Barshop Institute provided test for NIA calorie restriction study

SAN ANTONIO (Aug. 30, 2012) — Faculty from the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio contributed a core research service to a National Institute on Aging (NIA) study reported Aug. 29 online in Nature.

The widely reported NIA study found that calorie restriction — a diet comprised of approximately 30 percent fewer calories but with the same nutrients of a standard diet — did not extend years of life or reduce age-related deaths in a 23-year study of rhesus monkeys. However, calorie restriction did extend certain aspects of health.

NIA scientists asked the Barshop Institute to get involved after seeing a research paper by Wenbo Qi, Ph.D., and Walter Ward, Ph.D., on a marker of aging called F2-isoprostane analysis. Dr. Ward, a professor of physiology in the School of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center, and Dr. Qi, a senior research associate, studied the technique with Jack Roberts, Ph.D., who pioneered it at Vanderbilt University.

The Barshop Institute performed the F2-isoprostane analyses under NIA contract as part of the San Antonio Nathan Shock Center of Excellence in the Basic Biology of Aging. Drs. Qi and Ward are listed on the Nature paper as co-authors.

F-2 isoprostane, a lipid, is elevated in age-related diseases as a sign of oxidative stress. The quantitative analysis Dr. Qi performs is available at only a few centers worldwide. F2-isoprostane is generated by a damaging process called lipid peroxidation. Its increase is one of many parameters that correlate with loss of function in several diseases. Dr. Qi has studied its elevation in Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and diabetes.

The Barshop Institute analyses showed a significant decrease in F2-isoprostane in a group of monkeys that were put on the restricted diet when they were old, but this did not change the study’s outcome.

“Although calorie restriction showed some benefits — such as significantly lower triglycerides, lower cholesterol and lower levels of the oxidative stress marker F2-isoprostane — unlike most rodent studies it did not extend the monkeys’ life span,” Dr. Qi said.

Steven Austad, Ph.D., interim director of the Barshop Institute and professor of cellular and structural biology in the School of Medicine, authored a Nature “News & Views” commentary on the NIA paper and was quoted in press reports worldwide. He was not involved with the study. In a Reuters wire service story, Dr. Austad said the findings demonstrate there is still much to learn. “If there’s a way to manipulate the human diet to let us live longer, we haven’t figured it out yet and it may not exist,” he is quoted as saying.

A New York Times article on the NIA study pointed readers to research published in 2009 by Barshop Institute member James Nelson, Ph.D., professor of physiology in the School of Medicine; Vivian Diaz, project coordinator with the Barshop Institute; and colleagues at the University of Colorado. In that study, conducted in 41 inbred strains of mice, calorie restriction shortened lifespan in more strains than those in which it lengthened life.

The San Antonio Nathan Shock Center was one of the original Shock Centers established by the NIA in 1995. The center is a national resource that provides state-of-the-art scientific infrastructure and services used in the development and study of models to address questions about the basic biological mechanisms of aging.


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