Cutting 300 calories – the equivalent of a six-Oreo after dinner snack – from your daily diet could reduce your risks for diseases like diabetes and heart disease, new research suggests.
And it holds true even if you’re already at a healthy weight.
Researchers at Duke University had 218 dedicated study participants reduce their daily calories by a quarter – though that proved unsustainable for some – for two years.
At the end of their extended diets, the participants not only lost weight and kept it off, but their risks for metabolic diseases like diabetes decreased, as did their overall levels of inflammation.
Though they can’t say why, the study authors think there’s something about even a little calorie restriction – like skipping dessert – that’s good for us, even if we’re not overweight.
Why you should just say no to the doughnut: New research suggests that cutting a dessert’s worth of calories from your diet may reduce disease risks – even if you’re a healthy weight
Obesity, excess weight and metabolic diseases have proven to be some of the most damning indicators for Americans’ health.
Even before weight problems reach the level of obesity, eating more than we need – especially of highly processed foods, sugars, excessive carbohydrates, fats and red meat – can cause inflammation.
Systemic inflammation is commonly linked to the Western diet, and is a significant risk factor in the development of metabolic diseases like diabetes, as well as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer and speed aging in general.
Among the diet strategies being explored to side-step these effects is calorie restrictive eating.
On a calorie restriction diet, people – or lab animals, from which we get much of our current data on long-term calorie restriction diets come – people are supposed to get all the same nutrients they would get from their typical meals.
Animal evidence suggests that cutting daily caloric intake by 10 to 40 percent may reduce risks of diseases and cancers.
Calorie restriction’s benefits are obvious for people who tend to overeat or have BMIs of 25 or higher.
But according to the new research, shaving a few more calories off your meal can be beneficial even if you fall within the healthy weight range.
The Duke research team’s 218 recruits were eased into their diets with three daily meals that, in total, contained about 75 percent of their typical daily caloric intake on one of four meal plans.
THE WESTERN DIET EXPLAINED
The Western diet is loosely defined as one full of fatty and sugary foods, such as burgers, fries and soda.
People often eat foods that are high in
- Saturated fats
- Red meats
- ‘Empty’ carbohydrates
- Junk Food
And low in
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Whole Grains
Health effects have been linked to things such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, colorectal cancer and dementia.
For the first six months of the trial, they also attended regular counseling sessions.
After that initial training period, the researchers asked their subjects to do their best to continue to cut a quarter of their calories out.
Most couldn’t quite keep to a diet that strict for two years running.
The average participant was able, however, to eat about 12 percent less.
Even this more mild diet allowed them to shed and keep off an average of 10 percent of their weight, and 71 percent of that was pure fat.
Over the course of those two years, the scientists regularly collected blood, fat, samples from the study participants.
They checked for biomarkers of metabolic syndrome, like insulin resistance, glucose tolerance, high blood pressure, high triglycerides and high cholesterol.
Remarkably, after two years of calorie restrictions, these biomarkers suggested reductions in inflammation, and therefore in risks for heart diseases, cancer and cognitive decline, the authors of the study, published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, claim.
‘There’s something about caloric restriction, some mechanism we don’t yet understand that results in these improvements,’ said the study’s lead author Dr William E Kraus, a cardiologist at Duke.
‘This shows that 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.
‘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.’
Dr Kraus said he and his team aren’t sure what it is about calorie restriction that has these beneficial effects, but they’re keeping the samples from the study participants on deck for further stu