50+ health * Healthy living * Weight loss

"Anti-Atkins" diet extends life...

low protein diet can extend life ...in flies. It's a start!

The high protein Atkins diet was a fad among weight obsessed celebrities some years ago. Now a new study suggests that a low protein diet may be able to extend life - at least in flies.

Although a reduced protein diet leads to an overall reduction in the body's processing of proteins for energy, the study found a surprising increase in one particular mechanism in the body's cells responsible for the generation of energy from nutrients.

Even more surprisingly, when the scientists turned this process off by genetic manipulation, the low protein diet had no effect on lifespan, and when they enhanced its effectiveness they were able to extend the lifespan of flies even when fed a high protein diet.

Study leader Pankaj Kapahi said: "In flies, we see that the long-lived diet is a low protein diet and what we have found here is a mechanism for how that may be working."

The results, which appear in the October edition of the journal Cell, also provide a new level of understanding of the regulation of mitochondrial genes and suggests new areas of research into the interplay between mitochondrial function, diet and energy metabolism.

Mitochondria act as the "powerhouse" of the cells. It's well known that mitochondrial function declines with age in many animal species, and in humans with Type II diabetes and obesity. "Our study shows that dietary restriction can enhance mitochondrial function hence offsetting the age-related decline in its performance," said Dr Kapahi.

These results follow on from other studies that have suggested that reducing your calories can lead to longer and healthier life spans for a number of different animals. So far these findings have not been confirmed in humans.

This article was published on Fri 2 October 2009

Image © Irina Yun - Fotolia.com

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