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ARRA Investments in Nutrition and Aging

Public Health Burden
Quality nutrition is essential for the health and well-being of adults as they age.  Nutritional factors contribute substantially to the burden of preventable illnesses and premature deaths in the United States.  Indeed, nutrition is associated in some way with four of the ten leading causes of death among older adults: coronary heart disease (CHD), some types of cancer, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.  These health conditions are estimated to cost society over $200 billion each year in medical expenses and lost productivity.

Nutrition and Bone Health
Some research studies supported through ARRA are key to expanding our knowledge about bone loss, osteoporosis, and resulting osteoporotic fractures in the older population.
  • Several investigators are expanding their work in the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures (SOF) to examine whether renal function, inflammation, and vitamin D are important to maintaining and achieving higher levels of physical function and lower risks of falls and hip fractures.  Additional funding for SOF Clinical Centers will also allow investigators to implement public data sharing to allow other investigators direct access to data that can be used for other studies.1
  • Other researchers are accelerating studies to better understand a previously unrecognized risk for osteoporosis identified through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.  They are investigating to what degree low sodium concentrations in the blood (hyponatremia) may contribute to gait instability and an increased incidence of falls.2
  • Others are accelerating their work to characterize the rates of bone loss, when bone loss begins, and the risk factors associated with bone loss in a cohort from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN).3
Nutrition and Obesity
Other research is helping scientists understand the implications of nutrition for preventing or treating obesity among older adults. 
  • Researchers are using data collected through the Hispanic Established Population for the Epidemiologic Study of the Elderly (H-EPESE) to investigate the prevalence and correlates of obesity and describe the relationship between obesity, muscle strength, and disability among older Mexican Americans in the United States and elders in Latin America and the Caribbean to better understand the association between obesity and disability risk among older adults.4
  • Adding new measures to the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) will permit detailed assessment of levels and change in obesity and in the metabolic syndrome, providing an unparalleled picture of individual and cohort changes in the midst of the obesity 'epidemic.'  The HRS is a longitudinal study that has become known as the Nation’s leading resource for data on the combined health and economic conditions of older Americans.5
Caloric Restriction (CR) and Longevity
A large body of research indicates that a calorie-restricted diet, coupled with adequate nutrition, extends the life spans of protozoa, yeast, worms, spiders, flies, and rodents.  Research also suggests that calorie-restricted animals, including primates, tend to be more resistant to age-related chronic diseases and that restricting calories, while maintaining sufficient nutrient levels, is associated with lower cholesterol, serum glucose, and blood pressure levels.  Although scientists have been studying CR for years, only recently have they begun to decipher the cellular and molecular mechanisms that may mediate its positive effects.  Elucidation of these mechanisms, many believe, offers hope for advancing understanding of aging processes.  Ultimately, it could also help scientists identify drug targets or one day develop gene therapies or other interventions to prevent and treat some of the most prevalent aging-related diseases. ARRA funded research in this area includes:
  • Determining the biological mechanisms of caloric restriction, such as the role of insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1 signaling and the damage to cells caused by molecules that have a toxic effect, and the beneficial effects of caloric restriction including extended life span and reductions in the frequency of metabolic syndrome and diabetes.6
  • Identifying the microRNAs for regulating gene expression that could potentially shift metabolism into health promoting effects resulting from dietary restriction to limit fat accumulation and obesity, reduce age-associated disease, and delay functional declines that accompany normal aging.7
  • Identifying markers of biochemical and molecular signals that underlie the effects of diet, so that drugs that mimic these effects might be developed.8
  • Investigating the mechanism by which the enzyme TOR (target of rapamycin), mediates lifespan extension through dietary restriction.  TOR has the normal function of controlling cell growth in response to nutrients.9

  1. 2R01AG027576-25 -- Study of Osteoporotic Fractures -- Pittsburgh Clinical Center -- Jane Cauley (PA); 2 R01 AG005394-25 -- Study of Osteoporotic Fractures -- Kristine Ensrud (MN); 2R01AG027574-25 -- Study of Osteoporotic Fractures -- Portland Clinical Center -- Teresa A. Hillier (OR)
  2. 3R01AG029477-02S1 and 3R01AG029477-02S2 -- Hyponatremia-Induced Osteoporosis -- Joseph G. Verbalis (DC)
  3. 3U01AG012554-16A1S1 -- Study of Women's Health Across the Nation IV: UC Davis Site -- Ellen B. Gold (CA)
  4. 1R03AG029959-01A2 -- Obesity, Muscle Strength, and Disability in Older Mexican Americans and Elders from Latin America and the Caribbean -- Soham Al Snih (TX)
  5. 3U01AG009740-20S1 -- HRS 2010 Data Collection Supplement -- David R. Weir (MI)
  6. 3R01AG026012-04S1, -- IGF-I Signaling and Aging -- Martin L, Adamo (TX); 3R01AG019899-09S1 -- Interaction of Caloric Restriction with Longevity Genes -- Andrzej Bartke (IL); 3R01AG010026-17S1 -- Aging, Calorie Restriction and Insulin Signaling -- Gregory D. Cartee (MI)
  7. 3R21AG033369-01S1, and3R21AG033369-02S1 -- MicroRNA Modulators of Dietary Restriction -- Monica A. Driscoll (NJ)
  8. 1R01AG034297-01 -- Response to and Signals of Caloric Restriction and Intermittent Feeding Regimens -- Marc Kopel Hellerstein (CA)
  9. 1R01AG031337-01A1, --TORmRNATranslationandDietaryRestrictioninDrosophila--PankajKapahi(CA);1RC2AG036613-01 -- Can Rapamycin Retard Age-Related Diseases? -- Arlan G. Richardson (TX)

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Page Last Updated on June 30, 2018 NIH...Turning Discovery Into Health®