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We aim to evaluate the effect of caloric restriction (CR) in cognition by comparing performance in neuropsychological tests for working memory between a group of non-obese healthy subjects doing CR for 2 years with another consuming ad libitum diet (AL).
This study was part of a larger multicenter trial called CALERIE that consisted of a randomized clinical trial with parallel-group comparing 2 years of 25% CR and AL in 220 volunteers with a BMI between 22 and 28 kg/m2, across 3 sites. The cognitive tests used were the Cambridge Neuropsychological Tests Automated Battery (CANTAB) for Spatial Working Memory (SWM) including the total number of errors (SWMTE) and strategy (SWMS). Included as possible moderators were sleep quality, mood states, perceived stress, and energy expenditure. Analyses were performed at baseline and months 12 and 24.
After adjustments, there was a significantly greater improvement in working memory assessed by the SWM for CR individuals, compared to AL. At month 24, it was related mostly to lower protein intake, compared to other macronutrients. Changes in SWM were moderated by changes in sleep quality, physical activity, and energy expenditure.
On the long term, CR in healthy individuals seems to have a slightly positive effect on working memory. The study of brain CR targets opens new possibilities to prevent and treat cognitive deficits.
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