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Is dietary restriction beneficial for human health, such as for immune function?

Jolly, Christopher A

doi: 10.1097/MOL.0b013e3280115416
Nutrition and metabolism

Purpose of review The impact of dietary restriction on physiologic function in humans is now beginning to be examined. The clinical trials are fueled by decades of animal experiments showing that dietary restriction delays the aging process and decreases the incidence of many age-associated diseases. The critical issue addressed in this article is whether or not dietary restriction long term is feasible or beneficial in humans.

Recent findings Short-term dietary restriction in humans does appear to have beneficial effects at lowering metabolism, especially when examining carbohydrates and weight loss. Dietary restriction long term does, however, have detrimental psychological effects in humans, making its feasibility questionable. Even short-term dietary restriction can negatively impact physical activity and potentially some aspects of immunity. The best avenue for humans to benefit from dietary restriction would be for pharmacological or bioactive food ingredient mimetics to be developed which would be more applicable for long-term use.

Summary Dietary restriction per se is unlikely to emerge as a feasible long-term strategy to improve human health. Developing dietary restriction mimetics targeting energy metabolism may prove beneficial, not only in aging, but also in diabetes and obesity.

Division of Nutritional Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA

Correspondence to Christopher A. Jolly, PhD, Associate Professor of Nutritional Sciences, Gearing Rm 117/Department of Human Ecology, 1 University Station – A2700, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA Tel: +512 471 7290; e-mail:

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.