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How Restricting Calories Might Delay Aging

By December 10, 2012

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The fact that limited calorie diets enable mice and rats to life as much as 25% longer was first published in 1935. This effect was later seen with other animals and, even though similar studies on humans are obviously not possible, there is likely a similar effect. Basically, a severely restricted low-calorie diet that just provides all the essential nutrients extends the life of most animals. However, it is not been clear why.  Researchers at University of California's Gladstone Institutes may have just figured it out though.

Dr. Eric Verdin's laboratory has uncovered a connection between a restricted diet and aging. The lab found that one type of ketone body appears to increase the levels of two genes that have been associated with increased longevity and protection against oxidative stress.   Ketone bodies are produced when the body starts to run out of carbohydrates and begins breaking down fat to generate energy.  The β-hydroxybutyrate ketone body, a by-product of fat breakdown, acts to increase levels of both Foxo3a and Mt2.   The Foxo3a gene, in particular, has been previously associated with human longevity.

High levels of ketone bodies, of course, are toxic in other ways, and so, not generally healthy.   However, this study indicates that low levels of at least one type may help protect against age-related diseases such as Alzheimer's. This link "connects the dots" between nutrient metabolism and the aging process.

You can find more on this study in the press release from the Gladstone Institutes, and an overview on Science Daily. Also, you can read more about the food metabolism connection to aging in related article on this site discussing Linda Partridge's research. The article was published in Science on December 6.


December 11, 2012 at 12:02 pm
(1) Ben says:

So the headline was restricting calories but the article seamed to be pointing at reducing carbs? Did I miss something? Good news though. :)

December 12, 2012 at 11:58 pm
(2) Biotech Guide says:

Thanks for the comment Ben. You are sort of right. Ketones are produced when the body runs low on carbs. As complex sugars, carbohydrates are the first metabolized to make the simple sugars to produce energy (maintain blood sugar). If these are in short supply, the body chemistry starts breaking down fats. It’s this chemistry that produces the ketone by-products.

So, you are right in the sense that a body would likely exhaust its internal supply and reach this state sooner if less carbs are consumed. However, just reducing carb consumption may not increases ketones, which, according to this study, is the important point. It’s going to depend on several factors since body chemistry involves a lot of pathways, fail safes, chemical intermediates, reserves, etc.

At least one other review of this study, though, does jump to the low-carb diet conclusion (see Business Standard). It’s an over interpretation of what this study actually shows, but the results do suggest a reduced carb diet might help longevity.

— Paul

December 13, 2012 at 2:18 pm
(3) Kris says:

Don’t forget about the importance of physical activity. All benefical dietary manipulation may be for naught — if an organism doesn’t get exercise.
Check out this study from the Kapahi lab at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging:

This research establishes a link between DR-mediated metabolic activity in muscle, increased movement and the benefits derived from restricting nutrients. Flies on DR who could not move or had inhibited fat metabolism in their muscle did not exhibit an extended lifespan –arguing that restricting nutrients without physical activity may not be beneficial in humans. The research is published in the July 3, 2012 edition of Cell Metabolism.

August 30, 2013 at 6:35 am
(4) Murray says:

Hello, after reading this amazing piece of writing i am
as well happy to share my knowledge here with friends.

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