in these improvements," he adds. "We have collected samples of blood, muscles and other samples from these participants and will continue to explore what this metabolic signal or magic molecule could be."

    In an interview for the Lancet podcast, Dr. Kraus said that this was the first long-term study to examine the benefits of caloric restriction in humans.

    Dr. Kraus also makes it clear that his study examined biomarkers to determine a person's health period, and says that he and his colleagues were "impressed" by the "dramatic" improvements and the "remarkably" positive effects that the caloric restriction had in the circumference of the waist. Triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, glucose control, and blood pressure.