Cutting down on calorie intake could be the secret to enhancing health and living longer. New findings by Yale University researchers have confirmed the health gains of moderate calorie restriction in humans. Adults in the study who reduced their daily intake by 14 per cent showed better functioning of the thymus gland. Moreover, restricting calories has been found to inhibit the production of PLA2G7, a protein associated with ageing.
Yale’s findings are based on the very first controlled study of calorie restriction in healthy humans (CALERIE).
The trial asked more than 200 participants to reduce their daily calorie intake by 14 per cent.
Meanwhile, the rest of the study participants were asked to keep eating as usual.
Researchers went on to analyse the long-term effects on participants’ health over the next two years.
Decades of laboratory research have shown calorie restriction to be beneficial in increasing the life span of certain animals.
Vishwa Deep Dixit, Professor of Pathology, Immunobiology, and Comparative Medicine, and senior author of the study wanted to see whether the same applied to humans.
With his team, he started by analysing how the thymus would be affected by calorie restriction.
The thymus is a gland located just above the heart that produces T cells, which are essential for the immune system.
PLA2G7 is a protein produced by immune cells known as macrophages. If harnessed, this protein could extend health in humans.
“We found that reducing PLA2G7 in mice yielded benefits that were similar to what we saw with calorie restriction in humans,” said Olga Spadaro, co-author of the study and former research scientist at the Yale School of Medicine.
In mice, for instance, following calorie restriction, the thymus glands became functional for a longer time, the mice were protected from diet-induced weight gain, as well as age-related inflammation.
Study authors added that this was a ‘well-controlled study’ that showed how a simple reduction in calories, instead of a specific diet, could have a remarkable effect on human health.