Reducing your calorie intake by just 14% could help lose weight and live longer

Struggle with portion control? Reducing the amount of food you eat by a small amount can help lengthen your life

Portioning salad to reduce calories
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Got a weight loss goal you're struggling with? It’s already widely known if we want to lose weight we need to be in a calorie deficit, which means you're burning more calories than you're taking in. However, you don't have to completely overhaul your diet overnight: one study says that cutting even a small amount of calories is enough to lose weight and help you live longer.

Cutting calories daily can be done by eating smaller portion sizes for every meal, keeping the same portion sizes but changing up your food choices to less calorific options, and also by increasing how much you move. Whether that's by lacing up your running shoes or using the best exercise machines to lose weight, you only have to move a little bit more and eat slightly fewer calories to begin making progress with your weight loss goals. And starting small, a little at a time, is the way to lifelong sustainable choices. 

This new study has shown that reducing our calorie intake even slightly could have a positive effect on our lifespan. The study, by Yale University (opens in new tab), also found that reducing how much you eat, on a daily basis, helps you live longer.

The research, which studied the calorie intake of 200 participants over a two-year period, also analyzed other long-term health effects from cutting down on their calorie intake. 

Group enjoying healthy dinners

(Image credit: Getty Images)

To begin the study, the researchers established how many daily calories their 200 participants were eating, and then asked a selection of them to reduce their calories by 14%. The other participants kept eating the same amount of calories they previously were.

The study's findings were measured over two years, with an MRI to detect if there were any changes in the participants' "thymus glands". The thymus gland is a gland that is an essential part of the immune system and generally ages quicker than other parts of the body. 

The researcher found that the participants who were actively cutting their calories by 14% not only had less body fat, but their thymus gland were also younger than the other group. The glands were found to have aged slower, and be performing better, in participants who had cut their calories, which is a great indicator that the body is generally aging slower. 

One author of the study, Vishwa Deep Dixit, said: "The fact that this organ can be rejuvenated is, in my view, stunning because there is very little evidence of that happening in humans. That this is even possible is very exciting."

Of course, if you want to increase the rate at which you burn calories consuming more protein, including the best protein powder for weight loss and resistance work, will help to build muscles, therefore increasing your metabolism. Other ways to lose weight include eating a well-balanced diet with fruit, vegetables and whole grains, where you avoid sugary foods and empty calories, meaning you will regulate your satiety levels, feel fuller and snack less. Our gut health guide can tell you more.

Sarah is a freelance journalist who writes about fitness and wellbeing for the BBC, Woman&Home and Tech Radar. During lockdown she found her love of running outside again and now attempts to run around 50 miles a month. When it comes to other fitness, she loves a sweaty cardio session – although since she’s been working out from home she’s sure her downstairs neighbors aren’t too happy about it. She also loves to challenge herself - and has signed up to do hiking holidays, intense bootcamps and last year she went on her dream activity holiday: paddle boarding around deserted islands in Croatia. On her rest days, she loves to recover with a simple yoga flow session – the perfect antidote to her active fitness schedule.