|What is Calorie Restriction all about?
Calorie restriction is a dietary regimen that most people would think of as
new but has actually been studied for over 70 years now. The main principle of
calorie restriction is to provide a person with restricted calories but is
compensated with high nutrient contents dispensed by controlled portions of
Calorie restriction, when not related to malnutrition, is believed to improve
lifespan expectancy and actually retards the aging process. But as time goes by,
this belief is now turning into reality as backed up by credible data collected
from decades of work with fungi, rodents, fish, dogs and even primates. Still,
however, we cannot leave out the fact that despite the positive effects that
calorie restriction may bring to primates, its long-term effects has not been
well established due to the length of time the study has to undergo. Calorie
restriction is now associated with positive changes in the metabolic, hormonal
and functions of the human body but studies cannot determine the exact amount of
calorie consumption or body fat mass that can be linked to optimal health and
increased lifespan in humans.
Another thing that concerns calorie restriction is that even moderate amounts
of calorie restriction may be more harmful than beneficial to specific human
populations such as those individuals who are lean and have low body fat
Current studies have taken into good consideration the hypothesis that
calorie restriction acts by decreasing insulin levels in the blood and thereby
decreasing the rate of cell degradation in the body. But calorie restriction
affects other areas of health and the physiologic functioning of the body and
is, therefore, not known whether or not insulin is the real main concern.
In human trials, calorie restriction has exhibited lower levels of blood
cholesterol, fasting blood glucose and blood pressure. In calorie restriction,
energy intake is taken into minimum but rich amounts of vitamins, minerals and
other valued essential nutrients must be consumed.
A small study made at the Washington University School of Medicine in Saint
Louis, Missouri looked through the effects of following the idea of calorie
restriction of between 10 to 25% lesser calories intake than the common Western
diet which amounts to more than the normal required energy intake. The Body Mass
Index (BMI), a measure of a person’s weight in relation to his or her height,
was noticeably lower for the calorie-restricted group when examined in contrast
to the control group. The BMI of the control group are very similar to the
average BMI values for middle adults in the US.
Everyone who was on calorie-restricted diets immediately experienced
significant reductions in their BMI right after starting their diet. Almost all
of the decrease in BMI happened in the first year of diet. It was also observed
that these people had lower total blood cholesterol levels and low density
lipoprotein (LDL or bad cholesterol) levels and a consequent increase in high
density lipoprotein (HDL or good cholesterol) levels.
These good results were found to occur primarily during the first year of
dieting. The experimental group (calorie-restricted group) even has lower but
normal blood pressures, fasting blood glucose, and fasting insulin aside from
the decreased Body Mass Index.
It was also observed that the calorie-restricted group had significantly low
triglyceride levels. It was so low that these results turned out to be similar
to the lowest 5% of Americans in the age of 20’s. This is really unusually
remarkable considering that individuals under the calorie-restricted group were
actually between the ages of 35 to 82 years. The control group, on the other
hand, approximately have values aligned with the national average of US.
Fasting plasma insulin levels and fasting blood glucose levels are factors
that predict the occurrence of diabetes. On another note, excessive caloric
restriction can eventually result to malnutrition, leading towards anemia,
diarrhea, nausea, and difficulty in maintaining activities of daily living due
to weakness, lethargy and dizziness that may occur. This study was publicized in
Journal of American Medical Association, March 2007 issue. By the year 2009,
another study has shown up stating that calorie restriction can have positive
effects on the cognitive functioning of humans in the form of enhancing memory
in normal to overweight elderly. Another is that moderate calorie restriction
has relations to decreasing the risk of age-related Sarcopenia, a form of muscle
wasting, in primates.
Although forceful by nature, these studies made use of borderline to slightly
overweight subjects as the control group, which is the mean in some countries.
It is still ambiguous if the same results would show using subjects who are not
What were shown earlier were positive effects of calorie restriction to the
body but this dietary regimen is devoid of health-related issues and concerns.
By continuously consuming restricted levels of calorie, an individual can become
underweight but the study concerning this matter focused entirely on the Body
Mass Index and not the diet. Unless metabolism is slowed by some way, calorie
restriction may result in starvation.
When persisted in prolonged periods, the body may eventually burn the lean
tissue of the body with its fat reserves in order to compensate for the reduced
energy intake. This form of starvation, in turn, results in lethargy and
decreased physical activity ultimately leading to decreased muscle mass. Another
issue that was observed is the resulting weakened immune system.
When reducing calorie intake for prolonged periods, the absorption of
essential nutrients, such as fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K, may also be
decreased because they require fats for proper absorption and other nutrients
generally linked with high calorie food. Prolonged decreased levels of blood
glucose can lead to neuroglycopenia, a state of lowered glucose in the brain
resulting into alterations in comprehension, judgment and behavior.
Summarizing all of this information, the dietary regimen of calorie
restriction provides positive effects in the functioning of the human body but
there still are negative impacts brought about by CR. Research is still ongoing
about calorie restriction and there is still so much to be learned from it. As
for whether or not you should try this dietary regimen, consulting a physician
is of utmost priority since calorie restriction is not for everyone.
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