Context: Excessive calorie intake and subsequent obesity increases the risk of developing chronic disease and decreases life expectancy. In rodent models, calorie restriction with adequate nutrient intake decreases the risk of developing chronic disease and extends maximum life span.
Objective: To evaluate the physiological and clinical implications of calorie restriction with adequate nutrient intake.
Evidence acquisition: Search of PubMed (1966-December 2006) using terms encompassing various aspects of calorie restriction, dietary restriction, aging, longevity, life span, adiposity, and obesity; hand search of journals that focus on obesity, geriatrics, or aging; and search of reference lists of pertinent research and review articles and books. Reviewed reports (both basic science and clinical) included epidemiologic studies, case-control studies, and randomized controlled trials, with quality of data assessed by taking into account publication in a peer-reviewed journal, number of animals or individuals studied, objectivity of measurements, and techniques used to minimize bias.
Evidence synthesis: It is not known whether calorie restriction extends maximum life span or life expectancy in lean humans. However, calorie restriction in adult men and women causes many of the same metabolic adaptations that occur in calorie-restricted rodents and monkeys, including decreased metabolic, hormonal, and inflammatory risk factors for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and possibly cancer. Excessive calorie restriction causes malnutrition and has adverse clinical effects.
Conclusions: Calorie restriction in adult men and women causes beneficial metabolic, hormonal, and functional changes, but the precise amount of calorie intake or body fat mass associated with optimal health and maximum longevity in humans is not known. In addition, it is possible that even moderate calorie restriction may be harmful in specific patient populations, such as lean persons who have minimal amounts of body fat.