The thought of forgoing food might be enough to make one feel “hangry.” But we have some tips for dealing with that. Yet new research suggests that cutting calories from your diet may not only help you feel a little lighter but also feel better overall (1).

Academic and governmental scientists have been studying calorie restriction for years, as well as other related interventions including intermittent fasting. Their substantial work has shined a clear light on the effects of biomarkers of aging and health.

However, some of these scientists worried about possible long-term drawbacks of eating fewer calories (25 percent fewer than normal), citing potential effects on quality-of-life indicators (e.g., mood and sleep quality) (2).

Now scientists from Pennington Biomedical Research Center have put those concerns to rest in a first-ever study of its kind that evaluated how calorie restriction affected quality-of-life indicators in comparison to a control group. They concluded that the subjects who ate a quarter fewer calories for two years not only lost significantly more weight than control subjects, but they also had experienced a general improvement in mood, sleep quality, and general health.

In the clinical trial, the scientists assigned 220 men and women with an average age of 38 to either two years of 25 percent calorie restriction or the control group consuming a normal diet. The study used comprehensive self-report questionnaires to measure each of the quality-of-life indicators.

Not surprisingly, the calorie-restricted group lost 10.4 percent (an average of 16.7 pounds) of initial body weight over the two years while the control group lost approximately 1 pound. But much more intriguing than the differences in weight loss was the effect of calorie restriction on quality of life and mood.

According to the authors, the calorie-restricted group reported that they had improved their mood and sleep, reduced tension, and experienced better general health during the two-year study as compared to the control group. Moreover, those with the greater weight loss in the calorie-restricted group had increased vigor, less mood disturbance, improved general health, and better sleep quality.

While the recent study targeted healthy, normal-weight individuals, previous studies in overweight and obese individuals have similarly reported that calorie restriction improves quality-of-life indicators (3-5). Several of the recently reported effects may have been the result of those individuals being slimmer and healthier.

Conclusively, this new study provides additional evidence that a long-term, lower-calorie diet doesn’t lead to any negative effects but can lead you to feeling healthier and happier overall.


  1. Martin CK, Bhapkar M, Pittas AG, Pieper CF, Das SK, Williamson DA, Scott T, Redman LM, Stein R, Gilhooly CH, Stewart T, Robinson L, Roberts SB et al. Effect of Calorie Restriction on Mood, Quality of Life, Sleep, and Sexual Function in Healthy Nonobese Adults: The CALERIE 2 Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2016 May 2. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Dirks AJ & Leeuwenburgh C. Caloric restriction in humans: potential pitfalls and health concerns. Mech Ageing Dev. 2006 Jan; 127(1):1-7. Epub 2005 Oct 13.
  3. Warkentin LM, Das D, Majumdar SR, Johnson JA & Padwal RS. The effect of weight loss on health-related quality of life: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials. Obes Rev. 2014 Mar; 15(3):169-82.
  4. Teng NI, Shahar S, Manaf ZA, Das SK, Taha CS & Ngah WZ. Efficacy of fasting calorie restriction on quality of life among aging men. Physiol Behav. 2011 Oct 24; 104(5):1059-64.
  5. Kolotkin RL, Zunker C & Østbye T. Sexual functioning and obesity: a review. Obesity. 2012 Dec; 20(12):2325-33.

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