It seems that there may be more reasons than ever to lose a bit of weight and follow a calorie restricted diet. Not only will your trousers fit better, but you may also be able to help ward off the aging process – for a while, anyway!
At least, it has been proved to work with mice. Researchers have found that mice which were made to follow a calorie restricted diet actually aged less quickly than their better fed counterparts.
This research was the undertaking of the University of California, together with their Spanish colleagues in Barcelona.
And the outcome of the research was published in the medical journal Cell.
It was shown that when mice grow older, the stem cells are every bit as busy as they were when they were younger, but the way they behave is different. Instead of simply acting as a way of maintaining tissue, there is more emphasis on things such as coping with stress and regenerating faulty DNA.
Why this happens has been explained by changes in the circadian functions, which come when cells grow older.
This breakthrough would seem to contradict the previous theory that during the aging process stem cells will slowly begin to forget their circadian rhythm.
This is the daily sphere of regular activity, which happens in a bunch of genes.
However, it was actually found that these aging stem cells still kept their circadian rhythm, but had to come up with more activity in order to solve the problems of aging.
This revelation is being taken seriously by scientists and researchers in the arena of cancer.
To conduct their studies, the participants in the study looked at the differences in stem cells which were taken from mice aged three months and then older ones, who were aged between eighteen and twenty two months.
The researchers looked at the stem cells taken from the livers, muscle and skins of the animals.
Unlike previous assumptions about the circadian rhythm function, it was seen that the ‘senior citizen’ mice had just as much rhythm as their junior brethren did. It was just that they worked in different ways.
In the younger creatures, their rhythm helps to oversee the cell functions such as maintaining tissue and recovering from injury. It is also responsible for helping conserve energy when it is not needed and saving it for when it is. Stress management is another important part of its job.
But in the senior citizen rodents, their circadian rhythm mechanisms were in charge of other activities. These included repairing inflammation, reconstructing damaged DNA and helping with the stress process.
Although the research team were unable to find what causes the changes which happen when mice get older, they did notice that it varied depending on which tissue they studied.
This would seem to indicate, they say, that for every tissue in the body, the aging process is different, which needs to be understood fully before working out how to slow it down successfully.
What was for sure, was that the mice being fed a calorie controlled diet had circadian rhythms which were the same as they had been when they were younger. But in the control group of the mice eating normally, they had slowly changed to show some level of circadian reprogramming.
Unfortunately, the amount of calorie restriction necessary to see the change in the mice, may be a little too draconian for most humans to stomach, long term. It would involve near constant hunger and the possibility of energy lapses, which could contribute to problems in themselves.
In mice, at the very least, it would seem a controlled diet helps immensely in slowing down the sands of time. However, the professor undertaking the study is quick to stress this is only in mice and has not been proved in humans!