Restricted calorie diet linked to decrease in disease risk, lower body fat and slower aging
A longitudinal study of rhesus monkeys recently investigated the effect of caloric restriction (CR) without malnutrition. Though research on CR occurred as early as 1935, it wasn’t until the 1990s that the practice was linked to a slowing of the aging process. Studies identified the metabolic reprogramming that happened during CR as “a key event” in lifespan extension.
Though primates on CR appeared younger than controls, scientists sought to find out whether they were also biologically younger than controls. They tested for age-associated conditions most prevalent in humans, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and brain atrophy.
At the end of the 20-year study, researchers found “robust" effects of CR on body composition and metabolic function. Body weight was reduced compared to control animals, primarily due to a decrease in total body fat.
CR also resulted in improvements to metabolic function, particularly insulin sensitivity and the prevention of diabetes. Both the incidence of cancer-related neoplasia and cardiovascular disease were reduced by 50% for the monkeys on CR.
Overall, the monkeys not on CR showed three times the rate of age-related diseases than the animals on CR, suggesting that controlled, long-term CR can delay age-associated pathologies, a finding that has significant implications for human populations, given the parallels between rhesus monkeys and humans.