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Eat less, live longer, sure, but scientists want to know how

Released: Thursday, February 22, 2007

BATON ROUGE – A team of scientists at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center recently made headlines by releasing strong results that indicate if you severely cut the calories you eat – by up to 25 percent for six months – while maintaining a nutritious diet, you are likely to be healthier and live longer. They dubbed the super diet “calorie restriction,” and now that same team wants local residents to help them learn how it works.

Led by Eric Ravussin, Ph.D., the team learned that several “biomarkers” measured during calorie restriction indicated a slow down of the aging process. Participants were also healthier, but Ravussin doesn’t yet know what caused it.

“All participants in the calorie restriction study ate less and exercised more, so they also lost weight. We’re not sure if their bodies reacted biologically to the decrease in calories or to the weight loss,” Ravussin said. “That’s what we’re trying to learn now, but we need help.”

By help, Ravussin means volunteers living in the area. He and his team have begun to recruit participants to enroll in a second calorie restriction study designed to compare the effects caused by calorie restriction versus weight loss.

“We will measure the same biomarkers for aging, for example, fasting insulin level, body temperature, and DNA damage, and we will learn the specific effects of reduced calories,” Ravussin said.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the clinical study requires participants to enroll in a 26-month trial to determine the effect of diet on healthy aging. Ravussin said he is looking for lean or slightly overweight volunteers who will eat either a restricted calorie diet or a normal diet. Both groups will also visit the Center for a sophisticated series of tests to determine health status, metabolic rate, DNA damage and other measures.

The first study was called Comprehensive Assessment of Long-Term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy. In scientific circles, “intake of energy” means how much you eat. Appropriately, the name boiled down to the single word Ravussin and his team use – CALERIE. The new study is called CALERIE 2.

To learn more about the CALERIE 2 study and to find out if you are eligible to participate, please visit www.calerie.org or call 763-2692.

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The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the causes of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. Itis a campus of the Louisiana State University System and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at the Center includes approximately 80 faculty and more than 25 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 50 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dieticians, and support personnel, and 19 highly specialized core service facilities.  The Center's more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 234-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.