Positive effects

In human subjects, CR has been shown to lower cholesterol, fasting glucose, and blood pressure. In CR, energy intake is minimized, but sufficient quantities of vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients must be eaten.

A small-scale study in the US at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis studied the effects following a calorie-restricted diet of 10-25% less calorie intake than the average Western diet, which is over caloric. Body mass index (BMI) was significantly lower in the calorie-restricted group when compared with the matched group; 19.6 compared with 25.9. The BMI values for the comparison group are similar to the mean BMI values for middle-aged people in the US.

All those on calorie-restricted diets experienced reductions in BMI after starting their diet. Their BMIs decreased from an average of 24 (range of 29.6 to 19.4) to an average of 19.5 (range of 22.8 to 16.5) over the course of their dieting (3–15 years). Nearly all the decrease in BMI occurred in the first year of dieting. It was found that the average total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels for calorie-restricted individuals were the equivalent of those found in the lowest 10% of normal people in their age group. It was found that the average HDL (good) cholesterol levels for calorie-restricted individuals were very high—in the 85th to 90th percentile range for normal middle-aged US men. These positive changes in calorie-restricted individuals were found to occur mainly in the first year of dieting.

"The calorie-restricted group also fared much better than the control group in terms of average blood pressure (100/60 vs. 130/80 mm Hg), fasting glucose, fasting insulin (65% reduction), body mass index (19.6 ± 1.9 vs. 25.9 ± 3.2 kg/m2), body fat percentage (8.7% ± 7% vs. 24% ± 8%), C-reactive protein, carotid IMT (40% reduction), and platelet-derived growth factor AB."

It was found that the calorie-restricted group had remarkably low triglyceride levels. In fact, they were as low as the lowest 5% of Americans in their 20s. This is more remarkable when it is noted that the calorie-restricted individuals were actually aged between 35 and 82 years. Both systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels in calorie-restricted group were remarkably low, about 100/60, values normally found in 10-year-old children. Fasting plasma insulin concentration was 65% lower and fasting plasma glucose concentration was also significantly lower in the calorie-restricted group when compared with the comparison group." The comparison group's statistics aligned approximately with the US national average on the dimensions considered. Fasting plasma insulin levels and fasting plasma glucose levels[14] are used as tests to predict diabetes. The researchers also found that "excessive calorie restriction causes malnutrition and can lead to anemia, muscle wasting, weakness, dizziness, lethargy, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, gallstones, irritability and depression". The study was published in the March 2007 issue of the Journal of American Medical Association.

While compelling, these studies used borderline overweight (BMI>25) subjects as controls, which is the average in some countries but not in others. It remains unclear whether the same effects would also be observed if non-overweight subjects were used as controls.

Improved memory
A 2009 research paper showed that a calorie restricted diet can improve memory in normal to overweight elderly. The diet also resulted in decreased insulin levels and reduced signs of inflammation. Scientists believe that memory improvement in this experiment was caused by the lower insulin levels, because high insulin levels are usually associated with lower memory and cognitive function. However, that relation seems to be age-specific since another study, when analyzing people older than 65, those who were underweight had a higher dementia risk than normal or overweight people.