Calorie restriction isn’t just something you should be doing if you’re overweight or obese, studies have shown that a reduction in calorie intake could be associated with longevity, with research suggesting that when mice are given less food, it slows down a number of genetic ageing processes.
Now a new study suggests that healthy people can derive a number of benefits from simply eating less too, and not just in terms of losing weight. When the diets of 218 healthy adults were followed over the course of two years, participants who restricted what they ate reported significantly better psychological effects, when compared to a control group that ate whatever they wanted.
The participants were men and women aged between 20 and 50 years old, and all had a body mass index of 22 to 28, putting them in normal (healthy weight) or overweight BMI categories.
From this sample, one group was randomly assigned to reduce their calorie intake by 25 percent, while the other group didn’t have to alter their regular diet. If you’re thinking you’d much rather have ended up in the ‘eat whatever you want’ camp, consider this: two years later, the calorie restriction group reported improved mood and reduced tension, plus improved general health and sex drive.
What’s more, after one year on the new eating regime, they reported enjoying better sleep quality. They also lost weight, dropping almost 12 percent of their body weight at the end of two years, with the mean BMI for the calorie restriction group sitting on 22.6 by the end of the study. In contrast, the control group experienced almost no change in their weight after two years. But before you rush to reduce your own food consumption, bear in mind it’s not easy to slash your calorie intake by 25 percent. On the contrary, it’s considered to be a pretty big adjustment. “Even though they achieve those benefits, it is just really hard to adhere to these diets over the long term, at least in today’s society,” one of the team, Corby Martin from the Pennington Biomedical Research Centre in Louisiana, told Mandy Oaklander at Time. “They’re minnows trying to swim upstream, in a world where it’s very easy to over consume calories.”
“What people report is that after they ‘get over the hump’ and start to lose weight, their hunger levels subside a bit and they start to feel the benefits of the weight loss,” Martin said.
In 2014 a team from the NYU Langone Medical Centre found that, when fed 30 percent fewer calories, female mice showed less activity in almost 900 different genes linked to ageing processes in the brain, suggesting that eating less might slow down the cognitive decline that comes with age.
However, given the difficulties people face in cutting calories out of their daily diet, scientists are also looking at ways to achieve the same affects without having to sacrifice the amount of food we eat.
Of course, if you don’t want to alter your diet at all, scientists are also looking into chemical compounds that might be able to mimic the effects found in calorie restriction.
Until tomorrow: I am as bad as the worst, but, thank God, I am as good as the best.