Fontana research associate professor of medicine at Washington University and an investigator at the Istituto Superiore di Sanità in Rome, Italy. and his 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.
About 30 percent of the animals on calorie restriction die at an advanced age without any diseases normally related to aging,” Fontana says. “In contrast, among animals on a standard diet, the great majority (94 percent) develop and die of one or more chronic diseases such as cancer or heart disease. In 30 percent to 50 percent of the animals on calorie restriction, or with genetic mutations in these aging-related pathways, health span is equal to lifespan. They eventually die, but they don’t get sick.”
“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. 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.’ However, by extending healthy lifespan, average lifespan also could increase up to 100 years of age.”
Fontana says as calorie restriction research advances on many fronts, it’s becoming clear that dietary advice once based on epidemiological data now makes sense from a molecular point of view. In the past, dietitians might recommend more fruits and vegetables or less meat and more whole grains. They based that advice on studies showing people who ate more vegetables or fewer animal products tended to have less cardiovascular disease.
“Now we have moved from epidemiology to molecular biology,” he says. “We know that certain nutrients, as well as lower calorie intake, can influence IGF-1 Soon we hope to be able to use that knowledge to help people live longer and healthier lives.
- Luigi Fontana, Linda Partridge, and Valter D. Longo. Extending Healthy Life Span — From Yeast to Humans. Science, 2010; 328 (5976): 321-326 DOI: 10.1126/science.1172539
- IPhotos courtesy of USA.gov
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