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CALERIE Research Network builds new opportunities in aging research

Giovanna Zappala
Giovanna ZAPPALA [Former NIA Staff],
Health Scientist Administrator,
Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology (DGCG)

CALERIE? Yes, CALERIE, not CALORIE. (And, yes, we do know how to spell here at NIA!)

On September 7, 2017, NIA’s Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology and the CALERIE Research Network will host a workshop where information about datasets and stored biospecimens from the CALERIE trial will be introduced to investigators. The workshop’s goal is to learn more about how restricting our calories affects our underlying biology—what mechanisms of action are involved in calorie restriction.

The workshop agenda and other information can be found at

What is CALERIE?

CALERIE stands for Comprehensive Assessment of Long-term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy, the first clinical trial to test the effects of caloric restriction (CR) in people. Following a six-month pilot feasibility and safety trial in 2005, the CALERIE team embarked on Phase 2, a three-site randomized controlled trial in young and middle-aged non-obese healthy men and women to assess the effects of a two-year, 25-percent CR regimen vs. a normal diet control group. Results, published in 2015, found that the CR group participants achieved 12 percent CR and sustained 10 percent weight loss over the course of the study. Research questions particularly emphasized the adaptive responses thought to be involved in slowing aging and protecting against age-related disease processes. Further aims included the identification of potential adverse effects of CR in people, quality of life, and psychological and cognitive functioning.

After the findings were reported, NIA established the CALERIE Research Network to make the research resources of this trial publicly available. We hope that the access to trial data through this network will create a broad community of investigators able to ask new questions of the data and advance the field.

What’s in the CALERIE database?

The CALERIE database contains information from study participants on physiological and immune functions, physical performance, psychological outcomes, dietary records, disease risk factors, blood chemistry, and hematology. The biospecimen repository includes serum, plasma, urine, muscle, and fat.

The study team developed the Intensive Intervention Database, a toolkit that allows investigators to identify the major factors affecting individual participants’ interventions and adherence over the course of the trial. A computer-based algorithm provides specific strategies in Behavioral/Environmental and Nutritional/Dietary Toolboxes. You can use these resources to identify key pathways that respond to CR, and for targets for novel interventions in aging research. You can also examine a variety of risk factors, aging-related outcomes, and psychological and behavioral factors that interact with lowered caloric intake and weight loss.

What makes the CALERIE resource unique?

The CALERIE database and biorepository represent unique research resources for understanding the biological mechanisms underlying the effects of CR in people. The duration and degree of CR, as well as the magnitude of the resulting weight loss sustained in non-obese people in the CALERIE trial, had not been previously attained in a clinical study. In addition, the substantial size of the study, the comprehensive clinical data and physiologic assessments, and the extensive biological samples collected are not available anywhere else.

For those who cannot attend the workshop in person, the event will be streamed live via WebEx and then uploaded to the CALERIE website. You can find details on the WebEx, along with more information about the CALERIE Research Network at

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