Another mince pie? Scientists find the secret to a long, indulgent life

Drug may offer gluttons anti-ageing benefits of low-calorie diet

It is a challenging time of year to be told that eating less is good for you but evidence has for a long time suggested that cutting down on calories extends life.

Now Italian researchers have identified a molecule produced when people diet that could lead to the development of a drug that mimics the effect of restraint, offering a longer life without the need for self-denial.

Experiments have shown that curbing the amount of food rats eat can extend their lives by 25 to 40 per cent. However, anti-ageing benefits are lost when the rats return to a normal diet.

Among humans, the population of the tropical Okinawan islands in Japan's extreme south-west are home to more than twice the national average of centenarians. As well as having a healthy diet, their longevity is attributed to their cultural habit of calorie control called hara hachi bu – or "eat until you are 80 per cent full".

Italian scientists from the Catholic University of Sacred Heart in Rome have now come a step closer to understanding how dieting works. It causes the body to activate a molecule called Creb1 which in turn activates another set of molecules linked to longevity called the sirtuins.

While overeating ages the brain and can lead to Alzheimer's disease, calorie restriction increases the activity of Creb1 which is known to regulate memory and learning. Research in mice has shown that if they lack the molecule, the benefits in terms of improved memory from cutting down calorie intake are not seen.

Giovambattista Pani, who led the study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said: "Our findings identify for the first time an important mediator for the effects of diet on the brain. Our hope is to find a way to activate Creb1, for example through new drugs, to keep the brain young without the need for a strict diet." Biologists believe that restricting calories causes animals to go into a state normally reserved for near starvation.

Instead of spending their energy reserves on reproduction, they shut down everything but their basic body maintenance, in preparation for a future time when breeding would stand a better chance of success.

Self-preservation: how to stay healthy

* Jeanne Calment, the oldest person in history, who died in 1997 aged 122, attributed her longevity to a diet rich in olive oil, port and "regular smiling".

* Cleopatra, queen of ancient Egypt, took baths of asses' milk to preserve the beauty and youth of her skin.

* In 18th-century France, noblemen were obsessed with the quest for longevity. Some believed that if you found a magic formula it should be stored inside a clock, literally to hold back time.

* Seaweed-eating nations often have higher-than-average life expectancies. In Iceland dried seaweed known as sol is credited with helping nationals to live, on average, to 83, thanks to its fat-absorbing qualities.

* Your parents make a difference if you want to live to a grand age – genetic inheritance plays the most important part.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Manager

    £50 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Mana...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments