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The secret to a long life? Calorie intake holds key to living longer.

Byline: Nicola Juncar

NEW research by North East academics has given an insight into why a low calorie diet can lead to a longer life.

Scientists have known for some time that a restricted diet can extend the lifespan of certain animals, but the work at Newcastle University shows how it affects ageing, even if the diet is adopted later in life.

It is hoped the work could help scientists to better understand, and ultimately prevent, a range of age-related diseases in humans.

The research conducted by scientists at the Centre for Integrated Systems Biology of Ageing and Nutrition (CISBAN) at Newcastle University.

Working with the theory that cell senescence - the point at which a cell can no longer replicate -is a major cause of ageing, the researchers set out to investigate what effect a restricted diet had on this process.

By looking at mice that had been fed a restricted diet the team found that they had a reduced build-up of senescent cells in their livers and intestines.

Both organs are known to accumulate large numbers of these cells as animals age.

Alongside this, the scientists also found that the "telomeres" of the chromosomes of the mice on restricted diets were better maintained despite their ageing.

Telomeres are the protective "ends" of chromosomes that prevent errors, and therefore diseases, occurring as DNA replicates throughout an organism's lifetime, but they are known to become eroded over time.

The adult mice were fed a restricted diet for a short period of time demonstrating that it may not be necessary to follow a very low calorie diet for a lifetime to gain the benefits the scientists found.

Lead researcher Chunfang Wang said: "Many people will have heard of the theory that eating a very low calorie diet can help to extend lifespan and there is a lot of evidence that this is true.

"However, we need a better understanding of what is actually happening in an organism on a restricted diet.

"Our research, which looked at parts of the body that easily show biological signs of ageing, suggests that a restricted diet can help to reduce the amount of cell senescence occurring and can reduce damage to protective telomeres.

"In turn this prevents the accumulation of damaging tissue which would normally lead to age-related disease."

Professor Thomas von Zglinicki, who oversaw the research, said: "It's exciting that our experiments found this effect even when food restriction was applied to animals in later life.

"We don't yet know if food restriction delays ageing in humans, and maybe we wouldn't want it. But at least we now know that interventions can work if started later.

"This proof of principle encourages us at CISBAN in our search for interventions that might in the foreseeable future be used to combat frailty in old patients."

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT Evidence suggests that, even in the elderly, cutting calories may extend life s p a n
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 17, 2010
Words:489
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