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What is a Calorie Restriction Diet?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 17, 2024
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Although most weight-loss diet plans advocate a reduction in calorie intake, a calorie restriction diet takes that advice one step further. A true calorie restriction diet actually emphasizes a longer and healthier lifespan, with weight loss as more of a side effect. The calorie restriction diet calls for a 30 to 40% reduction in total calorie intake, but quite often nutritional supplements are used to maintain overall health. This is why some proponents refer to the plan as CRON, short for Calorie Restriction, Optimal Nutrients.

Research on the calorie restriction diet and its alleged benefits can be traced back to the 1930s. Modern research on test animals showed that a diet just above the starvation level allowed the subjects to live an average of 30 to 40% longer than control groups with normal diets. Proponents of the calorie restriction diet believe that the test subjects eventually improved their food processing efficiency. Having an excess amount of calories in the body causes too many systems to burn out early from overwork and inefficiency.

The calorie restriction diet regimen emphasizes nutrient-rich natural foods over the highly-processed or sugar-laden snack foods most of us eat. By forcing the body into a state of near-starvation, but preventing the loss of vital nutrients, dieters attempt to change their digestive chemistry back to that of our caveman ancestors. Muscle tone is said to improve dramatically on a calorie restriction diet, and far less fat is stored in the body.

Claims of significant lifespan extension are still being investigated, but proponents of the calorie restriction diet often report fewer age-related problems compared to their peers on normal or excessively caloric diets. Arteries and veins appear to harden at a much slower rate, and dieters in their 50s often appear to be at least a decade younger.

As with any diet plan, one should always consult a physician before starting. The calorie restriction diet is a carefully controlled lifestyle and diet plan, not simply a low calorie diet. Literature on the proper way to begin and maintain a calorie restriction diet is available in many bookstores and health food centers.

Practitioners advise beginners to drink plenty of water to counteract the effects of hunger pains, which may actually be signs of dehydration and not a signal to eat. Be sure to include beneficial vitamin supplements when reducing caloric intake. Visit a doctor if you have any concerns about your body's adaptation to the diet and lifestyle changes.

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Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By NathanG — On May 17, 2011

@Mammmood - I myself wonder about claims of the calorie restricted diet for longevity. I know they've conducted experiments on animals, but humans in general have been living longer because of better medical advances such as drugs, vaccines and improvements in hygiene.

Other diets make similar claims. Proponents of the high protein diet, for example, also claim that dieters experience longer life, so I'll take these claims with a grain of salt for the time being.

There's no doubt, however, that you won't up being overweight on the calorie restricted diet, and that alone must have some health benefits.

By Mammmood — On May 15, 2011

@bestcity - I can’t imagine myself running around with a calorie counter all day to determine how many calories are found in each morsel of food that I eat. I think I might be able to tough it out for a few weeks but eventually I’d give in to my old habits.

To me, in order for a diet to be successful, you shouldn’t have to realize you’re dieting all the time. With this kind of regimen, you’re constantly reminded that you’re dieting by your growling stomach.

I also take issue with the claims of improved muscle tone. I saw a program on television about people who lived on this kind of diet and they looked pale and sickly. Muscle needs protein, and I don’t think you can get enough protein on just vegetables alone.

Anyway, that’s my two cents’ worth. I think the best diet combines whole foods, protein and a drastic reduction in processed foods. Just cut out the soda, fast food and sweets and you’ll experience significant fat reduction.

By bestcity — On Aug 27, 2008

Probably CR diet is too restrictive and time consuming for most people, not to mention difficult. I imagine one would be consumed by thoughts of food most of the time.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range...
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