Calorie restriction yields ‘remarkable’ health benefits that can lead to longer lifespan

Calorie restriction in laboratory animals enhances their lifespan, prior research shows, but does the same hold true for humans? Researchers at Yale University concluded the first controlled study of the dietary regimen in healthy humans to determine if it is indeed as beneficial for people. Results confirm that calorie restriction in humans leads to “remarkable” long-term health benefits. They also identified a protein connected to calorie restriction that may ensure a longer, healthier life.

The clinical trial, entitled the Comprehensive Assessment of Long-term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy (CALERIE), first established the baseline calorie intake of more than 200 participants. Then, some of the subjects were instructed to reduce their total calorie consumption by 14 percent. The other subjects continued their baseline calorie intake. The researchers analyzed the health effects of calorie restriction over two years.

Led by Vishea Deep Dixit, a professor of pathology at Yale, study authors also wanted to find out how calorie restriction confers better health. They wanted to determine how the practice may be linked to the immune system and inflammation. “We know that chronic low-grade inflammation in humans is a major trigger of many chronic diseases, and therefore has a negative effect on life span,” Dixit says in a statement. “Here we’re asking: What is calorie restriction doing to the immune and metabolic systems and if it is indeed beneficial, how can we harness the endogenous pathways that mimic its effects in humans?”

Diving into the impact of calorie restriction

The team analyzed the thymus gland, which is above the heart and produces T cells, white blood cells important to immune function. The thymus ages faster than the rest of the body, interfering with the gland’s immune function. They found that calorie restriction rejuvenated the thymus gland, increasing T-cell production, to levels greater than at the start of the study.

On closer examination of the thymus they determined that it was not the T cells that had the beneficial effect. It was in adipose (fat) tissue in the gland. They studied the genes which have a role in fat production. Calorie restriction changed how the genes were expressed in the adipose tissue. “We found remarkable changes in the gene expression of adipose tissue after one year that were sustained through year two,” says Dixit. “This revealed some genes that were implicated in extending life in animals but also unique calorie restriction-mimicking targets that may improve metabolic and anti-inflammatory response in humans.”

‘Simple reduction in calories has remarkable effect’

Researchers also honed in on the action of one gene with a site described as PLA2G7, which is a protein produced by immune cells called macrophages. It was inhibited by calorie restriction.

“These findings demonstrate that PLA2G7 is one of the drivers of the effects of calorie restriction,” explains Dixit. “Identifying these drivers helps us understand how the metabolic system and the immune system talk to each other, which can point us to potential targets that can improve immune function, reduce inflammation, and potentially even enhance healthy life span.”

Dixit continues, “There’s so much debate about what type of diet is better – how carbohydrates, fat, increased protein, intermittent fasting, etc. – and I think time will tell which of these are important. The CALERIE study shows a simple reduction in calories, and no specific diet, has a remarkable effect in terms of biology and shifting the immune-metabolic state in a direction that’s protective of human health. So, from a public health standpoint, I think it gives hope.”

The study is published in the journal Science.


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About the Author

Dr. Faith Coleman

Faith A. Coleman MD
Dr. Coleman is a graduate of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and holds a BA in journalism from UNM. She completed her family practice residency at Wm. Beaumont Hospital, Troy and Royal Oak, MI, consistently ranked among the United States Top 100 Hospitals by US News and World Report. Dr. Coleman writes on health, medicine, family, and parenting for online information services and educational materials for health care providers.

Comments

  1. for those who find caloric restriction too difficult there is a drug RAPAMYCIN that duplicates extending life and health in humans and mice. I personally have been on it for 3 years and feel great at age 87. when I first ent on rapamycin I dropped 20 lbs effortlessly over a couple of months.

    1. George Best MD, How do you get someone to prescribe rapamycin? Sounds like that would be very difficult. Would be willing to try it.

      1. Don’t get sucked into “george best MD” BS. That is nothing but scam marketing, hence the “MD”. C’mon, you’re better than that!

    2. What difficulties are you encountering when trying to simply reduce daily caloric intake by 14%, which prompts you to instead buy a “workaround drug”?

      1. Don’t get sucked into “george best MD” BS. That is nothing but scam marketing, hence the “MD”. C’mon, you’re better than that!

      1. If you’re non-privileged, then you probably go hungry every night anyways and get natural caloric restriction.

        No?

        STFU

    3. Uh … hello … it’s called AUTOPHAGY folks … and it’s nothing new … the monks have been doing it for ages. Get a clue, would ya?

  2. Your duty to the state is to die when you are supposed to. Extending life spans will be ruled illegal and counter to the goals of the state.

  3. Or one can just reduce their carbohydrate intake as percentage of total calories and be much more likely to stay on such a diet regimen. People won’t just walk around hungry for very long.

    Temporary or short term fasting goes a long way toward achieving the results outlined in this article.

    1. Yes, this! Intermittent fasting has many proven health benefits, I’d recommend any one to do their own research

      1. I have been intermittent fasting for around a year and my health has improved in general and I lost 60lbs. I eat only in a 3-4 hour window before bed.

  4. The government wants you to get fatter than a wild hog so you can develop life threatening diseases that will cause you to seize up like an engine without motor oil. Their goal is to watch you die before you can collect social security and medicare. When I go to Costco, Shoprite, Stop&Shop, I see many of these fat out of shape hogs loading up their carts with highly processed foods. Keep it up “Porky”, your going to be DEAD before you know it.

    1. I dunno about the “die before social security” angle. The goal really is to help the food industry sell billions of dollars of junk food every year for as long as possible. Drugs like statins and metformin basically offset the bad effects of junk food (well metformin does at least, not sure statins do much of anything) and keep people alive longer so they can continue to buy junk food. The gubment lets the food industry do studies and control the narrative. Pretty sad for Americans… but a good start is to only eat natural whole foods and it will help red-pill you out of the brain fog that has been created by standard American fad diet.

  5. For research the “MD” after the authors name should mean nothing as MD’s
    are not scientists. They are practioners. They are limited to recommendations
    of the the AMA Journal, Lancet (UK) and The Readers Digest. Real medical
    scientists have science degrees with Ph.D.s often as well as MDs. Many of these
    guys are nutcases.

    1. Scientists are not very well regarded either lately so watch throwing stones. Your very nature means you get it wrong way more than right.

  6. so how timely……… as food costs are rising out of sight… this “study” is justifying starving us/peons is for our own good. this along with $10 gas, rent nobody can afford, insane new home inflation…. and a president hell bent on starting a War over his corrupt Crime Family’s golden goose., corrupt state now being called a democracy…..dby day ay we find our the extent of the covid vax/mask/lockdown hoax…the stupid is overwhelming. i have to say, the preppers are right…. zombieland is right around the corner. but on the bright-side we’ll be wandering zombies for years because restricted mouse diets “may” increase our lifespan……..

  7. Don’t listen to the keto cult (or any other diet cult for that matter).

    Eat whole foods, manage your food intake, and move around/lift heavy things. You know, the basic lifestyles of our ancestors before we devolved into gluttonous boob tube watchers. It is sad to see the bloated look of average Americans become so normalized that we make up pure BS like ‘body positivity’ to make self-destruction a happy place.

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