Cutting about 300 calories a day might benefit your heart, study finds

Cutting just 300 calories from your daily diet could significantly benefit your cardiovascular health, even if you're already at a healthy weight, according...

Posted: Jul 12, 2019 9:05 PM
Updated: Jul 12, 2019 9:14 PM

Cutting just 300 calories from your daily diet could significantly benefit your cardiovascular health, even if you're already at a healthy weight, according to a new study.

Such caloric restriction can be achieved through techniques such as intermittent fasting, or by skipping that slice of cheesecake for dessert.

During the course of two years, participants in the study who were on a calorie restriction diet lowered their blood pressure and levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol, and saw a 24% drop in concentrations of triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood. The study was published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology on Thursday.

A reduction of 300 calories daily refers to the average cutback in calories obtained by the study participants, said Dr. William Kraus, distinguished professor at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina, who was senior author of the study.

"Exercise and diet are the two most profound and easily implemented interventions we have in our environment that can reduce our cardiovascular risks," he said. "There aren't five drugs on the market when combined that could approach what we saw in this study from moderate calorie restriction."

How calorie restriction might protect the heart

The study involved 218 healthy adults, ages 21 to 50, in three clinical centers across the United States. Between 2007 and 2010, 143 of those adults were randomly assigned to start a 25% calorie restriction diet -- meaning they tried to cut back 25% of what they would normally consume -- while the remaining 75 adults followed an "ad libitum" or "free-feeding" diet, meaning they ate normally.

The adults in the calorie restriction group reduced their calorie intake by 11.9%, not the intended 25%, the researchers found, going from 2,467 calories a day to 2,170 -- a reduction of 297 calories.

"This trial went on for two years, so some participants were able to maintain the restrictions and others were not as successful," Kraus said.

In each group, the researchers closely monitored each adult's cholesterol levels, blood pressure and triglycerides concentrations over a two-year period. Those factors can influence your risk of heart disease.

About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year -- or, 1 in every 4 deaths -- according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers found that, in the calorie restriction group, levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol decreased significantly after one year, and that change was maintained at two years, while changes were very small in the ad libitum group.

The researchers also found that, in the calorie restriction group, the lowering of blood pressure was evident as early as six months, reached statistical significance by one year and persisted for the duration of the study.

The study is the first of its kind to investigate the potential impact of calorie restriction on the cardiovascular health of healthy, non-obese young and middle-age adults, the researchers wrote in the study.

The 2015-2020 US Dietary Guidelines note that adult women need an estimated 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day and adult men need about 2,000 to 3,000, depending on age, height, weight and level of physical activity.

"It would be interesting to see what happens to the contestants in this study two years after the study ended, if they sustain these habits or not," said Dr. Subbarao Myla, director of Cardiac Cath Labs at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, California, who was not involved in the study.

Myla, who called the study "well designed," pointed out that during the study, the participants received behavioral counseling sessions to help them adhere to their diets.

"All diet plans emphasize portion control at two levels -- what you put on the plate and how much of that you consume," he said. "Having a life coach who can monitor, prod and nudge is very important for sustaining change."

The study had some limitations, including that more research is needed to determine whether similar results would emerge among a larger and more diverse group of people or over a longer period of time. Additionally, the study did not include clinical measurements of atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup in arteries, in the adults.

"Finally none of this works without controlling for activity," Myla said, referring to physical activity or exercise. "The study did not address measures of activity which is very hard to control for. Weight loss is best supplemented and sustained by increasing activity."

'Food choices are shaped by the food environment'

Calorie restriction could be a useful tool to help control weight and slow the aging process, but it's unlikely to curb the global obesity epidemic, Dr. Frank Hu, professor and chairman of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, wrote in an editorial that published alongside the new study on Thursday.

"Because individual food choices are shaped by the food environment, the long-term sustainability of calorie restriction and its benefits on bodyweight can be easily undermined," Hu wrote in the editorial.

"Therefore, improving the food environment by making healthy food choices more accessible, affordable, and the norm while reducing the accessibility of ultra-processed and highly palatable foods is essential to supporting healthy food choices," he wrote. "To this end, policy solutions including sugar taxes, financial incentives for producing and purchasing healthy foods, food labelling, and better regulation of food marketing are needed to improve the global food environment."

Huntsville/Redstone
Cloudy
37° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 37°
Muscle Shoals
Cloudy
40° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 37°
Huntsville/Madison
Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 36°
Decatur
Cloudy
35° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 35°
Fort Payne
Cloudy
26° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 26°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 422598

Reported Deaths: 6120
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson62039921
Mobile30225548
Madison27052186
Tuscaloosa20728267
Montgomery18978305
Shelby18504114
Baldwin16251182
Lee12465101
Morgan12233113
Etowah11735168
Calhoun11122200
Marshall10191107
Houston8598148
Cullman8023105
Limestone800274
Elmore7836101
DeKalb768397
Lauderdale754683
St. Clair7535120
Talladega6166108
Walker5897174
Jackson580341
Colbert532073
Blount530483
Autauga518455
Coffee441056
Dale396181
Franklin366248
Chilton336165
Russell330310
Covington327268
Escambia316842
Dallas303196
Chambers282769
Clarke281433
Tallapoosa2616107
Pike248729
Marion245650
Lawrence243647
Winston226635
Bibb215147
Geneva201435
Marengo199029
Pickens196531
Hale175842
Barbour172936
Butler169658
Fayette168226
Cherokee160330
Henry153621
Monroe145217
Randolph139835
Washington137626
Clay126145
Crenshaw118744
Lamar118019
Cleburne117423
Macon114735
Lowndes110335
Wilcox103121
Bullock99028
Perry97419
Conecuh94420
Sumter89026
Greene76023
Coosa60515
Choctaw51224
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 685321

Reported Deaths: 8391
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby761671128
Davidson70706661
Knox38646393
Hamilton34556326
Rutherford33114283
Unassigned22759126
Williamson21364138
Sumner18205230
Out of TN1612079
Wilson14405155
Montgomery14367149
Sullivan12577211
Washington11889191
Blount11887124
Maury10941123
Bradley1075190
Sevier10461108
Putnam9931136
Madison9099178
Robertson761885
Hamblen6954109
Anderson6759102
Greene6569108
Tipton619065
Gibson5630111
Coffee560681
Cumberland537872
Dickson534678
Bedford532086
Roane519179
Carter5091112
Lawrence507569
McMinn506673
Warren497553
Loudon493750
Jefferson474975
Dyer473682
Monroe455162
Hawkins444968
Franklin410758
Obion399478
Fayette396251
Rhea381556
Lincoln378344
Marshall343536
Cocke342856
Weakley339448
Cheatham335230
Henderson332056
Campbell323940
Giles321071
White310043
Hardeman308752
Carroll307859
Hardin297647
Lauderdale293131
Macon287350
Wayne260719
Henry260358
Overton252942
DeKalb241741
Haywood239745
McNairy238142
Smith230527
Trousdale228714
Marion227731
Scott225231
Hickman222734
Fentress212531
Claiborne210129
Grainger208135
Johnson201532
Morgan188614
Crockett180338
Bledsoe174110
Chester173237
Unicoi166843
Cannon157019
Lake155319
Decatur147226
Polk142817
Grundy139320
Union138721
Sequatchie136518
Humphreys132617
Benton131935
Lewis127220
Meigs114016
Stewart105220
Jackson103721
Perry94725
Houston93922
Clay93726
Moore7959
Pickett67619
Van Buren6587
Hancock4026

Community Events