Low-calorie diet may extend lifespan

SCIENTISTS HAVE for the first time witnessed the many genetic changes that take place during ageing and have found evidence to support the idea that low-calorie diets can extend lifespan.

The findings support the theory that as the body grows old it is less able to repair the damage caused by a gradual build-up of toxic by-products, such as highly active "free radicals" produced during chemical oxidation within the cells.

It is thought that restricting calorie intake, provided that other nutrients are taken at normal levels, slows down the production of these toxins, thereby delaying the ageing process.

Some genes are likely to be responsible for mopping up the toxins before they do much damage. The latest research is a way of identifying these genes, which could possibly lead to developing new drugs to augment their activity.

Calorie restriction appears to delay the onset of ageing in part by interfering with the way genes are switched on or off as people get older, the researchers believe.

By studying changes in the activity levels of about 3,400 genes in laboratory mice fed on a low-calorie diet, the scientists found that a small percentage of these genes played a direct part in determining lifespan.

The scientists believe that the work could open the way to new insights into human ageing and how it can be slowed down by changes in diet and lifestyle, which could have a direct influence on some genes.

Previous work on rats has indicated that caloric restriction - where the diet has up to 30 per cent fewer calories but normal nutrient levels - can significantly extend lifespan, although there has not been any direct evidence yet that the same is true for humans.

The latest study by Tomas Prolla, professor of genetics, and Richard Weindruch, professor of medicine, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison demonstrated that about 2 per cent of the genes studied were affected by ageing. The genes appear directly to influence the body's response to such age- related things as stress, tissue repair and energy production.

"This study has analysed more genes with regard to ageing than all previous studies combined," Professor Prolla said. "At the molecular level, normal ageing looks like a state of chronic injury."

Half the mice in the study - published in the journal Science - were placed on calorie- restricted diets from an early age and their genes showed just how the animals adapted to the reduced intake of energy.

"This is a big leap in understanding how a reduced-calorie diet works. There hasn't been much consensus on how calorie restriction retards ageing," Professor Weindruch said. "We now know which sets of genes that change with ageing are affected by caloric restriction. We think this technology has led us to a panel of molecular markers of ageing which will enable use to screen panels of potential anti-ageing drugs."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
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.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us