Calorie cuts benefit already healthy hearts

Adults already at a healthy weight or carrying just a few extra pounds, can benefit from cutting around 300 calories a day, new research shows.

Cutting the calories significantly improved already good levels of cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and other markers, according to the study.

The findings come from a randomized, controlled trial of 218 adults under age 50. The trial, part of an ongoing project with the National Institutes of Health called CALERIE (Comprehensive Assessment of Long-term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy) continues to build on the researchers’ hypothesis that it’s not just weight loss that leads to these improvements, but some more complex metabolic change triggered by eating fewer calories than what’s expended.

“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.”

“There’s something about caloric restriction, some mechanism we don’t yet understand that results in these improvements,” says lead author William E. Kraus, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at Duke University. “We have collected blood, muscle, and other samples from these participants and will continue to explore what this metabolic signal or magic molecule might be.”

For the first month of the trial, participants ate three meals a day that would cut one-fourth of their daily calories to help train them on the new diet. They could choose from six different meal plans that accommodated cultural preferences or other needs. Participants also attended group and individual counseling sessions for the first six months of the trial, while members of a control group simply continued their usual diet and met with researchers once every six months.

Researchers asked participants to maintain the 25 percent calorie reduction for two years. Their ability to do that varied, with the average calorie reduction for all participants being about 12 percent. Still, they were able to sustain a 10-percent drop in their weight, 71 percent of which was fat, the study finds.

There were numerous improvements in markers that measure risk for metabolic disease. After two years, participants also showed a reduction in a biomarker that indicates chronic inflammation which has also been linked to heart disease, cancer, and cognitive decline.

“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,” Kraus says.

“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.”

The study appears in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

The National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and the NIH General Clinical Research Center supported the study.

Source: Duke University