Calorie restricted diets are getting a considerable amount of attention. Probably due to article titles in such scientific publications as:
Despite its seemingly newfound fad status, the idea of caloric restriction isn’t all that new.
Famous historical figures like Hippocrates (a physician and considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine), Plato, and Aristotle (both instrumental thinkers in the development of philosophy) all spoke of the benefits of fasting.
“I fast for greater physical and mental efficiency.” – Plato
And religions that have existed for hundreds of years – Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism – all incorporate periods of fasting in their rituals.
During the month of Ramadan, Islamics abstain from eating and drinking during the daylight hours; Buddhists fast during times of intensive meditation; some Christians fast as much as one or two days a week to seek a closer intimacy with God; and Hindus fast on certain days of the month, or as often as weekly – depending on their personal beliefs.
Considering humans have spent the majority of our existence committed to some sort of religious faith, you could say our modern fastless diet is the abnormal blip in our history.
Now that the attention of science has been directed to caloric restriction, we’re learning (or perhaps relearning) how beneficial it can be.
Many studies suggest it has a beneficial effect on longevity – caloric restriction may allow you to live longer. But, I want to focus on the effects caloric restriction is going to have on your day-to-day life.
There’s no point living longer if you’re going to be miserable and hungry the whole time is there?
Here are 8 ways caloric restriction will improve your life in the here and now.
These results are observed in a study titled: “Effect of calorie restriction on mood, quality of life, sleep, and sexual function in healthy nonobese adults: the CALERIE 2 randomized clinical trial” published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
In the study, researchers followed 220 men and women. Two-thirds followed a calorie restricted diet and the remaining third followed their normal diet. The participants came in for a battery of tests at the beginning of the study and 12 and 24 months after it began.
Here’s what they found.
Caloric restriction improves mood
In contrast to the normal-diet group, the calorie restricted participants experienced a significant improvement in their mood between the beginning of the study and the 24-month mark.
Mood was assessed with the Beck Depression Inventory II and the Profile of Mood States tests.
Caloric restriction reduces tension
The participants in the calorie restricted group also experienced a decrease in tension (defined as feelings of tightness, overwhelming anxiety, and uncertainty) over the 24-month period of the study. Tension is one of the subscales assessed in the Profile of Mood States test.
Caloric restriction improves general health
The caloric restriction group displayed significant improvement in their general health at both measurement time points, 12 and 24 months.
In this study, general health was measured using the Rand 36-Item Short Form and the Perceived Stress Scale which measure mental aspects of quality of life (emotional problems, vitality, social functioning, and mental health) and physical aspects of quality of life (physical functioning, role limitations due to physical problems, bodily pain, and general health).
Overall, the test takes an expansive, wholistic view of the factors that contribute to a person’s well-being.
Caloric restriction improves sexual drive and relationships
The caloric restriction group noticed improvements in their sexual drive and relationships relative to the normal-diet group.
This aspect of the study was assessed using the Derogatis Interview for Sexual Function-Self-report – a reliable and valid measure of sexual function.
Caloric restriction maintains good sleep and improves good sleep perception
Sleep duration worsened in the normal-diet group compared to the calorie-restriction group at the 12-month mark of the study.
In addition to the better maintenance of sleep duration, the calorie-restricted group also had an improved perception of their quality of sleep, which was statistically associated with their weight loss.
The perceived sleep quality was measured with the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. It takes into account subjective sleep quality, sleep latency, sleep duration, habitual sleep efficiency, sleep disturbances, use of sleep medications, and daytime dysfunction.
Caloric restriction leads to more weight loss
The participants that stuck to their normal diet did not lose any weight over the course of the study. The calorie restriction group on the other hand, had an average weight loss of 15.2% at the 12-month mark and 11.9% at the 24-month mark.
Caloric restriction increases vigor
The increased weight loss experienced by the calorie-restriction group was associated with increased vigor (another subscale of the Profile of Moods State test).
Vigor refers to a person’s physical and cognitive energy and spunk.
Caloric restriction decreases mood disturbances
The increased weight loss in the calorie-restriction group was also associated with less mood disturbances.
Mood disturbances are defined as bouts of depression or anxiety in psychological terms.
The thought of calorie restriction may seem daunting. When most people think of cutting back all they can think of is being hungry and hangry – quite the price to pay for a few extra years at the end of your life.
And this is a legitimate concern. Scientists studying calorie restriction have worried about the possible long-term drawbacks of eating fewer calories on the very things that were assessed in the study presented in this article: things like mood and sleep quality.
Dr. Corby K. Marting from Pennington Biomedical Research Center and the other authors of this study have put some of those concerns to rest.
These authors have been able to show that calorie restriction will not negatively impact your day-to-day life, it will actually improve it! It will leave you feeling happier and healthier overall.
What do you think about caloric restriction? Have you tried it? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments.
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