March 18, 2014
Low Nutrient Diet Could Be Key To Longevity
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A diet very low in nutrients has been shown to extend the lifespan of laboratory animals, according to a finding reported in BioEssays.
Researchers at the University of New South Wales have performed a study that could hold clues to promote healthier aging in humans. The study works off the idea that severely restricted food intake reduces the incidence of diseases of old age and increases lifespan.
“This effect has been demonstrated in laboratories around the world, in species ranging from yeast to flies to mice. There is also some evidence that it occurs in primates,” lead author, Dr Margo Adler, an evolutionary biologist at UNSW Australia, said in a statement.
The researchers say that lifespan extension through this dietary method is unlikely to occur in the wild because dietary restriction compromises the immune system’s ability to fight off disease and reduces the muscle strength necessary to flee.
“Unlike in the benign conditions of the lab, most animals in the wild are killed young by parasites or predators,” said Adler. “Since dietary restriction appears to extend lifespan in the lab by reducing old-age diseases, it is unlikely to have the same effect on wild animals, which generally don’t live long enough to be affected by cancer and other late-life pathologies.”
However, the team says that dietary restriction does lead to increased rates of cellular recycling and repair mechanisms in the body. This finding could one day cross over to help the aging population fight off illnesses due to old age. The team says that it may be possible to develop drugs in the future that help mimic this effect.
The researchers claim that this dietary effect evolved to help animals continue to reproduce when food is scarce. Animals require less food to survive during times of famine because stored nutrients in the cells can be recycle and reused. This effect could account for the increase lifespan of laboratory animals on very low-nutrient diets, because increased cellular recycling reduces deterioration and the risk of cancer.
“This is the most intriguing aspect, from a human health stand point. Although extended lifespan may simply be a side effect of dietary restriction, a better understanding of these cellular recycling mechanisms that drive the effect may hold the promise of longer, healthier lives for humans,” Adler says.