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Eating Less Slows Aging in Mice

A restricted calorie diet appears to have slowed aging in mice, according to a new study.
A restricted calorie diet appears to have slowed aging in mice, according to a new study.

Researchers say they may have found a way to stave off aging. They say you might need to eat less.

Writing in the journal Molecular & Cellular Proteomics, researchers from Brigham Young University say eating less can slow the aging of cells in the body.

Fewer calories slow down a mechanism in the cells called ribosomes, at least in mice. They are responsible for making vital proteins in the cells, but with fewer calories they slow down, giving them more time to repair themselves, researchers said.

Ribosomes, researchers say, use from 10 to 20 percent of the cell’s energy to make those proteins.

“Because of this, it's impractical to destroy an entire ribosome when it starts to malfunction,” said a news release about the study. “But repairing individual parts of the ribosome on a regular basis enables ribosomes to continue producing high quality proteins for longer than they would otherwise. This top quality production in turn keeps cells and the entire body functioning well.”

John Price, a biochemistry professor at Brigham Young and the senior author of the study, likens ribosomes to cars.

"The ribosome is a very complex machine, sort of like your car, and it periodically needs maintenance to replace the parts that wear out the fastest," he said. "When tires wear out, you don't throw the whole car away and buy new ones. It's cheaper to replace the tires."

To reach their conclusions, researchers looked at two groups of mice. One group was able to eat as much as it wanted, while the other group was put on a diet with 35 percent fewer calories.

"When you restrict calorie consumption, there's almost a linear increase in lifespan," Price said. "We inferred that the restriction caused real biochemical changes that slowed down the rate of aging."

While previous studies have suggested a link between lower calories and slowed aging, this is first to show how the ribosomes can influence aging.

"The calorie-restricted mice are more energetic and suffered fewer diseases," Price said. "And it's not just that they're living longer, but because they're better at maintaining their bodies, they're younger for longer as well."

Despite the findings, Price says calorie restriction as an anti-aging strategy has not been tested in humans. He did add that the main takeaway for people is the “the importance of taking care of our bodies.”

"Food isn't just material to be burned -- it's a signal that tells our body and cells how to respond," Price said. "We're getting down to the mechanisms of aging, which may help us make more educated decisions about what we eat."

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