Risks of Long-Term Low Calorie Intake

A prolonged, low-calorie diet can be dangerous, resulting in negative side effects.
A prolonged, low-calorie diet can be dangerous, resulting in negative side effects. (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Consuming too many calories may increase your risks of health problems just as eating few calories can. Decreasing your caloric intake can help you lose weight as well as avoid obesity. However, when you restrict your calorie intake by too much for too long, your body might not have the energy it needs to function effectively. Seek your doctor's guidance to ensure that you are eating enough calories.

Nutritional Deprivation

Subjecting yourself to prolonged low-calorie intake deprives your body of essential minerals like iron and potassium, as well as vitamins. Nutrient deficiencies are a major cause of many disorders, including anemia, scurvy, beriberi, kwashiorkor in children and fatigue. Deficiencies in iron, folate and vitamin B-12 can lead to anemia. Cognitive malfunction, general weakness and unhealthy skin also result from nutritional deficiencies. Consuming enough calories to obtain the nutrients you need is key to good health.

Weight Loss and Slower Metabolism

While you might decide to follow a low-calorie diet to achieve certain weight-loss goals, a low-calorie diet over the long term not only poses health risks, but it can also interrupt your weight loss goals. Severe caloric restriction causes muscle loss as your body resorts to the stored tissue and fat to generate energy to sustain life, explains Donna Fieldmann of the Diet Channel. Moreover, prolonged calorie restriction can lead to a slowed metabolism as your body tries to save energy, lowering the chances of losing any more weight, notes Dr. Kristie Leong in an article on the Waldo County General Hospital website.


Malnutrition occurs when your body does not get enough nutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins, which can happen when you follow a low-calorie diet for prolonged periods. Common symptoms of malnutrition include dizziness, fatigue and unhealthy weight loss, according to MedlinePlus. If untreated, malnutrition can result in physical and mental disorders. Also, malnutrition can cause irregular pulse rate, leading to eventual weakening of your heart muscles and subsequent heart problems. People with eating disorders, such as anorexia, are especially prone to malnutrition.

Other Health Side Effects

Eating too few calories jeopardizes your immunity due to low levels of proteins in your body. When your immunity is impaired, you are susceptible to various mild and serious infections such as flu and bacterial diseases. Severe restriction of caloric intake may also lead to thyroid malfunction. Feeling cold, muscular weakness, impaired concentration, depression and headache are also caused by calorie deficiencies in your body. Consuming less than 1200 calories per day could lead to health problems, according Dr. Kristie Leong on the Waldo County General Hospital website.

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