Study: Eating less keeps the brain young

Overeating may cause brain aging while eating less turns on a molecule that helps the brain stay young.

A team of Italian researchers at the Catholic University of Sacred Heart in Rome have discovered that this molecule, called CREB1, is triggered by "" (low caloric diet) in the of mice. They found that CREB1 activates many genes linked to longevity and to the proper functioning of the brain.

This work was led by Giovambattista Pani, researcher at the Institute of General Pathology, Faculty of Medicine at the Catholic University of Sacred Heart in Rome, directed by Professor Achille Cittadini, in collaboration with Professor Claudio Grassi of the Institute of . The research appears this week in the (PNAS).

"Our hope is to find a way to activate CREB1, for example through , so to keep the brain young without the need of a ," Dr Pani said.

Caloric restriction means the animals can only eat up to 70 percent of the food they consume normally, and is a known experimental way to extend life, as seen in many experimental models. Typically, caloric-restricted mice do not become obese and don't develop diabetes; moreover they show greater and memory, are less aggressive. Furthermore they do not develop, if not much later, Alzheimer's disease and with less severe symptoms than in overfed animals.

Many studies suggest that obesity is bad for our brain, slows it down, causes early brain aging, making it susceptible to diseases typical of older people as the Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. In contrast, caloric restriction keeps the brain young. Nevertheless, the precise behind the positive effects of an hypocaloric diet on the brain remained unknown till now.

The Italian team discovered that CREB1 is the molecule activated by caloric restriction and that it mediates the beneficial effects of the diet on the brain by turning on another group of molecules linked to longevity, the "sirtuins". This finding is consistent with the fact that CREB1 is known to regulate important brain functions as memory, learning and anxiety control, and its activity is reduced or physiologically compromised by aging.

Moreover, Italian researchers have discovered that the action of CREB1 can be dramatically increased by simply reducing caloric intake, and have shown that CREB is absolutely essential to make caloric restriction work on the brain. In fact, if mice lack CREB1 the benefits of caloric restriction on the brain (improving memory, etc.) disappear. So the animals without CREB1 show the same brain disabilities typical of overfed and/or old animals.

"Thus, our findings identify for the first time an important mediator of the effects of diet on the brain," Dr. Pani said. "This discovery has important implications to develop future therapies to keep our brain young and prevent brain degeneration and the aging process. In addition, our study shed light on the correlation among metabolic diseases as diabetes and obesity and the decline in cognitive activities."

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Citation: Study: Eating less keeps the brain young (2011, December 19) retrieved 26 June 2019 from
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Dec 20, 2011
Calorie Restriction mimetics, most well known and researched of which is transmax resveratrol, a concentrated form of trans-resveratrol, have been shown to produce the same, if not greater, effects as calorie restriction. Also, intermittent fasting, without actually reducing total caloric intake, seems to be more efficacious in potentiating the signaling pathways modulated by CR.

Dec 20, 2011
@jamesinraro Kudos!

Dec 20, 2011
You must be reading different studies than I am, because I have come to completely different conclusions.

No, your wrong on both accounts.

Reservetrol does nothing for humans. You are a victim of marketing.

Intermittent fasting does not enhance longevity without reducing caloric intake. Sorry, you can't have your cake and eat it too!


Dec 20, 2011
Mr G
Then how come the French have fatty diets but live longer than most people in the world on average? Likely because they include red wine in their regular diet.

Dec 21, 2011
Hmmm, I eat one healthy meal a day, and fast once a week, I have for over 20 years. I weigh 145, curiously that's my IQ as well.

Dec 22, 2011
>Hmmm, I eat one healthy meal a day, and fast once a week, I have for over 20 years. I weigh 145, curiously that's my IQ as well.

Sounds like calorie restriction to me unless you are eating enormous meals. I admire your discipline and hope you live until your 120.


Dec 22, 2011
>Then how come the French have fatty diets but live longer than most people in the world on average? Likely because they include red wine in their regular diet

The French Paradox is a myth.

From Wiki: French Paradox

"Many experts believe that it is a health myth caused by errors in health-data reporting on the incidence of heart disease in France."

Red wine may be no better for you than white wine or other alcoholic beverages.

"There is a lack of medical consensus about whether moderate consumption of beer, wine, or distilled spirits has a stronger association with longevity. Of ten major studies, three found stronger evidence for wine, three for beer, three for liquor, and one study found no difference between alcoholic beverages."

Resveratrol is big business. Resveratrol is just another health supplement that has little evidence behind its efficacy.

Don't buy into the hype.


Dec 22, 2011
Got my transmax today. Felt like 50% more energy. Usually have three teas by now, but today I forgot I had even brought it along. My reflexes feel sharpened, though I still can't catch flies in the air. Left the wheels at home and walked 9 kilometers to the meeting.

Dec 26, 2011
What would happen with a diet that alternate between being extremely fat and thin - like a polar bear?

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