Cut down on calories to live up to 100 years

Cut down on calories to live up to 100 years

Cut down on calories to live up to 100 years

Say ‘no’ to calories: say ‘yes’ to life. Getty images

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, University College London and Andrus Gerontology Centre, University of Southern California report that calorie restriction influences the same handful of molecular pathways related to ageing in all the organisms studied — from yeast to rodents to humans.

In less complex organisms, restricting calories can double or even triple lifespan. It’s not yet clear just how much longer calorie restriction might help humans live, but those who practice the strict diet may hope to survive past 100 years. Study co-author Luigi Fontana is less interested in calorie restriction for longer life than in its ability to promote good health throughout life.

“The focus of my research is not really to extend lifespan to 120 or 130 years,” said Fontana, research associate professor of medicine at WUSM-SL and investigator at the Istituto Superiore di Sanità in Rome, Italy.

“Right now, the average lifespan in Western countries is about 80, but there are too many people who are only healthy until about age 50,” he said. “We want to use the discoveries about calorie restriction and other related genetic or pharmacological interventions to close that 30-year gap between lifespan and ‘healthspan’,” Fontana said.

Fontana and co-authors write about how cutting calorie intake between 10 percent and 50 percent decreases the activity of pathways involving insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), glucose and TOR (target of rapamycin), and considerably increases lifespan in animals.

“About 30 percent of the animals on calorie restriction die at an advanced age without any diseases normally related to ageing (such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and cognitive problems),” Fontana says, according to a WUSM-SL release.

Unfortunately, many humans are moving in the opposite direction. As obesity reaches epidemic rates in Western countries, Fontana said rather than closing the 30-year gap between ‘healthspan’ and lifespan, the gap is likely to grow.

The findings were published in the Friday edition of ‘Science’.