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The Benefits of Calorie Restriction in Health Optimization

How would you feel if we were to tell you that nutrition science has come such a long way, that there’s now a way to easily and practically live longer, healthier, and potentially even disease-free?

What if mountains of research prove that this method is not only effective, but also has a wide range of benefits for overall health and longevity?

You might think we’re talking about some new superfood or supplement, but the truth is, there’s a health-enhancing approach that is much simpler than that – calorie restriction. Most importantly: eat less often.

As we develop as intellectual beings, our capacity to understand the world and how it works also develops. And with this understanding, comes the ability to change things for the better. In the case of calorie restriction, changing the way we eat has the potential to change our health profoundly. A study published by researchers from the Louisiana State University illustrates that reduced energy intake while maintaining adequate nutrition extends health span and lifespan in humans. In other words, by eating fewer calories, we can live longer, healthier lives. The benefits of calorie restriction are numerous, and range from improved cardiovascular health to better brain function and skin health – making it an attractive option for those looking to optimize their health as a whole. Let’s take a more in-depth look at what calorie restriction is, and some of the benefits it can offer.

What Is Calorie Restriction?

In a nutshell, calorie restriction (CR) is consuming fewer calories than what’s considered normal or typical, without malnutrition or compromising essential nutrients. It’s important to note that CR should not be confused with crash diets or other fad diets that often do more harm than good. These types of restrictive diets are not only unsustainable in the long-term, but can also lead to a whole host of health problems.

CR is different in the sense that it’s not about deprivation, but rather about making healthier choices and being mindful of portion sizes. It’s a lifestyle change that can be easily adopted and continued long-term. All you need to do is consume 20-30% fewer calories than what’s considered typical or average for your body type, without malnutrition or compromising essential nutrients. For example, if the average daily calorie intake is 2000 calories, then consuming 1500-1700 calories would be considered calorie restriction. This not only leads to a calorie deficit, but also encourages the body to dip into its energy reserves (fat stores) for fuel. Which ultimately results in weight loss. But as we mentioned, the benefits of calorie restriction go far beyond just weight loss; more on that later.

Calorie Restriction Anti Aging

Aging is a natural process that happens to us all, and is characterized by a gradual decline in function and physicality. You may know that this is due to the accumulation of damage at the cellular level, which leads to a decrease in cell regeneration and repair. But what many don’t know, is that calorie restriction is widely used to study the aging process. Why? Because by reducing calorie intake, we can slow down the rate at which cells age and degenerate. It’s what’s known as “hormesis,” where a stressor (in this case, calorie restriction) actually leads to a beneficial adaptation. Scientists Lan Xiang and Guoqing He from Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China claim that calorie restriction is a quick and straightforward technique to slow down the aging process, avoid the development of age-related illnesses, and raise the general or maximum lifetime. You can’t put a price on good health, but the benefits of calorie restriction are certainly worth considering if you’re looking to optimize your health and wellbeing. Not to mention, it’s one of the most researched anti-aging methods available today.

Calorie Restriction Skin Benefits

In addition to its general anti-aging properties, calorie restriction has also been shown to be beneficial for the skin. A 2020 study published by Yeon Ja Choi found that calorie restriction improved skin elasticity and thickness, as well as decreased wrinkles and spots associated with aging. This may be due to the fact that calorie restriction leads to a decrease in inflammation, which is a major culprit of skin aging.

Calorie Restriction Health Benefits

Although both anti-aging and skin benefits are impressive in their own right, the health benefits of calorie restriction are what make it truly compelling. Let’s take a look at some of the most well-documented benefits.

Caloric Restriction Supports a Healthy Heart

According to the National Institute on Aging, even a minor calorie reduction offers significant cardiovascular advantages. For example, the metabolic syndrome score was significantly lower in adults who reduced their calories by 12% — about 300 fewer calories per day — than those eating a regular diet after 12 months. As good as food is, too much of it can take a toll on your heart. That’s especially true for foods high in unhealthy fats and refined sugar. Excess calories from these foods can lead to weight gain, which raises your risk for heart disease and other conditions. So reducing your calorie intake can help your heart function better and improve overall cardiovascular health.

Calorie Restriction Decreases Inflammation In the Body

The benefits of calorie restriction have also been shown to decrease inflammation throughout the body. Chronic, low-grade inflammation is a significant player in almost all chronic diseases. This includes heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and even the aging process itself. A 2016 study from Tufts University found that healthy, non-obese people who reduced their daily calorie consumption by 25% not only had 10% weight loss, but had significantly lower levels of markers of chronic inflammation throughout the 2 years of the study without negatively affecting the immune system. This shows that the benefits of calorie restriction can have lasting effects on inflammation, which is good news for your long-term health.

Caloric Restriction Enhances Brain Function

The benefits of calorie restriction don’t stop at the body — they extend to the brain as well. When you cut calories, your brain responds by becoming more efficient. In 2009, a group of researchers found a 20% increase in verbal memory scores after 3 months of 30% caloric restriction, correlated with decreases in fasting plasma insulin and C-reactive protein levels. Translation: when you reduce your calorie intake, your brain starts working better. The benefits of calorie restriction on brain function are especially pronounced in older adults, who tend to experience a decline in cognitive function as they age. So if you’re looking for a way to boost your brainpower, the benefits of calorie restriction are worth considering.

Caloric Restriction Boosts Energy Efficiency

Calorie restriction also leads to a more efficient use of energy at the cellular level. In other words, your cells become better at using the calories you consume for energy, rather than storing them as fat. This is likely due to the fact that when we restrict calories, our body is forced to use stored energy (fat) for fuel. As a result, our cells become more efficient at burning calories, and we experience increased energy levels. We also see an increase in mitochondrial function, which is the power plant of our cells. This helps to increase energy efficiency further and has been linked to a host of health benefits, including improved brain function and a decrease in chronic disease.

Caloric Restriction Promotes Good Moods and Reduces Stress

There’s nothing better than feeling good, and the benefits of calorie restriction can help you achieve just that. When we cut calories, our body releases more of the hormone serotonin. This is the “feel-good” hormone that helps to improve our mood and reduce stress levels. In one study, researchers found that people who followed a calorie-restricted diet had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. They also had higher levels of serotonin and felt less stressed overall. Another study found that people who were calorie-restricted had less anxiety and depression than those who didn’t. Who knew that the benefits of calorie restriction also include our mental health?

Final Thoughts

It’s clear that the benefits of calorie restriction are far-reaching and well worth considering if you’re looking to improve your health and longevity. Whether you’re interested in anti-aging, better skin, or optimizing your overall health, calorie restriction is a powerful tool that should be part of your health armamentarium. Afiya health takes an integrated approach to healthy, functional longevity. Afiya uses real data to understand your biological age, which is a more accurate predictor of health span than chronological age. Using this data, Afiya integrates lifestyle guidance into a comprehensive, personalized treatment plan that will help you achieve a longer, healthier life.

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