From tales of The Fountain of Youth to modern day serums and creams that promise to smooth and plump, humans have long been interested in arresting the aging process. Naturally, a healthy diet and active lifestyle can go a long way towards promoting life and fostering a youthful glow, but this may not be the only key. A recent study published in Molecular & Cellular Proteomics suggests that how much one eats may actually slow the aging process.
In the study, one group of mice were given unlimited access to food, while the other consumed 35 percent fewer calories. Results showed that the mice eating a calorie-restricted diet lived longer, experienced more energy and fewer diseases. According to scientists of the study, “the restriction caused real biochemical changes that slowed down the rate of aging.
What is the calorie, aging connection?
The study authors found that when ribosomes – the cell’s protein makers – slow down, the aging process slows too. The decreased speed lowers production but gives the ribosomes extra time to repair themselves.
“The ribosome is a very complex machine, sort of like your car, and it periodically needs maintenance to replace the parts that wear out the fastest,” said Brigham Young University biochemistry professor and senior author John Price. “When tires wear out, you don’t throw the whole car away and buy new ones. It’s cheaper to replace the tires.”
Reduced calorie consumption was the key to slowing ribosomes, at least in mice.
Hmmm … but what about in humans?
These findings aren’t entirely shocking. Another study conducted in 1972 found that residents of the Japanese island Okinawa naturally consumed 17 percent fewer calories than the average Japanese person. The Okinawans lived an average of a year and a half longer than those on the mainland and were 60 to 70 percent less likely to die of heart disease, cancer and cerebral vascular diseases.
Still, before you start diligently counting calories, the study authors warn that calorie-restriction has not been properly tested on humans and suggest instead that their findings impart the importance of a healthy diet. “The essential message is understanding the importance of taking care of our bodies,” study authors told Science Daily.
What is a “healthy” diet?
We like Michael Pollan’s Three Simple Rules for Eating:
- Eat Food: That means food that is unprocessed and doesn’t come from a factory. Shop primarily from the perimeter of your grocery store.
- Not too much: One key to not overeating is making sure your meals are satiating. Protein and fat send signals to your brain that you’re full faster than bread, pasta and fruit. Make sure your meals include both.
- Mostly Plants: Make plants the superstars of your diet. Rather than thinking of protein as the main, consider meat and fat as the side dish.