LSU-area researchers study effects of caloric intake on health-(LSU)

U-WIRE

05-03-07

(U-WIRE) BATON ROUGE, La. -- Medical researchers have long theorized that restricting the amount of pizza, cheeseburgers and other high-calorie foods will increase longevity. And one Baton Rouge, La., research facility sets out to see if the theory holds true.

Pennington Biomedical Research Center conducts what Assistant Communications Director Alan Pesch called an "exciting" two-year study on the effects of calorie restriction. The new study, CALERIE II, marks the second phase of a $12.4 million, seven-year study launched in 2002.

Eric Ravussin, lead researcher for the study, said Pennington researchers and others have already successfully linked caloric restriction to longevity in small animals and organisms.

"We know it's been working for flies, worms, yeast and then mammals like rats and mice," Ravussin said. "All the data are consistent, and the question is: Do we have any evidence that it can work in humans?"

Pennington will use a variety of techniques to analyze test subjects' metabolism, which may affect longevity. Researchers will also examine genes they believe may control bodily responses to caloric restriction.

Though the study examines the effects of caloric restriction, Pennington plans to test whether subjects can realize a longer life through increasing activity levels.

Other research facilities have conducted similar human longevity studies, but they were limited in scope, according to a CALERIE II news release.

Ravussin said there is no scientific explanation for the results obtained in those studies, and the results themselves were mixed.

"There is something we don't understand totally that keeps your cells in the body younger," Ravussin said.

The Pennington team will also explore the relationship between caloric intake and the development of certain diseases and other health-related conditions.

"If you are thinner, you are less likely to have high cholesterol, you have [lower] blood pressure, you have less cardiovascular disease in general and less strokes," Ravussin said. Ravussin said as an added bonus, test subjects will be "happy when they lose a little weight."

But the study's short time period does not accurately depict the aging process.

Ravussin said such a study would take "decades and decades" to perform because subjects would have to be studied until death. He said Pennington has no plans to take on the task.

But Ravussin said pharmaceutical companies are interested in developing new compounds to mimic Pennington's results.

"Sirtris [Pharmaceuticals] is interested in developing calorie-restricting biomedics," Ravussin said. "All of the 'big ones' are interested."

The National Institute of Health awarded Pennington the money to conduct all phases of the study.

The institute also awarded grants to research facilities in Boston and St. Louis. Both sites are mirroring the Pennington study.

Pennington will accept 100 qualified men and women for the upcoming two-year study. Enrollment begins in late summer.

For more information, visit calerie.pbrc.edu.