Old advert for a sweetener with no calories

Caloric restriction

Will eating less give you a longer life?

Cutting food intake to the bare minimum might be helpful for a longer life. It seems to work in flies, mice, rats and even rhesus monkeys, where a long-term trial is still in progress – but the idea that so-called caloric restriction slows ageing is hard to test in people. It would take a long time, and keeping to a diet that excludes many treats and needs medical supervision to ensure adequate nutrition is hard. Extreme caloric restriction can lead to dangerous weight loss, especially for young people.

More research is needed in this area. Some recent studies in fruit flies suggest that the balance of amino acids in the diet may be more important than the calorie count and that low-calorie diets can lead to diminished fertility. Eventually, limiting calories may not be necessary, as work in mice may lead to drugs that mimic some of the metabolic changes induced by caloric restriction.

Lead image:

Classic Film/Flickr CC BY NC


About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Food and Diet’ in June 2011 and reviewed and updated in August 2016.

Microbiology, Physiology, Biotechnology and engineering
Food and Diet
Education levels:
16–19, Continuing professional development