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Low Calorie Diet May Extend Life - Study in Humans Concludes Cutting Calories Influences Two Biomarkers of Longevity

April 4th 2006

Low Calorie Diet May Extend Life - Study in Humans Concludes Cutting Calories Influences Two Biomarkers of Longevity

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A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (JAMA) adds support to the contention that low calorie diets will help you live longer, or at least slow the aging process.  Earlier studies proved that mice on extremely low calorie diets lived longer than their peers that were fed normally.  Scientists have theorized that a low calorie diet impacts the metabolism, including alterations in insulin sensitivity and signaling, neuroendocrine function, stress response, or a combination of these.  These conditions will affect aging. 

The researchers in Louisiana used humans this time to determine whether a prolonged calorie diet could influence the aging process.  They used a control group to help determine if a calorie restrictive diet could influence the fasting insulin levels and body temperature, two biomarkers of longevity.


After 6 months the control group experienced an average weight loss of 1%, while the calorie restricted diet group experienced a 10.4% weight loss.  Interestingly the group with a calorie restriction and exercise regimen lost only 10.0%.  The people on the very low-calorie diet, lost an average of 13.9 %.

This randomized trial, conducted between March 2002 and August 2004, included 48 healthy, sedentary men and women. Participants were randomized to 1 of 4 groups for 6 months: control (weight maintenance diet); calorie restriction (25 percent calorie restriction of baseline energy requirements); calorie restriction with exercise (12.5 percent calorie restriction plus 12.5 percent increase in energy expenditure by structured exercise); very low-calorie diet (890 kcal/d until 15 percent weight reduction, followed by a weight maintenance diet).


The fasting insulin levels and body temperature levels decreased in all of the participants who reduced their caloric intake, except the extremely-low-calorie group.  This group did not show a reduced average core body temperature. Interestingly, the JAMA press release said “there were no significant changes in fasting glucose or dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) levels in any group.”  A technique to measure DNA fragmentation indicated reductions of DNA damage from baseline in all intervention groups.

"Our results indicate that prolonged calorie restriction caused: (1) a reversal in 2 of 3 previously reported biomarkers of longevity (fasting insulin level and core body temperature); (2) a metabolic adaptation (decrease in energy expenditure larger than expected on the basis of loss of metabolic mass) associated with lower thyroid hormone concentrations; and (3) a reduction in DNA fragmentation, reflecting less DNA damage," the authors write.


After adjustment for changes in body composition, sedentary 24-hour energy expenditure was unchanged in controls, but decreased in the calorie restriction, calorie restriction with exercise, and very low-calorie diet groups. These "metabolic adaptations" were statistically different from controls.

Leonie K. Heilbronn, Ph.D., of Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, La., and colleagues conducted a study.

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By Dan Wilson
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Important:  The material on Best Syndication is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical conditions. You should promptly seek professional medical care if you have any concern about your health, and you should always consult your physician before starting a fitness program.

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