MADISON — Monkeys on calorie-restricted diets age better than monkeys on a normal diet, according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH).

The new study focused on muscle aging recent was published in Cell Systems with first author Associate Scientist Timothy Rhoads at the Department of Medicine at SMPH.

This is the latest in a series of papers from the Aging and Calorie Restriction Study based at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The study made headlines 10 years ago when the improved survival and health benefits of calorie restriction were first reported.

“Calorie Restriction (CR) preserves muscle quality and physical function in monkeys” said Associate Professor of Medicine Rozalyn Anderson, senior author, “and our work connects this specifically to metabolism — how energy is derived, stored and used.”

The research involved two groups of aged rhesus monkeys: a group on a normal diet and group on a diet with 30 percent fewer calories but nutritionally complete.

“Our approach uses a range of techniques from whole animal measures to molecular profiles,” said Assistant Professor of Cell and Regenerative Biology Ricki Colman, co-author, “allowing us to look at aging in a more holistic way.”

Muscle mass was up to 20 percent better preserved in CR monkeys with advanced age and muscle quality also improved. These benefits were linked to better muscle function, more efficient movement, and better diabetes risk profiles such as blood glucose levels and insulin sensitivity.

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

Along with collaborators at Maine Medical College and University of Alabama at Birmingham, this multi-disciplinary study involved experts from other UW Departments, Institutes and Centers across campus, including the Laboratory for Optical and Computational Instrumentation, the Biotechnology Center, the Genome Center of Wisconsin, and the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital GRECC.

The study was conducted with the use of resources and facilities at the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center in the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital, Madison.

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