Cutting Just 300 Calories Per Day Has Many Health Benefits, Study Shows
Losing weight, improving heart health and decreasing your chances for metabolic diseases like diabetes may be as simple as cutting back on a handful of Oreos or saying no to a side of fries, according to a new study published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.
The researchers behind the study found that just a moderate reduction in calories, just 300, led to a host of health benefits.
During the course of two years, study participants who restricted their calories lowered their blood pressure and their LDL cholesterol. They also had a 24 percent drop in their triglycerides, as CNN reported, and less inflammation. In fact, they saw improvements on all six primary factors associated with heart health, along with improved insulin resistance and metabolic rates.
The study participants who consumed 300 fewer calories per day also lost 16.5 pounds on average.
"We expected there to be [some] improvement on cardiometabolic factors because of weight loss," said William Kraus, the study's lead author and a distinguished professor of cardiovascular genomics at Duke University, as NPR reported. "But ... we didn't expect the degree of improvement we saw."
While the weight loss was desirable, it was not the cause of the hear benefits. Further analysis showed that the weight loss was responsible for only one quarter of the improved measurement in heart health, which suggests that dropping a few calories from your diet has benefits beyond those normally associated with weight loss, according to NPR.
"Exercise and diet are the two most profound and easily implemented interventions we have in our environment that can reduce our cardiovascular risks," said Dr. Kraus, as CNN reported. "There aren't five drugs on the market when combined that could approach what we saw in this study from moderate calorie restriction."
The study participants, aged 21-50, were either assigned to cut 25 percent of their calories from their regular diet for two years, or they were told to not to change anything at all for the same timeframe.
The half on the restrictive diet received training on how to portion control, like eating a smaller cut of meat. Both groups then met with researchers once every six months to track their blood pressure, cholesterol, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome risk, as MarketWatch reported.
Cutting calories for the duration of the study proved to be a challenge for the study participants. Few were able to maintain the 25 percent reduction. Over the course of two years, the calorie restricted group averaged a 12 percent fewer calories, or 300 calories.
Hitting 300 calories is doable by simply subbing out soda and replacing it with seltzer water, using olive on your salad instead of creamy dressing, and having a slice of toast instead of a muffin, according to MarketWatch.
Yet, as any dieter knows, keeping up a deprivation habit is a challenge. The long-term effects on longevity and chronic diseases remain unknown since the participants would have to keep up the habit for a long time, which can be an enormous challenge.
"We are living in an obesogenic environment with an abundance of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods that are cheap, accessible and heavily marketed," said Frank Hu, the chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who was not involved in the research, as the New York Times reported.
However, he did say that calorie restriction might be doable if it is combined with other popular dietary strategies like the Mediterranean diet, intermittent fasting or reduced carbohydrate intake.
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With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.
They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.
When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
Where to Find the Best Information<p>Stukus says to start with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a> and <a href="https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus" target="_blank">NIH</a>. Then check with your local health officials, because COVID-19 guidelines may vary depending on where you live.</p><p>If you can't find information you need or have questions specifically related to you, call your primary care doctor.</p><p>"Your personal doctor should always be a resource for individual specific questions because they know best how to apply all the nuances retaining to your health, and how to incorporate all the other general [COVID-19] recommendations," Stukus said.</p><p><a href="https://www.eehealth.org/find-a-doctor/b/boyd-laura-b/" target="_blank">Dr. Laura Boyd</a>, primary care physician at Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Elmhurst, Illinois, says her clinic receives a lot of calls about COVID-19.</p><p>"Most doctors' offices are receiving calls and answering questions, and doing phone or video visits to help clarify and/or order testing over the phone based on patients' symptoms. It is always best to call your doctor's office first instead of worrying about symptoms and waiting too long to seek treatment," she told Healthline.</p><p>If your primary care doctor has limited testing, she suggests looking on your state's public health website for available testing sites.</p><p>With a lot of unknowns related to this virus and disease, Boyd says many patients are feeling overwhelmed and anxious for a treatment.</p><p>"Unfortunately, there is no specific medication recommended for COVID for outpatient. There are a lot of ongoing studies with various drugs going on within the hospital setting. Patients should always contact their doctors about their specific symptoms as they can treat the symptoms that go along with COVID, but there is no cure," Boyd said.</p><p>While we wait for treatment and a vaccine, Hirsch, who treats patients hospitalized for COVID-19 complications on a daily basis, says everyone can do their part by washing hands, wearing a mask, and staying 6 feet apart.</p><p>"As an infectious disease doctor working in the hospital, I see the damage of the pandemic and the worst cases of what's happening. We are trying to get the best possible outcome and confronting this overwhelming biologic reality of this terrible epidemic the best we can," Hirsch said.</p><p>Everyone at home can help in the fight too, he adds.</p><p>"Follow information that is science- and evidence-based, and avoid that which is not," he said.</p>
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