A University of Wisconsin study goes beyond implementing calorie-restricted fad dieting as a way to stay fit and takes a deep look into the origins of age-related disease susceptibility.
The recent primate study suggests mortality reduction is related to restricted caloric intake, according to the latest results of a 25-year study of the effect of diet on the age in primates, Ricki Coleman, a senior scientist at the Wisconsin Primate Center and lead researcher of the study, said.
Wisconsin’s study of 76 rhesus monkeys analyzed each individual specimen’s eating habits over a period of three to six months prior to beginning dietary restriction, Coleman said. After the initial period of observation, 38 monkeys experienced a caloric reduction of 30 percent, and the remaining specimens were allowed to eat as much as they wanted, she said.
Monkeys that were not under restriction showed risk of age-related disease 2.9 times greater than their counterparts who experienced caloric reduction, Coleman said.
The results UW researchers found contradict those of a previous study conducted by the National Institute on Aging that found no correlation between caloric reduction and age, Coleman said. So far experts established that the studies diverged in the categories of study design, genetics, age of specimens and composition of the diet, she said.
Rozalyn Anderson, corresponding author for the study and assistant professor of geriatrics, said the proximity of the Primate Center to the William S. Memorial Veterans’ Hospital made Madison the ideal location for using rhesus monkeys to conduct a study on aging.
The ongoing study has been conducted at Wisconsin National Primate Research Center since 1989, according to a statement from UW.
A major contribution to the study’s success was the expanse of knowledge on the topic of caloric restriction, Anderson said.
Robert Weindruch, another lead researcher of the study who has been working with the project since its origin, said he has studied caloric reduction since 1975. His original study focused mainly on rodents and he said as time progressed and technology advanced, his research was made more applicable to other species. This included Anderson’s previous work with single-celled organisms, he said.
Throughout history, people have been interested in ways to dodge aging and caloric reduction is one of the few interventions that seems to work in multiple different species, Anderson said.
Anderson said it is difficult ethically to apply the study directly to humans, but there are ways the specific mechanisms of their results can be used in practice and are being considered.
“By finding a model for human aging that is as good as the recent monkey one is, we’re going to open up avenues for investigation,” she said. “It gives them the place to start looking for how to delay aging or age-related disease in humans.”
Interest in the study ranges from coverage by Fox Television, a spread in the New York Times and even interviews from Cosmopolitan, Anderson said.
Although the study focuses primarily on the prevention of age-related diseases, Anderson said the results attract a broad audience with varying interest.
“Basically, it’s of interest. It means by changing eating habits you can change the rate of aging,” Anderson said. “In maintaining youth as age advances, that’s the holy grail for places like Cosmopolitan.”