Study Finds: Calorie Restriction Shown To Slow Aging In Humans

Calorie Restriction

Pointers at Glance

  • A team of international researchers, led by the Butler Columbia Aging Center at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, conducted a randomized controlled trial that revealed calorie restriction could decelerate aging in healthy adults.
  • Using the DunedinPACE algorithm, the team measured the pace of aging through blood DNA methylation and found that the CALERIE™ intervention led to a 2-3% reduction in aging pace, which translates to a 10-15% decrease in mortality risk, similar to the impact of quitting smoking.
  • The study’s findings were published in Nature Aging.

A groundbreaking study led by the Butler Columbia Aging Center at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health has found that calorie restriction can slow the pace of aging in healthy adults.

Previous research has shown that calorie restriction can extend the lifespan of worms, flies, and mice, but this study is the first investigation of its kind in non-obese humans. The CALERIE™ Phase-2 randomized controlled trial, which the US National Institute on Aging funded, involved 220 healthy men and women who were randomized to a 25 percent calorie-restricted diet or a normal diet for two years.

The researchers analyzed blood samples collected from trial participants at the pre-intervention baseline and after 12- and 24-months of follow-up, using methylation marks on DNA extracted from white blood cells as biomarkers to measure the pace and progress of biological aging.

The results showed that the CALERIE™ intervention led to a 2-3 percent slowing in the pace of aging, which is equivalent to a 10-15 percent reduction in mortality risk, similar to the effects of a smoking cessation intervention. This study’s findings, published in Nature Aging journal, have significant implications for developing interventions to promote healthy aging in humans.

Primary Analysis & Results of The Study

The study’s primary analysis focused on three measurements of DNA methylation data known as “epigenetic clocks.” The PhenoAge and GrimAge clocks estimate biological age and provide a static measure of the aging process. In contrast, DunedinPACE estimates the pace of aging, providing a dynamic measure of biological deterioration over time.

The study found that calorie restriction slowed the pace of aging measured by DunedinPACE, but there were no effects on other epigenetic clocks. It suggests that dynamic “pace of aging” measures may be more sensitive to intervention effects.

The results suggest that slowing human aging may be possible through calorie restriction, although this approach may not suit everyone. In addition, the findings provide insights for future trials of interventions that could appeal to a wider range of people, such as intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating.

Follow-up Study

A follow-up study is underway to determine the long-term effects of the CALERIE™ intervention on healthy aging. Previous studies have shown that a slower DunedinPACE is linked to reduced risk of chronic aging-related diseases such as heart disease, stroke, disability, and dementia.

Sai Krupa Das, a CALERIE investigator, is leading the long-term follow-up of CALERIE™ participants to investigate if the short-term effects of the intervention translate into long-term benefits.

DunedinPACE is a measure developed by Daniel Belsky and colleagues at Duke University and the University of Otago. To create DunedinPACE, researchers analyzed data from the Dunedin Longitudinal Study, a study of human development and aging that follows 1000 individuals born in Dunedin, New Zealand, in 1972-73.

The researchers analyzed the rate of change in 19 biomarkers over 20 years of follow-up to create a composite measure of the pace of aging. Then, using machine learning, the researchers distilled this 20-year pace of aging into a single-time-point DNA methylation blood test, which measures the pace of aging corresponding to the years of biological aging experienced during a single calendar year.

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