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Original Investigation
April 27, 1998

Changes in Plasma Lipids and Lipoproteins in Humans During a 2-Year Period of Dietary Restriction in Biosphere 2

Author Affiliations

From the Arizona Center on Aging, Tucson (Dr Verdery); and the Department of Pathology, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, Calif (Dr Walford).

Arch Intern Med. 1998;158(8):900-906. doi:10.1001/archinte.158.8.900

Background  A cohort study was performed of 8 people sealed inside Biosphere 2 to evaluate the effects of dietary restriction in humans on lipid and lipoprotein levels and the relationship of these levels to energy, fat, and protein content of the diet, and body weight, weight change, and energy expenditure.

Methods  Eight healthy people aged 27 to 67 years, 4 women and 4 men, were sealed inside Biosphere 2 from September 26, 1991, to September 26, 1993, the longest sustained period in an "isolated confined environment" on record. They were studied throughout confinement and for more than 2 years after their exit and return to an ad libitum diet. Food available was severely restricted during most of the 2-year period inside Biosphere 2. High work output was maintained and food quality remained high, resulting in prolonged restriction of energy intake without malnutrition.

Results  Fasting plasma cholesterol, triglyceride, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels; HDL subfraction distribution; dietary energy, fat, and protein content intake; and height, weight, weight change, and energy expenditure were measured. Total plasma cholesterol and triglyceride levels decreased 30% and 45%, respectively. The HDL and low-density lipoprotein levels also decreased and, in some participants, levels of HDL2 subfractions were increased. Multivariate analysis showed that the major cause of these changes was energy restriction.

Conclusions  Energy restriction was the major factor leading to low lipid and lipoprotein levels. Energy restriction with adequate nutrition of young and middle-aged people may substantially reduce risk for atherosclerosis and consequent coronary artery and cerebrovascular disease.