Eating Less May Help You Age Better, Study Says

Over time, calorie restriction may reduce inflammation in the body.

Junk food

Photo via Glade

You may want to rethink that afternoon snack, according to a study from Tufts.

Researchers at Tufts’ Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging found that reducing calorie consumption over time, even if you’re not overweight, may help you live longer and age better. Cutting calories, they found, seems to reduce inflammation, a major player in chronic illnesses like cancer, heart disease, and dementia.

Specifically, the researchers found that for non-obese people, two years of reducing calorie consumption by 25 percent—while maintaining proper protein, vitamin, and mineral intake—begins to eliminate markers of inflammation in the body. Importantly, it seems to do so without negatively affecting immune system function.

“This may be one of the most powerful non-genetic interventions to slow aging, increase our health span and the quality of our lives,” corresponding author Simin Nikbin Meydani said in a statement.

Slashing calories that significantly, however, can be difficult. To follow the study’s parameters, somebody currently on a 2,000 calories-per-day diet would need to lower that number to 1,500, all without sacrificing nutrition. That could be tricky without professional input—study subjects did so under supervision, following a tailor-made high satiety diet plan and taking vitamins and mineral supplements to avoid “micronutrient malnutrition.”

That said, co-author Luigi Fontana suggested in the statement that a more modest calorie restriction could have similar effects.

“With all of today’s fitness and biometric measurement technology available to the public, it is certainly feasible for the average person to maintain a 10-15 percent calorie restriction as a strategy for long-term health benefits,” he said. A 10 to 15 percent reduction in calories equates to dropping from 2,000 calories each day to 1,800 or 1,700; that’s as simple as cutting out a couple cans of soda.

Meydani also notes that the study focused on people with body mass indexes between 18 and 30, a weight range at which it’s probably safe to reduce food intake. “I would say if your BMI is below 18, it would not make sense to reduce your caloric intake any further,” she says.

Even if you don’t remove a full 500 calories from your daily diet, this study—and Harvard research released last week—underscores, yet again, the importance of watching what you eat.