Cutting just 250 calories a day can do wonders for obese older adults

Cutting just 250 calories a day can do wonders for obese older adults.

Combining exercise with moderate calorie reduction led to a greater weight loss and improvement in heart health in older obese adults, compared exercise plus a more restrictive diet.

Obesity can increase risk for many serious health conditions, including diabetes, sleep apnea, heart disease, and some cancers. Losing weight can improve or prevent these health problems. But exercise alone is not enough to lose weight, cut your daily calorie intake a bit. Cutting just 250 calories a day with moderate exercise can do the trick for you, according to a new research published in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation.

In fact, the study found that combining aerobic exercise with moderate calorie reduction led to a greater weight loss and improvement in heart health in older adults with obesity, compared to exercise only or to exercise plus a more restrictive diet. This combination particularly resulted in greater improvements in aortic stiffness (a measure of vascular health, which impacts cardiovascular disease), the authors said.

Tina E. Brinkley, associate professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at the Sticht Center for Healthy Aging and Alzheimer’s Prevention at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is the lead author of the study.

The results of exercise plus moderate calorie restriction

Brinkley and her team conducted this study on 160 sedentary adults, ages 65-79 years with obesity (BMI=30-45 kg/m2). The participants were randomly assigned to one of three intervention groups for 20 weeks: 1) exercise only with their regular diet; 2) exercise plus moderate calorie restriction (reduction of approximately 250 calories/day); or 3) exercise plus more intensive calorie restriction (reduction of approximately 600 calories/day). They all received supervised aerobic exercise training four days per week during this period.

The participants who were assigned to the exercise plus moderate calorie restriction group experienced weight loss of nearly 10% of total body weight or about 20 pounds over the five-month study period, which was associated with significant improvements in aortic stiffness. These positive results were not seen in other groups.

Additionally, the exercise plus moderate calorie restriction group had a 21% increase in distensibility (the ability of the aorta to expand and contract) and an 8% decrease in aortic arch pulse wave velocity (PWV) (the speed at which blood travels through the aorta). Higher PWV values and lower distensibility values indicate a stiffer aorta.

More restrictive diet doesn’t mean better results

According to the researcher, neither the exercise-only group nor the exercise plus more intensive calorie restriction group showed any significant changes in the aortic stiffness measures.

Participants in both calorie-restricted groups showed greater changes in BMI, total fat mass, percent body fat, abdominal fat and waist circumference, compared to the exercise-only group.

Surprisingly, older obese adults in both the calorie-restricted groups had similar weight loss despite nearly two times fewer calories in the intensive calorie restriction group.

The findings indicate that higher-intensity calorie restriction may not be necessary for weight loss to improve cardiovascular disease risk in older adults with obesity. Combining exercise with modest calorie restriction may help to reduce aortic stiffness and improve overall vascular health, Brinkley suggested.

This post first appeared on The Health Site

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