Conversations in Science
for K-12 Educators

A program conceived and organized by the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with the collaboration of the Madison Metropolitan School District and the Edgewood Sonderegger Science Center.

Thursday, November 9, 2006 at 4:00 p.m.

Calories, Cancer and Aging

Richard Weindruch, Ph.D.

Professor of Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison

About the conversation:

It has been known for ~70 years that dietary caloric restriction (CR) retards the aging process in laboratory rodents while opposing the development of diverse age-associated biological changes and diseases.  Many cancers, both spontaneously occurring and experimentally induced, are strongly prevented by CR.  As interest in CR is rapidly expanding, progress is being gained in identifying underlying mechanisms of CR's actions.  We are investigating the hypothesis that CR induces tissue-specific shifts in the characteristics of energy metabolism.  There is also great interest in the possibility that the health benefits of CR may occur in people.  To that end, we are conducting a trial of CR in rhesus monkeys which began in 1989 and observing signs of an improved span of good health in our older subjects.

There is emerging evidence that high caloric intakes are associated with the development of several cancers in humans.  Accordingly, there is growing concern about the link between obesity and cancer susceptibility.  Potentially germane to this point are findings from gene expression studies which we conducted on adipose (fat) tissue from mice on short-term and long-term CR.  Because the overwhelming majority of cancer mortality occurs in individuals over 65 years of age (a rapidly expending segment of our populace), the National Institutes of Health has funded eight sites to establish formal “Aging Programs” within National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers.  Our efforts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison will be briefly described.

About the presenter:

Dr. Richard Weindruch is a Professor of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin and an investigator with the Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) at the VA Hospital in Madison.  He earned his B.S. and M.S. in Biology at the University of Illinois, Urbana, and his Ph.D. in Experimental Pathology at UCLA under the direction of Dr. Roy L. Walford.  For 31 years, Dr. Weindruch has studied caloric restriction, which is known to slow the aging process in experimental animals, such as mice and rats.  He is an author of more than 170 publications, including Th e Retardation of Aging and Disease by Dietary Restriction , published in 1988.  Dr. Weindruch has served as Chairman of NIH's Geriatrics and Rehabilitation Medicine Study Section from 1994-1999; Chair of the Biological Sciences Section, Gerontological Society of America in 1996; and President of the American Aging Association, 1994-1995.  His awards include the Kleemeier Award in Aging Research (1998); the Nathan W. Shock Award, from the National Institute on Aging (2000) and the Glenn Award (2000).

Suggested Reading :

(Note:  In December 2006, Scientific American is publishing an issue with their most popular articles on diet and health.  This article will be included along with an addendum I wrote on what's new over the past decade.) Information/ConferencesAndMeeti ngs/WorkshopReport/

This is the summary report of a workshop held in 2000 by the National Cancer Institute and National Institute on Aging to identify research priorities integrating aging and cancer research.  It has guided the effort to establish the new Aging Programs in Cancer Centers.