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Research: Diet can prolong life
Diets can slow biological aging, as US researchers at Temple University in Philadelphia found in a large piece of work. The cycle of the biological clock can be demonstrably slowed down. The researchers demonstrated their success with the help of an evaluation of special changes in the genome. The findings were published in the science magazine “Nature Communications”.
As part of the studies, monkeys were fed a diet. The animals were given the same food as before, but the amount was reduced. The researchers then used blood samples to investigate how epigenetic changes in the animal genome took place. Small substances accumulated on the DNA and blocked the gene activity. The experimental animals on diet showed less epigenetic changes in old age. Because the more changes that accumulate on the DNA, the lower the life expectancy.
"The researchers found a biomarker for age in one of the closest relatives of humans," commented Oliver Hahn from the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Aging in Cologne. "It is the first study that systematically examines in mice, monkeys and humans how food can influence the speed of aging," said Holger Bierhoff, head of the "Epigenetics of Aging" working group at the University of Jena .
It has been known for a long time that so-called caloric restrictions lead to increased life expectancy. However, too much diet should not be followed. It is important not to exceed a certain limit, as the researchers warn. "There is more and more evidence that reducing calories also has a positive 'anti-aging' effect in humans," says Bierhoff.
Eating less can protect against aging
In another study, scientists from Cologne and Great Britain have already found in mice that older animals have a certain epigenetic change in some genes: DNA methylation of this kind could be prevented if the mice consumed fewer calories: one by 40 percent As a result, reduced food intake extended the lifespan by 30 percent. According to the researchers, genes that control fat metabolism are switched off epigenetically when food is reduced.
This increased breakdown of fats protects the body from age-related increased fat deposits in the liver and ultimately from the development of insulin resistance, a typical feature of diabetes. “Eating less can sometimes protect against changes in the methylation pattern caused by aging and at the same time boost fat metabolism. That seems to trigger beneficial changes in the body, ”explains Oliver Hahn, a PhD student in the Partridge department at the Max Planck Institute for the Biology of Aging. Wolf Reik from the Babraham Institute adds: "The influence of the epigenome on fat metabolism shows how important epigenetics is for the aging process."
Change of diet instead of permanent diet
In order to slow down the ticking of the life clock, it is not necessary to maintain a permanent diet. For example, it is enough to change the food composition. So it makes sense to significantly reduce the amount of simple sugar, such as that contained in sweets, and instead eat complex carbohydrates, such as those found in vegetables. Epigeneticist Steve Horvath from the University of California at Los Angeles generally advises more vegetables, fish and not too much alcohol. Fasting is also effective, as Bierhoff advises. Short-term fasting does not consume food for 16 hours. "It has the same positive effect as long fasting cures," says Bierhoff. (sb)