Ageing experts say a ‘slight’ calorie reduction could help you live longer

Woman revealing a bowl of food, with reduced calories. (Getty Images)
New research has suggested a slight reduction in calories could help you live longer. (Getty Images)

One simple switch to your diet could help you live longer, new research has suggested.

Cutting your calorie intake by just 12% could be enough to boost your energy and rejuvenate muscles leading to a longer life.

Reducing calories whilst also maintaining vitamin and mineral levels, known as a calorie restriction diet, could also help lower inflammation and increase metabolism.

The study, from the National Institute on Aging (NIH), says the diet stimulates healthy ageing genes which could allow us to live longer, healthier lives.

Calorie reduction has long been linked to delaying the progression of age-related illness in animals but the study, published in the journal Aging Cell, suggests this may also apply to humans.

For the research, scientists used thigh muscle biopsies from participants that were collected when individuals joined the study and at one-year and two-year follow ups.

The group of volunteers studied by the NIH managed set out to cut their calorie intake by 25% across two years but only managed 12%.

But, the researchers found even this slight reduction in calories was enough to activate most of the biological pathways that are important in healthy ageing.

Commenting on the findings corresponding author and Scientific Director at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) Dr Luigi Ferrucci says: "A 12% reduction in calorie intake is very modest.

"This kind of small reduction in calorie intake is doable and may make a big difference in your health."

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Reducing calories could also help lower inflammation and increase metabolism.(Getty Images)
Reducing calories could also help lower inflammation and increase metabolism.(Getty Images)

There are other potential benefits of a slight reduction of calorie intake with previous studies showing that when on a calories restriction diet people lose an average of 20lbs of weight in the first year, managing to maintain that weight for the second year.

Also, despite losing significant muscle mass participants maintained all their muscle strength.

The research discovered that when consuming less calories participants experienced lower inflammation, boosted energy, muscle rejuvenation and faster metabolism.

Dr Ferrucci adds: "Since inflammation and ageing are strongly coupled, calorie restriction represents a powerful approach to preventing the pro-inflammatory state that is developed by many older people."

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The results follow a similar study also suggesting that restricting the amount of calories consumed could slow down ageing in humans.

According to the research, led by the Butler Columbia Ageing Centre at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and published in the Nature Ageing journal, cutting calories by a quarter resulted in the pace of ageing slowing by around 2% to 3%, which represents a 10% to 15% reduction in the risk of death.

This effect is similar to that of giving up smoking, the researchers say.

But experts warn that it is important to be cautious and not encourage people, particularly older people, not to eat less in order to slow down the ageing process.

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The most recent research joins previous studies also highlighting some health benefits of slightly reducing calorie intake. (Getty Images)
The most recent research joins previous studies also highlighting some health benefits of slightly reducing calorie intake. (Getty Images)

Cutting calories safely

Calories are a measure of the amount of energy in an item of food or drink. You will see the number of calories in an item listed on the packaging as kcal.

Should we be keeping track of calories?

When we eat and drink more calories than we use, our bodies store the excess as body fat. If this continues over time, we may put on weight.

The NHS says knowing the calorie content of food and drink can make it easier to keep track of our daily intake.

However, counting calories is not the only way to change how you eat. Simple things like adjusting portion sizes and making sure your meals are made up of the right types of food can also make a big difference and help with weight loss.

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How many calories should we eat in a day

The recommended daily calorie intake for the average person is:

  • 2,500kcal for men

  • 2,000kcal for women

How many calories to eat to lose weight

When trying to lose weight, the NHS says the average person should aim to reduce their daily calorie intake by about 600kcal.

That means reducing calories from the recommended daily allowance to:

  • 1,900kcal for men

  • 1,400kcal for women

This works out as a reduction of around a quarter (24%) for men and around a third (30%) for women.

Additional reporting SWNS.