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Caloric restriction appears to prevent primary aging in the heart

Eating a very low-calorie yet nutritionally balanced diet is good for your heart. Studying heart function in members of an organization called the Caloric Restriction Society, investigators at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that their hearts functioned like the hearts of much younger people. The researchers report their findings in the Jan. 17 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Ultrasound examinations showed that the hearts of people on caloric restriction appeared more elastic than those of age- and gender-matched control subjects. Their hearts were able to relax between beats in a way similar to the hearts in younger people. "This is the first study to demonstrate that long-term calorie restriction with optimal nutrition has cardiac-specific effects that ameliorate age-associated declines in heart function," says principal investigator Luigi Fontana, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine at Washington University in St. Louis and an investigator at the Istituto Superiore di Sanita, Rome, Italy.

Research on mice and rats has shown that stringent and consistent caloric restriction increases the animals' maximum lifespan by about 30 percent and protects them against atherosclerosis and cancer, but human study has been difficult because the caloric restriction lifestyle requires a strict diet regimen, both to keep the total number of calories low and to insure that people consume the proper balance of nutrients.

The researchers studied 25 calorie-restricted individuals who had voluntarily been consuming a very low-calorie diet for an average of six years (consuming about 1,400 to 2,000 calories per day). They ranged in age from 41 to 65. The study compared their heart function to 25 age- and gender-matched individuals who ate a typical Western diet (about 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day).

In Western countries, heart attacks and strokes are responsible for about 40 percen
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Contact: Jim Dryden
jdryden@wustl.edu
314-286-0110
Washington University School of Medicine
12-Jan-2006


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