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Keywords:

  • Increasing life span;
  • Insulin levels;
  • Primates;
  • Rodent models

Abstract: Caloric restriction (CR) remains the only nongenetic intervention that reproducibly extends mean and maximal life span in short-lived mammalian species. This nutritional intervention also delays the onset, or slows the progression, of many age-related disease processes. The diverse effects of CR have been demonstrated many hundreds of times in laboratory rodents and other short-lived species, such as rotifers, water fleas, fish, spiders, and hamsters. Until recently, the effects of CR in longer-lived species, more closely related to humans, remained unknown. Long-term studies of aging in nonhuman primates undergoing CR have been underway at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) for over a decade. A number of reports from the NIA and UW colonies have shown that monkeys on CR exhibit nearly identical physiological responses as reported in laboratory rodents. Studies of various markers related to age-related diseases suggest that CR will prevent or delay the onset of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and perhaps cancer, and preliminary data indicate that mortality due to these and other age-associated diseases may also be reduced in monkeys on CR, compared to controls. Conclusive evidence showing that CR extends life span in primates is not presently available; however, the emerging data from the ongoing primate studies strengthens the possibility that the diverse beneficial effects of CR on aging in rodents will also apply to nonhuman primates and perhaps ultimately to humans.