Low-calorie diet may extend lifespan
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; twice commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigative journalism. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Friday 27 August 1999
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."
- 1 Rowan Atkinson to sell £10 million McLaren 'supercar' he crashed into a tree and a lamppost
- 2 The truth about 'girl things': Three cheers for Heather Watson's honesty
- 3 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 4 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 5 Men behaving badly: Urinating while standing, 'manspreading' and the gendering of selfishness
Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
Edgar Froese dead: Tangerine Dream founder dies aged 70
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Syrian refugee child beaten by Istanbul Burger King manager for eating customer’s leftover food
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign
British Muslim leaders outraged after Eric Pickles says followers of Islam should 'prove their identity'
UK terror fears: My jihadist son returned from Syria mentally scarred – now he is being ignored
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
Billy Crystal: 'Stop shoving gay sex scenes in my face'
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...
Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...
£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...