While low-calorie diets have been linked to a longer lifespan in both animals and humans, the reason for the association has been unclear. Now researchers have evidence from studies in mice that cutting calories shields brain cells from the decline that comes with aging.
A study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests that calorie intake may help determine a person's risk for brain diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. As the mice aged, activity increased in genes responsible for inflammation and the stress response, two key factors related to cell damage. In addition, activity declined in genes involved in repairing cell damage. Inflammation in the brain is believed to be related to certain diseases such as Alzheimer's.
Since it is known that animals live longer on calorie restricted diets, the researchers expected that brain tissue from mice raised on low-calorie diets would show fewer aging-related gene shifts. Indeed, the scientists found the calorie-deprived mice had maintained a more youthful balance of gene activity in the brain. According to the lead investigators, it is possible that restricting energy intake results in basic changes in energy metabolism, which in turn helps regulate gene activity.
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