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Calorie restriction boosts immunity in human study

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Findings from researchers reveal that calorie restriction, in addition to leading to weight loss, also boosts immunity. The "Comprehensive Assessment of Long-Term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy" trial conducted at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) found that individuals who restricted calories for six months had improved immune function, measured by increased T-cell proliferation.

The study is the first to find that limiting calories short term also enhances immunity. Researchers studied 46 men and women aged 20 to 40 years to find that limiting calories for six months boosted immune function by using a skin test called DTH (delayed-type hypersensitivity).

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One group of volunteers was given a 30 percent restricted calorie diet and the other was provided a 1i0 percent reduced calorie diet for comparison. Baseline markers for immunity were obtained during the first six weeks of the calorie restriction study.

T-cells that help fight infection were also measured among the study participants. Researchers found that both groups produced higher levels of immune fighting cells in response to restricting calories in the diet,

The findings show that calorie restriction helps weight loss, and it also boosts immunity, shown for the first time. Calorie restriction is believed to extend lifespan and is practice by individuals as a means to longevity and fighting diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. The new study, performed on humans, shows increased immunity from calorie restriction.

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci (2009) 64A (11): 1107-1113. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glp101