Eating the same number of meals at the usual times and enjoying the foods we love while still maintaining a healthy diet — is it even possible?
That’s a question many of us ask ourselves, time and time again. But the fact of the matter is, when you eat less calories, in a nutritious and balanced way, scientific evidence shows this can lead to a whole lot of benefits.
JULY 15, 2020
01Less calories, more benefits
Arguably, the two most current and popularized diets are calorie restriction and intermittent fasting. Although often confused, they’re vastly different in terms of application and effects. For intermittent fasting, you eat what and how you like but within a set timeframe – whether it’s fasting and eating for a certain amount of hours per day, or the popular 5:2 pattern where you eat as you like five days a week, but only consume 500-600 calories per day for two days. Calorie restriction, on the other hand, is about actively reducing your calorie intake whenever you eat.
02The science of eating
While intermittent fasting offers many health benefits, let’s cover the benefits of calorie restriction in a healthy diet, and how it’s been scientifically proven to positively impact metabolism, longevity, and overall health.
So, how does calorie restriction do that? The key lies in the cellular response to feeding. After eating, your body naturally mobilizes insulin and leptin – the hormones that, respectively, convert food into energy and monitor satiety (the feeling of being full) – while maintaining a healthy level of body fat. A larger, unrestricted meal will increase blood insulin and leptin more than a smaller, restricted meal, and ultimately this can contribute to cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes when the body no longer responds to these chronically elevated levels¹.Key TakeawaysBalance is key: Eating fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains and lean sources of protein, has been found to optimize nutrient intake without a high caloric burden. Scientifically proven: Calorie restriction has been scientifically proven to positively impact metabolism, longevity, and overall health.
03So, can consuming less calories affect longevity?
The exciting news is, yes, it can. With unrestricted eating habits, aging populations experience a rapid accumulation of senescent cells. But caloric restriction can lessen these age-related changes by limiting the recruitment of insulin and leptin and targeting regulatory pathways that respond to a low-energy state. Even better, by ameliorating metabolic health and reducing the risk of disease, calorie restriction has been proven to prolong the lifespan of rodents and other animal models. It’s a very good case of when less is absolutely more!
04Alleviating the hallmarks of aging
Other studies found that a reduced caloric intake in mice diminished damage to DNA, which consequently minimized cellular senescence²,³. Taking into account that senescence mimics the spread of a virus — for example, cells in close proximity to a damaged cell will incur damage upon themselves – if the signals that cause senescence are reduced, then calorie restriction directly alleviates the hallmarks of aging and contributes to a longer, healthier life.
05Enjoy what you eat
Faced with all of this scientific evidence, the question remains — how can I implement calorie restriction into my daily routine? Perhaps one of the most appealing aspects of calorie restriction is its emphasis on reforming rather than revolutionizing your diet. This allows you to continue to eat the healthy foods you love while reducing quantity when there’s no longer a health benefit.
06One size does not fit all
At the same time, each of us is unique and everyone responds differently to a calorie restricted diet. According to dieticians and health professionals, the first step to determining what might work best for you is to get a baseline level of your blood glucose and cholesterol through blood tests. This can be a very helpful way to monitor your progress and to formulate your own individual dietary plan.
- Bordone L, Guarente L. Calorie restriction, SIRT1 and metabolism: understanding longevity. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2005;6(4):298-305. doi:10.1038/nrm1616
- Heilbronn, Leonie K et al. “Effect of 6-month calorie restriction on biomarkers of longevity, metabolic adaptation, and oxidative stress in overweight individuals: a randomized controlled trial.” JAMA vol. 295,13 (2006): 1539-48. doi:10.1001/jama.295.13.1539
- Wang, Chunfang et al. “Adult-onset, short-term dietary restriction reduces cell senescence in mice.” Aging vol. 2,9 (2010): 555-66. doi:10.18632/aging.100196