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Aging Cell. 2006 Apr;5(2):97-108.

Calorie restriction mimetics: an emerging research field.

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Laboratory of Experimental Gerontology, Intramural Research Program, National Institute on Aging, 5600 Nathan Shock Drive, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA.


When considering all possible aging interventions evaluated to date, it is clear that calorie restriction (CR) remains the most robust. Studies in numerous species have demonstrated that reduction of calories 30-50% below ad libitum levels of a nutritious diet can increase lifespan, reduce the incidence and delay the onset of age-related diseases, improve stress resistance, and decelerate functional decline. A current major focus of this research area is whether this nutritional intervention is relevant to human aging. Evidence emerging from studies in rhesus monkeys suggests that their response to CR parallels that observed in rodents. To assess CR effects in humans, clinical trials have been initiated. However, even if results from these studies could eventually substantiate CR as an effective pro-longevity strategy for humans, the utility of this intervention would be hampered because of the degree and length of restriction required. As an alternative strategy, new research has focused on the development of 'CR mimetics'. The objective of this strategy is to identify compounds that mimic CR effects by targeting metabolic and stress response pathways affected by CR, but without actually restricting caloric intake. For example, drugs that inhibit glycolysis (2-deoxyglucose), enhance insulin action (metformin), or affect stress signaling pathways (resveratrol), are being assessed as CR mimetics (CRM). Promising results have emerged from initial studies regarding physiological responses which resemble those observed in CR (e.g. reduced body temperature and plasma insulin) as well as protection against neurotoxicity (e.g. enhanced dopamine action and up-regulated neurotrophic factors). Ultimately, lifespan analyses in addition to expanded toxicity studies must be accomplished to fully assess the potential of any CRM. Nonetheless, this strategy clearly offers a very promising and expanding research endeavor.

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