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PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e28190. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0028190. Epub 2012 Apr 16.

Caloric restriction alters the metabolic response to a mixed-meal: results from a randomized, controlled trial.

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  • 1Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America.



To determine if caloric restriction (CR) would cause changes in plasma metabolic intermediates in response to a mixed meal, suggestive of changes in the capacity to adapt fuel oxidation to fuel availability or metabolic flexibility, and to determine how any such changes relate to insulin sensitivity (S(I)).


Forty-six volunteers were randomized to a weight maintenance diet (Control), 25% CR, or 12.5% CR plus 12.5% energy deficit from structured aerobic exercise (CR+EX), or a liquid calorie diet (890 kcal/d until 15% reduction in body weight)for six months. Fasting and postprandial plasma samples were obtained at baseline, three, and six months. A targeted mass spectrometry-based platform was used to measure concentrations of individual free fatty acids (FFA), amino acids (AA), and acylcarnitines (AC). S(I) was measured with an intravenous glucose tolerance test.


Over three and six months, there were significantly larger differences in fasting-to-postprandial (FPP) concentrations of medium and long chain AC (byproducts of FA oxidation) in the CR relative to Control and a tendency for the same in CR+EX (CR-3 month P = 0.02; CR-6 month P = 0.002; CR+EX-3 month P = 0.09; CR+EX-6 month P = 0.08). After three months of CR, there was a trend towards a larger difference in FPP FFA concentrations (P = 0.07; CR-3 month P = 0.08). Time-varying differences in FPP concentrations of AC and AA were independently related to time-varying S(I) (P<0.05 for both).


Based on changes in intermediates of FA oxidation following a food challenge, CR imparted improvements in metabolic flexibility that correlated with improvements in S(I).


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