Research Article: Calorie Restriction Increases Muscle Mitochondrial Biogenesis in Healthy Humans

Date Published: March 6, 2007

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Anthony E Civitarese, Stacy Carling, Leonie K Heilbronn, Mathew H Hulver, Barbara Ukropcova, Walter A Deutsch, Steven R Smith, Eric Ravussin , Nir Barzilai

Abstract: BackgroundCaloric restriction without malnutrition extends life span in a range of organisms including insects and mammals and lowers free radical production by the mitochondria. However, the mechanism responsible for this adaptation are poorly understood.Methods and FindingsThe current study was undertaken to examine muscle mitochondrial bioenergetics in response to caloric restriction alone or in combination with exercise in 36 young (36.8 ± 1.0 y), overweight (body mass index, 27.8 ± 0.7 kg/m2) individuals randomized into one of three groups for a 6-mo intervention: Control, 100% of energy requirements; CR, 25% caloric restriction; and CREX, caloric restriction with exercise (CREX), 12.5% CR + 12.5% increased energy expenditure (EE). In the controls, 24-h EE was unchanged, but in CR and CREX it was significantly reduced from baseline even after adjustment for the loss of metabolic mass (CR, −135 ± 42 kcal/d, p = 0.002 and CREX, −117 ± 52 kcal/d, p = 0.008). Participants in the CR and CREX groups had increased expression of genes encoding proteins involved in mitochondrial function such as PPARGC1A, TFAM, eNOS, SIRT1, and PARL (all, p < 0.05). In parallel, mitochondrial DNA content increased by 35% ± 5% in the CR group (p = 0.005) and 21% ± 4% in the CREX group (p < 0.004), with no change in the control group (2% ± 2%). However, the activity of key mitochondrial enzymes of the TCA (tricarboxylic acid) cycle (citrate synthase), beta-oxidation (beta-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase), and electron transport chain (cytochrome C oxidase II) was unchanged. DNA damage was reduced from baseline in the CR (−0.56 ± 0.11 arbitrary units, p = 0.003) and CREX (−0.45 ± 0.12 arbitrary units, p = 0.011), but not in the controls. In primary cultures of human myotubes, a nitric oxide donor (mimicking eNOS signaling) induced mitochondrial biogenesis but failed to induce SIRT1 protein expression, suggesting that additional factors may regulate SIRT1 content during CR.ConclusionsThe observed increase in muscle mitochondrial DNA in association with a decrease in whole body oxygen consumption and DNA damage suggests that caloric restriction improves mitochondrial function in young non-obese adults.

Partial Text: Caloric restriction delays the rate of aging in many species such as yeast, worms, flies, and mice [1]. One theory is that caloric restriction reduces oxidative damage to proteins, lipids, and DNA, although the underlying mechanisms of this process are unclear. Cellular nutrient sensing systems seem to mediate many of the metabolic responses to caloric restriction, including the regulation of free radical production and oxidative stress. Mitochondria are the major consumers of cellular oxygen (~85%) [2] and the predominant production site of free radicals, a by-product of oxidative phosphorylation [3]. Studies in mammals have shown that caloric restriction reduces the generation of free radicals by mitochondria, in parallel to reductions in mitochondrial proton leak [4,5] and whole-body EE [4] (defined as oxidation or combustion of food and/or energy stores to meet the body’s energy requirements). Paradoxically, caloric restriction induces mitochondrial proliferation in rodents [6,7], and either lowers [8] or does not affect mitochondrial oxygen consumption [6]. Taken together, these data suggest that caloric restriction improves whole body energy efficiency by inducing the biogenesis of mitochondria that utilize less oxygen and produce less reactive oxygen species (ROS).

The current study investigated the impact of caloric restriction on muscle mitochondrial function in healthy overweight but non-obese humans. The study provides, to our knowledge, the first evidence that a 25% caloric deficit either by caloric restriction alone or by a combination of caloric restriction and exercise decreased 24 h EE and improved mitochondrial function. Molecular analysis revealed that CR and CREX increased the expression of genes involved in nutrient sensing and mitochondrial biogenesis as well as increasing mitochondrial mass without a change in the activity of key mitochondrial enzymes involved in the Krebs cycle, β-oxidation, and electron transport chain activity. However, caloric restriction decreased markers of oxidative stress. Our results suggest that caloric restriction induces biogenesis of “efficient” mitochondria as an adaptive mechanism, which in turn lowers oxidative stress.



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