Can A Low-Calorie Diet Delay The Aging Process?

Cutting calories in your diet is typically one of the first paths to losing weight. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, losing just 5% or 10% of your current weight can benefit your health by managing your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. Reducing your daily calories might also benefit you in a different way by altering how quickly you age.

A 2023 study published in Nature Aging looked at how long-term calorie reduction might change the biomarkers in your DNA that respond to the aging process. Researchers recruited 220 people aged 21 to 50 to either reduce their calorie intake by 25% or maintain their usual diet. The people were either normal weight or slightly overweight before the start of the two-year study, and researchers measured their biological age and pace of aging using DNA algorithms.

The researchers followed up with the participants after the first year and at the end of the second year. They wanted to see if a low-calorie diet could slow the aging process.

Reducing daily calories may slow the pace of aging

The study found that the group that reduced its daily calorie intake had slowed its aging pace by an average of 2% to 3% compared to the control group. The group also lost weight and had changes in their body composition. Although this difference in aging pace might seem small, the researchers told NBC News that it could mean up to a 15% reduction in early death.

Because the researchers didn't give the calorie-reduction group a set diet, some people in the group didn't quite follow the 25% rule. On average, the group reduced their calories by about 12%. However, the greater the daily calorie reduction, the more the participants slowed their aging pace. The researchers didn't find any decline in biological age in the calorie-reduction group compared to the control group. The biological age measurements assessed any molecular declines.

The researchers behind the study told NBC News that they don't understand why reducing the number of calories you eat each day can affect your aging pace. They believe calorie restriction might provoke the body to respond to the stressors in the environment more efficiently.