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I have written in this column on more than one occasion about the positive effects of calorie restriction on health. I find the idea interesting because one of the goals of Dr. Gourmet is to help you reduce through creative changes in recipes as well as portion control.
The research on calorie restricted diets so far has been mostly looking back at historic information in people. While this has shown results that appear beneficial, it is important to have research that is designed to answer a specific question and then have researchers follow participants over time. Dr. Leonie Heilbronn and her colleagues (JAMA 2006;295:1539-1548) designed a study to look at the effects of a calorie restricted diet over a six month period. They measured a number of things during the study, including such things as body composition, the hormone DHEEAS, glucose level, insulin level, body temperature and damage to DNA.
The participants were divided into four groups. One was a control group and ate a diet that let them maintain their weight. One group ate 25% less calories than their projected needs and another ate 12.5% fewer while exercising enough to burn another 12.5% of the calories that they needed. The last group was placed on a very low-calorie diet.
The results showed that two of the markers that researchers feel are related to longer life were affected in those eating the reduced calorie diet: both fasting insulin and body temperature decreased. The calorie restricted groups also had reduced weight and body fat mass. It appears that there is also an adaptation of the body to lower calorie intake that reduces the body’s caloric ends.
One of the most interesting findings is that there was less damage to DNA in the groups that ate less than in the control group who maintained their weight.
My favorite part of this study is that the group who ate 12.5% less along with burning 12.5% of calories through exercise had pretty much the same results. This, in my opinion, is the best approach because you get to eat more. Not only does research show that you will feel better by exercising, but I see this every day with patients in my practice.
Keep in mind that is a small study and a lot more research is going to be necessary to help us understand if these findings hold up or not.
Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!
April 17, 2006
For more information and to follow the progress of this study, visit http://calerie.pbrc.edu/index.html