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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Night job: Pacha nightclub DJ, Joan Ribas, is the new kingmaker on the island
news
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family
film'I survived it, but I’ll never be the same,' says Arash Amel
Life and Style
Retailers should make good any consumer goods problems that occur within two years
tech(and what to do if you receive it)
Life and Style
healthIf one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
Life and Style
tech
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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer

£30 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL) i...

Guru Careers: Account Executive

£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive is needed to join one...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Software Engineer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software Developer / Software Engineer i...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada