September 3, 2020

It may seem counterintuitive, but could cutting back on calories help us preserve the body’s capabilities as we age?

According to new research from the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center (WiNPRC) at the University of Wisconsin (UW) School of Medicine and Public Health, monkeys on calorie-restricted diets age better than monkeys on a normal diet.

This is the latest in a series of papers from the Aging and Calorie Restriction Study based at WiNPRC. The series first garnered attention 10 years ago, when the improved survival and health benefits of calorie restriction were initially reported.

In the latest study, there were two groups of aged rhesus monkeys—one on a normal diet and another on a fully nutritionally complete diet with 30 percent fewer calories.

The scientists found that muscle mass was up to 20 percent better preserved in the calorie-restricted monkeys, and muscle quality also improved. These benefits were linked to better muscle function, more efficient movement and better diabetes risk profiles like blood glucose levels and insulin sensitivity.

“It’s all about metabolism,” said Associate Scientist Timothy Rhoads, PhD. “Not just in the muscle tissues themselves, but more broadly at the systemic level, too”.

Associate Professor of Medicine Rozalyn Anderson echoed his sentiments.

“Calorie restriction (CR) preserves muscle quality and physical function in monkeys, and our work connects this specifically to metabolism—how energy is derived, stored and used,” she said.

Researchers at the NPRCs across the country are helping to demystify the aging process. For additional reading, check out this recent study from the California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC), which examined the changing social habits of aging primates.

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