I would be very surprised if there were any blog readers who are unaware of this material, released two weeks ago with saturation coverage by the popular press, but because human aging has been a continuous topic in this blog I thought I should pass on reference to the results of an exhaustive study by Mattison et al. that has failed to confirm an effect of dietary caloric restriction on longevity in rhesus monkeys, even though some beneficial health effects are noted. This takes the edge off my motivation to do occasional fits of dieting with the assurance that this might influence how long this 70-year old body continues to hang around.
Calorie restriction (CR), a reduction of 10–40% in intake of a nutritious diet, is often reported as the most robust non-genetic mechanism to extend lifespan and healthspan. CR is frequently used as a tool to understand mechanisms behind ageing and age-associated diseases. In addition to and independently of increasing lifespan, CR has been reported to delay or prevent the occurrence of many chronic diseases in a variety of animals. Beneficial effects of CR on outcomes such as immune function, motor coordination and resistance to sarcopenia in rhesus monkeys have recently been reported. We report here that a CR regimen implemented in young and older age rhesus monkeys at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) has not improved survival outcomes. Our findings contrast with an ongoing study at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center (WNPRC), which reported improved survival associated with 30% CR initiated in adult rhesus monkeys (7–14 years) and a preliminary report with a small number of CR monkeys. Over the years, both NIA and WNPRC have extensively documented beneficial health effects of CR in these two apparently parallel studies. The implications of the WNPRC findings were important as they extended CR findings beyond the laboratory rodent and to a long-lived primate. Our study suggests a separation between health effects, morbidity and mortality, and similar to what has been shown in rodents, study design, husbandry and diet composition may strongly affect the life-prolonging effect of CR in a long-lived nonhuman primate.