Intermittent Fasting and Calorie Restriction Diets

It can be a never-ending quest to find a diet program to help lose weight. For older adults it can be especially difficult to combat weight gain as the body’s metabolism naturally slows down with the aging process. In addition, as people grow older they become less active and naturally lose muscle mass–which increases metabolism and helps keep weight down.

Two current hot topics for weight loss are intermittent fasting and calorie restriction diets. Before starting any new diet plan, older adults should first consult a doctor. Seniors often have medical conditions and take different medications which may make following these plans unwise.

Intermittent Fasting Diet

Intermittent Fasting (IF) is an umbrella term for a patterned way of eating. For example, a common form of IF is time-restricted eating within a 24-hour time period. For instance, you eat all food between noon and 8 p.m., and fast (no eating, except water, coffee/tea) from 8 p.m. until noon the following day (also called the 16:8 diet). The window in which you eat can be different depending on your lifestyle. If you go to bed early, it may be easier to have meals from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. everyday. During the hours you consume food you do not need to count calories or avoid certain foods.

Other forms of IF include:

  • Alternate-day fasting—Eating is unrestricted every other day, with no or minimal calories eaten on the days in between.
  • 5:2 eating pattern—Eating is unrestricted for 5 straight days each week, followed by 2 days of restricted caloric intake.
  • Periodic fasting—Caloric intake is restricted for multiple consecutive days, such as 5 days in a row once a month, and unrestricted on all other days.


According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), most research on IF has focused on the weight-loss aspect of fasting, primarily in obese people, and only a few small clinical trials have been conducted. An observational study compared people who routinely fasted (as part of a religious practice or for another reason) to those who did not fast. It found that those who routinely fasted were less likely to have clogged arteries or coronary artery disease. However, the study did not control for other factors that could have affected the results, such as the kind of diet, quality of food consumed, or use of nutritional supplements.

Calorie Restriction Diet

Calorie Restriction (CR) diets are more than just cutting back on a few calories every day until you reach a goal weight. Instead, CR is a way of life in which you reduce calories by 20 to 50 percent permanently. People believe CR will increase longevity, reduce inflammation, and ward off common diseases of old age, including cardiovascular issues, diabetes, and cancer.

According to the NIA some study results suggest that calorie restriction may have health benefits for humans. In animal studies, calorie restriction extends lifespans and delays the onset of age-related diseases. However, there are no data in humans on the relationship between calorie restriction and longevity. The NIA notes some people practice extreme degrees of calorie restriction (consuming 800 – 1000 calories per day) over many years hoping to extend lifespan or preserve health. Studies on these individuals have found markedly low levels of risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The studies have also found many other physiologic effects whose long-term benefits and risks are uncertain, as well as reductions in sexual interest and the ability to maintain body temperature in cold environments. These people generally consume a variety of nutritional supplements, which limits knowing which effects are due to calorie restriction versus other factors.



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