Making changes to our diet to shed a few pounds at a time can help us age in good health.

Cutting calories improves health markers

Woman Scale Weight

A new study from the U.S National Institutes of Aging shows that there are many health benefits that evolve following weight loss. Making changes to our diet to shed a few pounds at a time can help us age in good health.

Probably most of us know that there are possible health risks with excess weight such as increased risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and the initiation of cancer cell development. This study of 200 healthy young and middle-aged people had some interesting results.

The study group reduced their calories by 12 percent for one year, and that resulted in a 10 percent weight loss. That means a 200 pound man lost 20 pounds, and a 150 pound woman lost 15 pounds.  These individuals maintained their weight loss throughout year two.

Now, their weight loss seems very modest, right? But there were significant health benefits. On average there was:

  • A 6 percent drop in total cholesterol, reducing heart disease risk 
  • A 4 percent drop in blood pressure, reducing heart disease risk
  • An increase in HDL cholesterol, protecting the heart
  • A 47 percent drop in C-reactive protein, reducing inflammation causing plaque build-up and cancer cell development
  • A lowering of insulin resistance, lowering risk of type 2 diabetes

This government study showed that with a modest 12 percent weight loss in one year - and maintenance of that weight loss - resulted in improved aging health markers. There may be better long-term health outcomes.

How to make this weight loss happen? Modest dietary changes will do the trick:

  • Swap out sweet beverages with water to save hundreds of calories.
  • Eat 3 meals in a timely fashion to control appetite.
  • Include fruits and vegetables for snacking, and limit the high calorie, sugary, fatty processed snack foods.
  • Plan for a few vegetarian meals that include veggie burgers, hummus or dried beans and peas for protein.

Any of these reasonable, long-term dietary changes can make a health difference.

Healthy recipes to try:


About the Author

Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.