It sounds simple: Cut back on your calorie intake by 25 percent— and voilà, you’re having more sex. That idea was just one of the takeaways from a study published May 2 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, in which researchers looked at how calorie restriction can impact humans’ quality of life, sleep, and sexual function.
New study looks at cutting calories
This study involved 218 participants: men and women between the ages of 20 and 50, all of who had a body mass index (BMI) of 22 to 28, a range that is considered a normal to overweight. Over two years, one group was randomly assigned to reduce the amount of calories they consumed by 25 percent, while the other group could eat whatever they wanted without restricting their caloric intake.
One year into the study, the group that had to cut back their calories by 25 percent reported they had already lost about 12 percent of their body weight, and had better sleep, improved quality of life, and, what some people may consider the best news of all, enhanced sexual function.
The group that could eat whatever they wished reported little to no changes in body weight or other improvements.
Previous studies have suggested calorie restriction may increase longevity in many species and reduce risk factors for chronic diseases. The current study analyzed whether calorie restriction in humans also improved life span and if the reduction may pose any negative effects. It’s thought to be the first research to examine how long-term calorie restriction affects disease risk and longevity in people who are not obese.
It’s all about the calories
Now back to cutting calories by 25 percent to see life improvements. Slashing calories by that amount is pretty significant. If you currently consume, say, around 1,800 calories on average a day, a 25 percent calorie reduction means reducing your daily caloric intake by about 450, or dropping down to 1,350 calories a day. The reality of how many people can stick with that type of caloric reduction in the long term is hard to say. We live in an environment that tends to promote unhealthy-eating habits— which in turn increases the risk of obesity— making it difficult to follow this way of eating in the long run, to say the least.
But study participants who were in the calorie-restricted group give us hope. They reported that once they got over the hump of cutting calories and started losing weight, their hunger decreased, they felt better, they looked better, and their joints didn’t hurt as much. All of these improvements can lead to better and more frequent sex.
Basically, quality of life improved for them, and it can for the rest of us too. Maybe we don’t have to reduce our daily caloric intake by 25 percent— perhaps, instead, reducing that intake by just 10 to 15 percent can result in positive changes.
Another thought is maybe the study participants quit eating as much “junk”— foods high in fat, calories and sugar— and started including healthier foods with more nutrients and less calories, thus leading to weight loss and eventually a better quality of life.
The best advice is to always follow a nutrient-dense diet that also aligns with an appropriate caloric intake. Men should not consume less than 1,500 calories a day, while women should not consume less than 1,200 calories a day to receive the daily nutrients necessary for good health and avoid harming bone health, fertility, nutritional status or libido.
Here’s how to ensure you’re consuming a nutritious, calorically appropriate diet:
- Eat three meals a day
- Include between five and nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily
- Prioritize eating beans, lentils and whole grains on a regular basis
- Opt for nuts and seeds whenever possible
- Consume lean sources of animal protein such as lean beef, poultry, pork, seafood, eggs and dairy
- Reduce consumption of junk food, including: chips, cookies, cake, pie, pastries, donuts, sugary beverages, and any highly processed or packaged food
- Make water your main beverage of choice
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at St. Francis Hospital. Learn more at roboticoncology.com. Visit Dr. Samadi’s blog at SamadiMD.com. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter and Facebook.