Health & Wellness

Cutting Calories May Help You Live Longer

Fewer but better calories in your diet may also slow the aging process and help fight off disease

Photo: iStock/happy_lark.


Research has shown that restricting calories can slow aging and lengthen the lifespan of animals including rhesus monkeys and dogs. Now a new study analyzing calorie restriction in humans suggests that we may be able to reap the same benefits.

Calorie reduction involves reducing the number of calories in one’s diet while maintaining one’s intake of protein, vitamins, and minerals. The goal isn’t to lose weight, but to cut back on empty calories such as those in junk food and focus on nutrient-rich calories.

In a study published in the online journal The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, US researchers studied 213 adults between 21 and 50 years of age to see how calorie restriction affected them over a two-year period. Specifically, the researchers wanted to know if calorie restriction would help improve cardiometabolic risk factors that can lead to heart disease or Type 2 diabetes—blood pressure, blood fat, glucose, and cholesterol levels, and insulin resistance were all measured at the start and conclusion of the study.

One group had aimed to cut their calories by 25% but managed only 12%, removing about 280 calories a day from their diet, while a control group stuck with their usual diet. Researchers found that those who ate fewer calories lost 16 pounds on average and had improved cardiometabolic risk factors. The control group saw no improvements, suggesting it may be calorie restriction itself that plays a role in better health.

Researchers have also found that restricting calories increases beneficial proteins in the blood known to have anti-aging and anti-cancer properties, but we don’t know yet how these proteins impact aging in humans because much of the research into them has been done on animals.

If you’re considering restricting your calories, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor or a dietician beforehand to make sure you won’t miss out on any important nutrients. Reducing the amount of alcohol and sugary sodas you drink is one quick way to start.