If you trim out only 300 calories a day – the equivalent of six Oreo cookies – that could be all it takes to cut diabetes and heart disease risk, new research suggests.
In the study, just over 200 adults younger than 50 with a healthy weight or just a few extra kilograms were told to reduce their calorie intake by 25% for two years.
Their ability to achieve that goal varied, and the average calorie reduction in the group was about 12% (300 calories a day).
Even so, they managed a 10% decline in weight, 71% of which was fat.
What did that modest weight loss bring? Significant improvements were seen in already good levels of cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and other markers of risk for metabolic disease.
The volunteers also had lower levels of a biomarker for chronic inflammation, which has been linked to heart disease, cancer and mental decline.
“There’s something about caloric restriction, some mechanism we don’t yet understand that results in these improvements,” said study author Dr William Kraus, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina.
“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,” he added in a Duke news release.
The findings show “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 this country,” Kraus said.
“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,” he suggested.
The study, published July 11 in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, is part of an ongoing project with the US National Institutes of Health.