Benefits, Drawbacks of Calorie Restriction in Postmenopausal Women

Woman slicing fruit
Woman slicing fruit
Calorie restriction has been shown to increase longevity, but it may also have adverse effects on bone health in postmenopausal women.

A recent literature review confirmed the benefits of reduced calorie consumption, such as increased longevity for older patients, but one study also suggested restricting caloric intake may have adverse effects on bone health in postmenopausal women.1

The researchers reported results from the review at the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) 2016 Annual Meeting.

Gloria A. Bachmann, MD, and Tarika K. Mahal, BA, both from Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and colleagues reviewed published studies that examined caloric restriction, the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway, and menopause.

“This article reviews the data on whether the age-old practice of caloric restriction should be introduced into the counseling of post-reproductive-aged women,” the researchers wrote in their abstract.

Results showed that a calorically restricted diet inhibits the action of the mTOR pathway, which plays a role in several illnesses associated with aging, including Alzheimer disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.2 Additionally, inhibiting the mTOR pathway through calorie restriction decreased mammary tumor growth in mice,3 while weight loss achieved through this type of diet also reduced inflammation, which is linked to a reduced rate of cancer.4 One study also demonstrated a relationship between a reduction of mTOR and decreased muscle deterioration associated with aging.5

However, not all data were positive, the researchers noted. Results from one study revealed higher rates of bone loss in young adults who followed a restricted calorie diet for 2 years.6

“Although much of the data supported caloric restriction as a means to increase longevity and decrease the incidence of illnesses associated with aging, there is now evidence indicating that such restriction could increase the chances of osteoporosis,” Dr Bachmann said in a press release.7 “What we don’t yet know is whether or not exercise could help prevent osteoporosis, thus creating the need for additional research in this area.”

Disclosures: Dr Bachmann reports relationships with Edgewell Personal Care and Vertical Pharmaceuticals, LLC.

For coverage of NAMS 2016, click here.

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  1. Mahal TK, Bachmann GA. Poster 30. Caloric restriction and longevity: Should this counseling be included in the care of postmenopausal women? Presented at: North American Menopause Society (NAMS) 2016 Annual Meeting; October 5-8, 2016; Orlando, FL.
  2. Blagosklonny MV. Aging and immortality: Quasi-programmed senescence and its pharmacologic inhibition. Cell Cycle. 2006;5(18):2087-2102. doi:10.4161/cc.5.18.3288.
  3. Nogueira LM, Lavigne JA, Chandramouli GVR, Lui H, Barrett JC, Hursting SD. Dose-dependent effects of calorie restriction on gene expression, metabolism, and tumor progression are partially mediated by insulin-like growth factor-1. Cancer Med. 2012;1(2):275-288. doi:10.1002/cam4.23.
  4. Imayama I, Ulrich CM, Alfano CM, et al. Effects of a caloric restriction weight loss diet and exercise on inflammatory biomarkers in overweight/obese postmenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial. Cancer Res. 2012;72(9):2314-2326. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-11-3092.
  5. Wu JJ, Liu J, Chen EB, et al. Increased mammalian lifespan and a segmental and tissue-specific slowing of aging after genetic reduction of mTOR expression. Cell Rep. 2012;4(5):913-920. doi:10.1016/j.celrep.2013.07.030.
  6. Villareal JT, Fontana L, Das SK, et al; CALERIE Study Group. Effect of two-year caloric restriction on bone metabolism and bone mineral density in non-obese younger adults: A randomized clinical trial. J Bone Miner Res. 2016;31(1):40-51. doi:10.1002/jbmr.2701.
  7. Can counting calories actually help women live longer and healthier? [press release]. Cleveland, OH: North American Menopause Society (NAMS) Press Room; October 4, 2016.