According to a new study from the Duke University Medical Center, cutting just 300 calories can help reduce the risk of serious conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Calorie restriction was found to improve blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar among individuals who were already at a healthy weight.
The results of the two-year trial, which is part of an ongoing project with the National Institutes of Health, supports the idea that weight loss is not the only way to prevent metabolic issues. The research suggests that a complex metabolic change is triggered by burning more calories than we consume.
“There’s something about caloric restriction, some mechanism we don’t yet understand that results in these improvements,” said study lead author Dr. William E. Kraus. “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.”
During the first month of the trial, participants trained for a new diet by eating three meals a day that cut one-fourth of their daily calories. They also attended group and individual counseling sessions for six months. Meanwhile, members of a control group simply continued their usual diet.
The participants were asked to maintain the 25-percent calorie reduction for two years. Some were more successful than others, and the average calorie reduction among all of the volunteers was around 12 percent.
Regardless, the participants managed to drop ten percent of their weight, and the researchers determined that 71 percent of this weight loss was fat.
In markers that measure risk for metabolic disease, there were a number of improvements. The participants also showed a reduction in a biomarker that indicates chronic inflammation, which has 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,” said Dr. Kraus. “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 is published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.
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