Who would ever have thought to study the effects of Calorie reduction on already healthy people? The folks at Duke University Medical School did, and they made some interesting discoveries. Turns out that even the ‘healthy’ can be healthier if they cut just a few Calories…
The experiment was part of an ongoing project with the National Institutes of Health called CALERIE (Comprehensive Assessment of Long-term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy) which was designed to explore the effects of Calorie restriction on metabolic processes.
What they did
Researchers asked a group of 218 adults who were at an ideal weight or carrying just a few extra pounds to cut 1/4 of the Calories they were consuming from their daily diets, and recorded the results in their physical condition over a total period of 2 years.
Participants were offered their choice of 6 different meal plans that would produce the desired reduction, and were offered group or individual coaching sessions to help them maintain the reduced Caloric intake. A control group was allowed to eat whatever they were used to eating.
Both groups met with researchers for ‘checkups’ every 6 months.
What they found
The average actual calorie reduction among all participants was about 12 percent. Still, they were able to sustain a 10-percent drop in their weight, 71 percent of which was fat, the study found. There were numerous improvements in markers that measure risk for metabolic disease. After two years, participants also showed a reduction in a biomarker that indicates chronic inflammation which has also been linked to heart disease, cancer and cognitive decline.
“There’s something about caloric restriction, some mechanism we don’t yet understand that results in these improvements,” said study’s Lead Author Dr. William E. Kraus. “We have collected blood, muscle and other samples from these participants and will continue to explore what this metabolic signal or magic molecule might be.”
“Even a modification that is not as severe as what we used in this study could reduce the burden of diabetes and cardiovascular disease that we have in this country,” Kraus observered. “People can do this fairly easily by simply watching their little indiscretions here and there, or maybe reducing the amount of them, like not snacking after dinner.”
It all makes sense to me. The official daily Calorie consumption levels recommended by medical and nutrition experts are for individuals who partake of a certain amount of physical activity. Couch or Computer Screen Potatoes could obviously benefit from lower Calorie consumption, but their muscles would quickly begin to waste away from inactivity – making it even more difficult for them to build themselves up again if they did decide to get healthy again. And, as Kraus and his team have demonstrated, these folks would also suffer from even more serious metabolic issues and greater risk of serious diseases and conditions than they were prey to before the reduction.
So… My instincts tell me that increasing activity levels and decreasing calorie intake are, together, prerequisites for folks who want to improve their physical and metabolic condition. Only when the inactive or obese have increased their daily activity levels and reduced their weight to normal, or near normal, can reducing their daily Calorie consumption further help them improve their lives further.
Nevertheless, that pivotal point where one reaches a ‘normal’ weight and a healthy level of daily physical activity is a noble and necessary goal for all of us to aspire to.
~ Maggie J.