An epidemic of overweight/obesity and type 2 diabetes, caused by overeating nutrient-poor energy-dense foods and a sedentary lifestyle, is spreading rapidly throughout the world. Abdominal obesity represents a serious threat to health because it increases the risk of developing many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. Calorie restriction (CR) with adequate nutrition improves cardiometabolic health, prevents tumorigenesis and increases life span in experimental animals. The purpose of this review is to evaluate the metabolic and clinical implications of CR with adequate nutrition in humans, within the context of data obtained in animal models. It is unlikely that information regarding the effect of CR on maximal life span in humans will become available in the foreseeable future. In young and middle-aged healthy individuals, however, CR causes many of the same cardiometabolic adaptations that occur in long-lived CR rodents, including decreased metabolic, hormonal and inflammatory risk factors for diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Unraveling the mechanisms that link calorie intake and body composition with metabolism and aging will be a major step in understanding the age-dependency of a wide range of human diseases and will also contribute to improve the general quality of life at old ages.