Medical News Today: Why even slim people may benefit from calorie restriction

Even slim people may benefit from restricting their calories; reducing daily calorie intake by around 300 per day can significantly improve markers of cardiometabolic health.
green lettuce on a plate
Restricting our calorie intake may yield signficant benefits regardless of our weight.

This is the main takeaway of a randomized controlled trial that lasted for 2 years and included 218 people, ages 21–50, without obesity.

Dr. William E. Kraus — a cardiologist and distinguished professor of medicine at Duke University in Durham, NC — is the lead author of the new study.

Dr. Kraus and colleagues explain in their paper that some cardiometabolic markers — such as cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar — can raise the risk of cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular death even when they are within ranges that healthcare professionals consider to be normal.

On the other hand, numerous studies have suggested that calorie restriction benefits both a person’s health span and life span. However, are these benefits due to weight loss?

The researchers started their new study from the hypothesis that it isn’t just losing weight, but also some other, more complex molecular mechanism that explains the benefits of calorie restriction for cardiometabolic health.

So, they set out to test their hypothesis, and they have since published their findings in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

How caloric restriction aids metabolic health

All the trial participants had an average body mass index (BMI) of between 22 and 27.9. To begin, the researchers randomly assigned them to one of two groups: one group reduced their caloric intake by 25% (the intervention group), and the other group did not change their caloric intake (the control group).

The participants in the intervention group ate three meals per day and were free to choose from six different meal plans. They also “attended group and individual counseling sessions for the first 6 months of the trial.” The study started in May 2007 and continued through to February 2010.

During this time, the remaining participants — those in the control group — continued to follow their regular diet.

Not all the participants in the intervention group managed to maintain a 25% calorie reduction throughout the study period, but they did reduce their intake by almost 12%, on average.

After the intervention, the participants in this group lost and maintained the loss of 10% of their weight — 71% of which was fat mass. The calorie restriction resulted in significant cardiometabolic benefits.

Specifically, “Calorie restriction caused a persistent and significant reduction from baseline to 2 years of all measured conventional cardiometabolic risk factors,” write the authors. This included changes in low density lipoprotein cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Also, “calorie restriction resulted in a significant improvement at 2 years in C-reactive protein.” This is a marker of inflammation that scientists have linked to heart disease, cancer, and cognitive decline. Insulin sensitivity and markers of metabolic syndrome also improved.

The benefits remained robust after Dr. Kraus and team conducted a sensitivity analysis that adjusted the results for relative weight loss.

This shows that even a modification that is not as severe as what we used in this study could reduce the burden of diabetes and cardiovascular disease that we have in [the United States].”

Dr. William E. Kraus

“People can do this fairly easily by simply watching their little indiscretions here and there, or maybe reducing the amount of them, like not snacking after dinner.”

“There’s something about caloric restriction, some mechanism we don’t yet understand that results in these improvements,” he adds. “We have collected blood, muscle, and other samples from these participants and will continue to explore what this metabolic signal or magic molecule might be.”

In an interview for The Lancet‘s podcast, Dr. Kraus said that this was the first long term study to examine the benefits of caloric restriction in humans.

Dr. Kraus also makes it clear that his study examined biomarkers for a person’s health span, and he says that he and his colleagues were “impressed” by the “dramatic” improvements and “remarkably” positive effects that caloric restriction had on waist circumference, triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, glucose control, and blood pressure.

Medical News Today: Study finds that many people diagnosed with MS do not have the condition

Researchers found that nearly 1 in 5 people who had received a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis had other unrelated conditions.
Female patient listening to Female doctor
Some conditions, such as stroke or migraine, have similar symptoms to MS.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a widespread disabling neurological condition in which the immune system attacks and destroys the fatty tissue that surrounds the nerves. This leads to nerve damage, which affects communication between the nerves and the brain.

People with MS may experience symptoms, including numbness or weakness in the limbs, tremors, and lack of coordination. However, some of the symptoms have similarities to other debilitating conditions, including stroke and migraine.

MS and stroke are very different conditions, but they both harm the brain. Some of the symptoms they share include attention issues, dizziness, numbness in the limbs, slurring, visual impairment, and difficulty in walking.

MS and migraine attacks also have some symptoms in common, including dizziness and vision impairment. A recent study pooled data on people who had received a wrong diagnosis of MS and found that 72 of the 110 patients had other conditions, including migraine.

Identifying traits in misdiagnosed people

A team of researchers from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Vermont in Burlington analyzed the cases of 241 people who had received an MS diagnosis. Other doctors had previously referred these people to two academic medical centers in Los Angeles.

Dr. Marwa Kaisey and Dr. Nancy Sicotte, both from the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA, led the new research.

The symptoms of MS are so similar to the symptoms of some other conditions that it can be difficult for doctors to make the right diagnosis. “The diagnosis of MS is tricky. Both the symptoms and MRI testing results can look like other conditions, such as stroke, migraines, and vitamin B12 deficiency,” Dr. Kaisey said.

The study aimed at determining how many people received a misdiagnosis of MS, and identifying common characteristics in misdiagnosed patients.

The researchers found that of the people misdiagnosed with MS, many received MS treatment for 4 years before receiving the right diagnosis.

The researchers identified that the condition most often correctly diagnosed was migraine, followed by radiologically isolated syndrome — a condition in which the results of MRI scans determined that the people had MS, despite them not experiencing any other symptoms linked to MS.

Risks and costs of incorrect diagnoses

Among people who received a wrong diagnosis, 72 percent had received treatment for MS, and of those, 48 percent had received treatments that can lead to progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), which is a rare viral infection that targets nerve cells and damages the white matter in the brain.

The researchers concluded that the estimated costs of unnecessary treatments that they identified in just this study reached almost $10 million.

“I’ve seen patients suffering side effects from the medication they were taking for a disease they didn’t have. Meanwhile, they weren’t getting treatment for what they did have. The cost to the patient is huge — medically, psychologically, financially,” Dr. Kaisey adds.

May’s issue of Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders will publish the study, and the investigators hope that these findings, along with recently funded research, will help to prevent MS misdiagnoses in the future and help improve diagnosis and treatments for people with the disease.

The first step, which is what we’ve done here, is to identify the problem, so now we’re working on potential solutions.”

Dr. Marwa Kaisey

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The California Wine Club

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Order: Kieu Hoang Winery 2012 People’s Wine California Red
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