Studies were carried out on specific pathogen-free rats to evaluate the effects of aging and dietary manipulation on serum and thyroid calcitonin (CT) levels. Male Fischer 344 rats were randomized at 6 weeks of age to six dietary groups and subsequently maintained on the following dietary regimens. Group 1 rats were fed ad libitum throughout life; group 2 rats were fed 60% of the ad libitum food uptake, but received the same amounts of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D; group 3 rats were fed as the group 2 animals until 6 months of age and from then on were fed ad libitum; group 4 rats were fed ad libitum until 6 months of age and then switched to 60% food restriction; group 5 rats were fed ad libitum on food isocaloric with that of group 1 rats, but containing only 60% of the protein. Group 6 rats were killed at 6 weeks of age to serve as baseline controls. Ten rats were killed in each of the remaining five groups 15 h postprandial at 6-month intervals. The following observations were made. Serum CT increased with age similarly in the ad libitum fed group 1 and 5 rats. Food restriction markedly inhibited the increase in serum CT, and the effect was more profound in animals whose food intake was restricted after 6 months of age (group 4) than in animals on lifelong food restriction (group 2). In rats switched from food restriction to ad libitum feeding (group 3) at 6 months of age, serum CT increased with age to levels identical with those of lifelong ad libitum fed group 1 animals. Thyroid CT showed a similar pattern of age-dependent and dietary modulated changes. In contrast, aging and dietary modulation had no appreciable effect on serum calcium levels, except at 27 months of age when the serum calcium level of group 1 animals increased dramatically from the level for 24-month-old animals. There was a weak positive correlation between serum calcium and serum CT (r = 0.627; P = 0.02) and a highly significant positive correlation between serum CT and thyroid CT (r = 0.917; P = 0.001). These findings indicate that elective and therapeutic restriction of food intake might also attenuate CT levels in humans, with potentially adverse implications for skeletal homeostasis.
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