A calorie-restricted diet could slow aging, according to new research. Investigators at lab reports and Doppler imaging of 25 people who had been practicing calorie restriction for about six years. The people, ages 41 to 65, consumed ar.average of 1,400 to 2,000 calories a day. Their blood pressure, heart function and inflammatory blood markers, including C-reactive protein—a measure of inflammation in blood vessels and elsewhere in the body—were compared to those of 25 people of similar age and gender with an intake of 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day, the amount in a typical Western diet. Researchers found that diastolic function of the heart in the calorie-restricted group resembled diastolic function in people about 15 years younger. (Diastolic, the bottom number in a blood pressure reading, measures the pressure when the heart is at rest, in between beats.) There was little difference in systolic function (the top number in a blood pressure reading, which measures the pressure inside blood vessels when the heart beats). Blood pressure overall and inflammatory markers were significantly lower as well in the low-calorie group.

My view: This was the first human study to show a correlation between calorie restriction and an anti-aging effect on heart function. Researchers theorize that chronic inflammation from a typical calorie-loaded Westem diet, which is heavy in animal products and refined sugar but low in fruits and vegetables, causes damage to—and premature hardening of—heart muscle. More studies are needed. Keep in mind that the quality of your food choices is as important as calorie restriction. For best results, opt for fruits, vegetables, cold-water fish, lean poultry, whole grains and legumes, limited red meat—and watch your portion sizes.

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