A major challenge in current research into aging using model organisms is to establish whether different treatments resulting in slowed aging involve common or distinct mechanisms. Such treatments include gene mutation, dietary restriction (DR), and manipulation of reproduction, gonadal signals and temperature. The principal method used to determine whether these treatments act through common mechanisms is to compare the magnitude of the effect on aging of each treatment separately with that when two are applied simultaneously.
Dietary caloric restriction (CR) is the only intervention conclusively and reproducibly shown to slow aging and maintain health and vitality in mammals. Although this paradigm has been known for over 60 years, its precise biological mechanisms and applicability to humans remain unknown. We began addressing the latter question in 1987 with the first controlled study of CR in primates (rhesus and squirrel monkeys, which are evolutionarily much closer to humans than the rodents most frequently employed in CR studies).
Although best known for his studies on the anti-aging effects of dietary restriction, Dr Roy Walford began his career by studying the anti-aging effects of lowering body temperature. As a tribute to his long and productive career, we review these pioneering studies and the singular influence these have had on our own thinking about the potential for lower body temperature to extend the life span of homeotherms. We show our results from a study of six classical inbred strains of mice that depict marked strain variation in the body temperature response to dietary restriction.
By applying calorie restriction (CR) at 30-50% below ad libitum levels, studies in numerous species have reported increased life span, reduced incidence and delayed onset of age-related diseases, improved stress resistance, and decelerated functional decline. Whether this nutritional intervention is relevant to human aging remains to be determined; however, evidence emerging from CR studies in nonhuman primates suggests that response to CR in primates parallels that observed in rodents. To evaluate CR effects in humans, clinical trials have been initiated.