Abstract

The effects of calorie restriction (CR) on life span, disease, and aging in physiological systems have been documented extensively in rodent models. However, whether CR has similar effects in longer-lived species more closely related to humans remains unknown. Studies of CR and aging using nonhuman primates (rhesus monkeys) have been ongoing for several years at the National Institute on Aging and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The majority of data published from these studies are consistent with the extensive findings reported in rodents. For example, monkeys on CR weigh less and have less body fat. Monkeys on CR also exhibit lower body temperature, fasting blood glucose and insulin, and serum lipids. In addition, insulin sensitivity is increased in monkeys on CR. Recent efforts in the NIA study have focused on the effect of this intervention on risk factors for various age-related diseases, in particular for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. We have shown that monkeys on CR have lower blood pressure, reduced body fat, and a reduced trunk:leg fat ratio. Also, monkeys on CR have reduced triglycerides and cholesterol and have increased levels of HDL2B. Low levels of this HDL subfraction have been associated with increased cardiovascular disease in humans. In short-term studies, older (> 18 years) monkeys on CR exhibit reductions in insulin and triglycerides before changes in body composition and fat distribution became evident. These and other findings have suggested that CR might have beneficial effects on certain disease risk factors independent of reductions in body weight or prevention of obesity.