Caloric restriction may reverse age-related autonomic decline in humans

Phyllis K. Stein, Andreea Soare, Timothy E. Meyer, Roberto Cangemi, John O. Holloszy, Luigi Fontana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Caloric restriction (CR) retards aging in laboratory rodents. No information is available on the effects of long-term CR on physiologic markers of aging and longevity in humans. Heart rate variability (HRV) is a marker for cardiac autonomic functioning. The progressive decline in HRV with aging and the association of higher HRV with better health outcomes are well established. Heart rate variability assessment is a reliable tool by which the effects of CR on autonomic function can be assessed. Time- and frequency-domain analyses compared 24-h HRV in 22 CR individuals aged 35-82years and 20 age-matched controls eating Western diets (WD). The CR group was significantly leaner than the WD group. Heart rate was significantly lower, and virtually, all HRV values were significantly higher in the CR group than in the WD group (P<0.002). Heart rate variability in the CR individuals was comparable with published norms for healthy individuals 20years younger. In addition, when differences in heart rate (HR) and HRV between CR and WD were compared with previously published changes in HRV induced in healthy adults given atenolol, percent differences in each measure were generally similar in direction and magnitude and suggested declines in sympathetic and increases in parasympathetic modulation of HR and increased circadian variability associated with CR. These findings provide evidence that CR has direct systemic effects that counter the expected age-associated changes in autonomic function so that HRV indexes in CR individuals are similar to those of individuals 20years younger eating WDs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)644-650
Number of pages7
JournalAging Cell
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • Aging
  • Autonomic function
  • Calorie restriction
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Heart rate variability
  • Parasympathetic function


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