Dietary restriction of adult male rhesus monkeys: design, methodology, and preliminary findings from the first year of study.
Dietary restriction (DR) retards aging processes and extends maximum life span in rodents and in simpler animals. We initiated a study in 30 adults (8-14 years old) male rhesus monkeys to determine whether or not aging processes are retarded by adult-onset DR in a primate species and herein report results from the experiment's first year. Following a 3-6 month period when baseline data were obtained, 15 animals were assigned to a control group and given free access to a semipurified diet for 6-8 hours per day. The other 15 monkeys were fed the same diet but at 70% of their baseline intake levels predetermined individually. The animals are being evaluated semi-annually for body size and composition, physical activity, metabolic rate, glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, hematologic indices, immunologic function, and fingernail growth. Ocular function is assessed annually. The preliminary observations after one year are: (a) all monkeys appear to be in excellent health; (b) average body weights for controls increased by 9% while monkeys on DR did not gain weight; (c) monkeys on DR have less body fat than do control monkeys, whereas the amount of lean body mass has not been significantly influenced by DR; (d) there was a small but statistically significant reduction in physical activity for monkeys on DR relative to controls; and (e) DR has not overtly influenced the other measures. Control monkeys gradually reduced their voluntary levels of food intake during the first year of study, and food allotments to DR monkeys are being adjusted accordingly in order to reinstate the intended 30% difference between groups. These early data indicate that DR can be safely instituted in adult monkeys, but that longer term and/or more severe DR is required to determine if it is capable of influencing age-sensitive indices in long-lived primates.
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