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Last updated on April 21, 2014 at 5:04 EDT

Herbal Supplement Dramatically Increases Lifespan Of Flies

June 19, 2013
Image Credit: kostrez / Shutterstock

Rebekah Eliason for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

Rhodiola rosea, a yellow-flowered mountain plant used in many countries for stress relief, has recently been found to increase the lifespan of fruit flies by 24 percent on average.

Unique to UC Irvine researches is the way in which Rhodiola, commonly known as golden root, increases longevity. Study leaders Mahtab Jafari and Sam Schriner noticed that golden root works entirely separate from dietary restriction, even affecting different molecular pathways.

Jafari, an associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences, explained that this is significant because dietary restriction is considered the most robust method of improving lifespan in laboratory animals, and scientists have been scrambling to identify compounds that can mimic its effects.

“We found that Rhodiola actually increases lifespan on top of that of dietary restriction,” Jafari said. “It demonstrates that Rhodiola can act even in individuals who are already long-lived and healthy. This is quite unlike resveratrol, which appears to only act in overfed or unhealthy individuals.”

Flies were put on a calorie-restricted diet to prove Rhodiola works apart from dietary restriction. When flies consume less yeast, it has been proven to increase their lifespan. Jafari and Schriner hypothesized that flies on a yeast restricted diet would not be affected by Rhodiola if it worked in the same manner as dietary restriction. But it still worked. Flies that had the molecular pathways for dietary restrictions genetically deactivated were also still affected by Rhodiola.

In addition to Rhodiola increasing the lifespan of flies by about 24 percent, it also slowed the decay of physical performance in aging flies and extended the life of already elderly flies. Previous studies by Jafari´s research group had shown that Rhodiola extract reduced the natural production of oxygen molecules in fly mithochondria along with protecting flies and cultured human cells against oxidative stress.

Jafari and Schriner are not using this study to claim that Rhodiola will increase the lifespan of humans, but their research has improved scientific understanding of how herbal supplements that claim to increase longevity actually work in the body.

Aside from extending lifespan, Rhodiola has shown health benefits including decreased fatigue, anxiety and depression; boosting mood, memory and stamina; and preventing altitude sickness. When grown in cold climates at high elevations, Rhodiola has been used for centuries to reduce stress by Scandinavians and Russians. It also is thought to possess antioxidant properties.

Currently Jafari´s research group is exploring the herbs potential to kill cancer cells, improve Alzheimer´s disease and help stem cells grow.


Source: Rebekah Eliason for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online