Calories in – calories out.
Calories in pertains to the number of calories one consumes from carbohydrates, fat and protein in food, while “calories out” refers to the number of calories a person burns or expends. Excess calorie intake, no matter if it is from carbohydrates, fat or protein will go into fat storage. Even if a food doesn’t contain fat, it may have a large number of calories and in excess will go into the body’s fat storage.
Calorie restricted diets have been studied for over 80 years and is considered to be the most significant dietary measure to extend life and delay problematic cell and tissue changes related to the aging process (Anderson and Weindruch, 2012). In addition, it is suggested in the diet to include nutrient dense foods such a fruits, vegetables and protein sources low in fat.
Benefits of Calorie Restricted Diets
- Brain function
- Heart and blood vessel health including cholesterol and blood pressure
- Weight management
- Maintaining healthy blood sugar
- Supports the gastrointestinal gut barrier
Support to the brain
A recent study has shown that foods high in calories are associated with the brain’s pleasure center and biological clock. The study showed that the high calorie foods, which bring a sense of joy and satisfaction throw off normal eating patterns and end up causing overeating.
Improved cognitive function and memory and slowing of brain aging has been connected to restricting calories in the diet without neglecting important nutrients (Van Cauwenberghe C et al, 2016)
Support during the aging process:
Research has demonstrated that by reducing calories by 15% over a 2 year period slowed down the aging process. Also, it was shown to protect the body against oxidative stress from free radicals attacking cells. Oxidative stress harms the body including the brain, heart, and central nervous system. The subjects also lost weight even though that was not an objective of the study (Redman LM et al, 2018)
Supports gastrointestinal health
A restricted calorie diet has been shown to improve the integrity of the gut barrier (Beate O et al, 2017). The gut barrier is found in the intestines. It has a single-cell layer of tissue that is considered the most important guard against external molecules entering the body. When healthy, it is selective as to what it allows in, welcoming in water, nutrients and electrolytes. It acts as a defense to prevent any type of toxin, antigen or bacteria from entering the gastrointestinal tract.
One 2 year study was performed in 2019 with individuals who restricted their calories by 25% vs those that didn’t change their diet (control group) (Kraus WE et al, 2019).
Those that reduced calorie intake demonstrated a significant improvement in LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure. In addition, the C reactive protein marker for inflammation was improved.
In addition, when the study was completed, these subjects lost weight and were able to maintain a 10% loss, of which 71% was fat mass.
How did they eat? The calorie restricted group consumed 3 meals per day and were allowed to eat from 6 different meal plans. They were not all able to maintain a reduction of 25% of their calories, but were able to follow a plan with an average of 12% less calories.
In summary, there are great benefits of following a restricted calorie diet unless one is following a special diet for a particular health issue. Research has shown advantages for the brain, heart and arteries, weight management, blood sugar, gastrointestinal tract, and provides anti-aging properties.