A new study suggests the key to living longer could be eating less.
Published in the journal Nature Aging, researchers found that restricting calories could have substantial benefits, including delayed aging.
The study included 220 adults who either made a 25% calorie cut to their diet or made no changes at all. The Body Mass Index of participants ranged from 22 to 27, putting them in the “normal” to “overweight” categories (30 is the threshold for obesity).
Those in the calorie-restricted group were given three prepared meals each day (for the first month) to familiarize them with portion sizes. They were also counseled about their diet for the first 24 weeks of the two-year study. The other group had no counseling or restrictions.
The plan was to have the intervention group cut 500 calories from a 2,000-calorie daily intake, but most only cut it by about half. But even that was enough to cause significant changes.
Researchers used an algorithm based on past data for 1,000 people who were followed for 20 years to see how certain DNA biomarkers changed in the study group. It was described as a “speedometer” to help gauge the pace at which participants aged.
Those that cut their calories slowed aging down by 2–3 percent and reduced the likelihood of dying early by 10-15 percent.
Researchers plan to follow the participants on a restricted diet for ten years. Although it’s not entirely clear why eating less, it is possible that it may prompt cellular changes that help the body clean up.
Of course, there could be some risks to taking calories too low, including malnutrition and frailty.
It might be best to focus not only on how much you’re eating to delay aging, but what you’re eating. There are a ton of benefits to eating a Mediterranean-style diet rich in unprocessed or minimally processed foods.
Fruits and vegetables, for example, are high in nutrition and low in calories. Healthy fats like nuts and oils are higher in calories but offer valuable nutrition. Lean meats, and some fatty ones like fish, are also highly beneficial.
Cutting 250 calories is relatively easy, especially if you’re moving to a healthier lifestyle. To extend your life, it is certainly worth a try!