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Calorie restriction drastically reduces risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes

St. Louis, April 19, 2004 -- People who severely restrict their caloric intake drastically reduce their risk of developing diabetes or clogged arteries, the precursor to a heart attack or stroke. In fact, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, some risk factors were so low they were comparable to those of people decades younger.

The study, led by John O. Holloszy, M.D., professor of medicine, will appear in the April 27 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It will appear in the online edition of the journal the week of April 19. The first author is Luigi Fontana, M.D., Ph.D., research instructor in medicine.

"It's very clear from these findings that calorie restriction has a powerful, protective effect against diseases associated with aging," Holloszy says. "We don't know how long each individual actually will end up living, but they certainly have a much longer life expectancy than average because they're most likely not going to die from a heart attack, stroke or diabetes."

Research on mice and rats has shown that stringent and consistent calorie restriction increases the animals' maximum lifespan by about 30 percent and protects them against cancer. This study is the first to examine individuals who have been on calorie restriction diets for a long period of time.

The researchers recruited participants through a national organization called the Caloric Restriction Optimal Nutrition Society. By eating small amounts of nutrient-dense foods, members of this group try to consume between 10 and 25 percent fewer calories than the average American while still attempting to maintain proper nutrition. The 18 individuals who participated in the study had voluntarily been following this very low-calorie diet for three to 15 years. This group was compared with 18 age- and gender-matched individuals who ate a typical Western diet.

Holloszy's team found th
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Contact: Gila Z. Reckess
reckessg@wustl.edu
314-286-0109
Washington University School of Medicine
19-Apr-2004


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