BACKGROUND: Delayed immunologic aging is purported to be a major mechanism through which calorie restriction (CR) exerts its anti-aging effects in non-human species. However, in non-obese humans, the effect of CR on the immune system has been understudied relative to its effects on the cardiometabolic system. OBJECTIVE: To examine whether CR is associated with delayed immunologic aging in non-obese humans. METHODS: We tested whether long-term CR practitioners (average 10.03 years of CR) evidenced decreased expression of T cell immunosenescence markers and longer immune cell telomeres compared to gender-, race/ethnicity-, age-, and education-matched "healthy" Body Mass Index (BMI) and "overweight"/"obese" BMI groups. RESULTS: Long-term human CR practitioners had lower BMI (p < 0.001) and fasting glucose (p < 0.001), as expected. They showed similar frequencies of pre-senescent cells (CD8+CD28- T cells and CD57 and PD-1 expressing T cells) to the comparison groups. Even after adjusting for covariates, including cytomegalovirus status, we observed shorter peripheral blood mononuclear cell telomeres in the CR group (p = 0.012) and no difference in granulocyte telomeres between groups (p = 0.42). CONCLUSIONS: We observed no clear evidence that CR as it is currently practiced in humans delays immune aging related to telomere length or T cell immunosenescent markers.
Keywords: Caloric restriction; T-cells; cellular aging; eating behavior; immunosenescence; telomeres.