Intrinsic cardiorespiratory fitness modulates clinical and molecular response to caloric restriction

Johanna Y. Fleischman, Nathan R. Qi, Mary K. Treutelaar, Steven L. Britton, ... Charles F. Burant


Caloric restriction (CR) is one extrinsic intervention that can improve metabolic health, and it shares many phenotypical parallels with intrinsic high cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), including reduced adiposity, increased cardiometabolic health, and increased longevity. CRF is a highly heritable trait in humans and has been established in a genetic rat model selectively bred for high (HCR) and low (LCR) CRF, in which the HCR live longer and have reduced body weight compared to LCR. This study addresses whether the inherited high CRF phenotype occurs through similar mechanisms by which CR promotes health and longevity.


We compared HCR and LCR male rats fed ad libitum (AL) or calorically restricted (CR) for multiple physiological, metabolic, and molecular traits, including running capacity at 2, 8, and 12 months; per-hour metabolic cage activity over daily cycles at 6 and 12 months; and plasma lipidomics, liver and muscle transcriptomics, and body composition after 12 months of treatment.


LCR-CR developed a physiological profile that mirrors the high-CRF phenotype in HCR-AL, including reduced adiposity and increased insulin sensitivity. HCR show higher spontaneous activity than LCR. Temporal modeling of hourly energy expenditure (EE) dynamics during the day, adjusted for body weight and hourly activity levels, suggest that CR has an EE-suppressing effect, and high-CRF has an EE-enhancing effect. Pathway analysis of gene transcripts indicates that HCR and LCR both show a response to CR that is similar in the muscle and different in the liver.


CR provides LCR a health-associated positive effect on physiological parameters that strongly resemble HCR. Analysis of whole-body EE and transcriptomics suggests that HCR and LCR show line-dependent responses to CR that may be accreditable to difference in genetic makeup. The results do not preclude the possibility that CRF and CR pathways may converge.