Scientists find genetic mechanism linking aging to specific diets

January 27, 2014

Your best friend swears by the Paleo Diet. Your boss loves Atkins. Your sister is gluten-free, and your roommate is an acolyte of Michael Pollan. So who's right? Maybe they all are.

In new research published this month in Cell Metabolism, USC scientists Sean Curran and Shanshan Pang identify a collection of genes that allow an organism to adapt to different diets and show that without them, even minor tweaks to diet can cause premature aging and death.

Finding a genetic basis for an organism's dietary needs suggests that different individuals may be genetically predisposed to thrive on different diets – and that now, in the age of commercial gene sequencing, people might be able to identify which diet would work best for them through a simple blood test.

"These studies have revealed that single gene mutations can alter the ability of an organism to utilize a specific diet. In humans, small differences in a person's genetic makeup that change how well these genes function, could explain why certain diets work for some but not others," said Curran, corresponding author of the study and assistant professor with joint appointments in the USC Davis School of Gerontology, the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, and the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Curran and Pang studied Caenorhabditis elegans, a one-milimeter-long worm that scientists have used as a since the '70s. Decades of tests have shown that genes in C. elegans are likely to be mirrored in humans while its short lifespan allows scientists to do aging studies on it.

In this study, Curran and Pang identified a gene called alh-6, which delayed the effects of aging depending on what type of diet the worm was fed by protecting it against diet-induced mitochondrial defects.

"This gene is remarkably well-conserved from single celled yeast all the way up to mammals, which suggests that what we have learned in the worm could translate to a better understanding of the factors that alter diet success in humans," Curran said.

Future work will focus on identifying what contributes to dietary success or failure, and whether these factors explain why specific diets don't work for everyone. This could be the start of personalized dieting based on an individual's genetic makeup, according to Curran.

"We hope to uncover ways to enhance the use of any dietary program and perhaps even figure out ways of overriding the system(s) that prevent the use of one in certain individuals," he said.

Explore further: Scientists tie dietary influences to changes in gene expression and physiology

Related Stories

Scientists tie dietary influences to changes in gene expression and physiology

March 28, 2013
Sometimes you just can't resist a tiny piece of chocolate cake. Even the most health-conscious eaters find themselves indulging in junk foods from time to time. New research by scientists at the University of Massachusetts ...

Popular blood type diet debunked

January 15, 2014
Researchers from the University of Toronto (U of T) have found that the theory behind the popular blood type diet—which claims an individual's nutritional needs vary by blood type—is not valid. The findings are published ...

Experts say paleo diet is worst, DASH diet is best

January 8, 2014
(HealthDay)—The controversial Paleo Diet was last on the 2014 "Best Diets List" from U.S. News & World Report, while the DASH plan was named the best overall diet.

Genetic makeup and diet interact with the microbiome to impact health

September 25, 2013
A Mayo Clinic researcher, along with his collaborators, has shown that an individual's genomic makeup and diet interact to determine which microbes exist and how they act in the host intestine. The study was modeled in germ-free ...

Diabetics benefit from high-protein diets without risk, study finds

January 15, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Obese people with diabetes are able to lose weight on high-protein diets and see improvement in both cardiovascular and renal health, despite initial concerns about the impact on their renal health.

Fathers' diet, bodyweight and health at conception may contribute to obesity in offspring

January 16, 2014
Research involving rats suggests that there is a biological link between paternal diet, bodyweight and health at the time of conception and the health of his offspring. In a new research report published online in The FASEB ...

Recommended for you

A rogue gene is causing seizures in babies—here's how scientists wants to stop it

July 26, 2017
Two rare diseases caused by a malfunctioning gene that triggers seizures or involuntary movements in children as early as a few days old have left scientists searching for answers and better treatment options.

Scientists provide insight into genetic basis of neuropsychiatric disorders

July 21, 2017
A study by scientists at the Children's Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) is providing insight into the genetic basis of neuropsychiatric disorders. In this research, the first mouse model of a mutation ...

Scientists identify new way cells turn off genes

July 19, 2017
Cells have more than one trick up their sleeve for controlling certain genes that regulate fetal growth and development.

South Asian genomes could be boon for disease research, scientists say

July 18, 2017
The Indian subcontinent's massive population is nearing 1.5 billion according to recent accounts. But that population is far from monolithic; it's made up of nearly 5,000 well-defined sub-groups, making the region one of ...

Mutant yeast reveals details of the aberrant genomic machinery of children's high-grade gliomas

July 18, 2017
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital biologists have used engineered yeast cells to discover how a mutation that is frequently found in pediatric brain tumor high-grade glioma triggers a cascade of genomic malfunctions.

Late-breaking mutations may play an important role in autism

July 17, 2017
A study of nearly 6,000 families, combining three genetic sequencing technologies, finds that mutations that occur after conception play an important role in autism. A team led by investigators at Boston Children's Hospital ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.