How eating less can slow the aging process

February 13, 2017
John Price. Credit: Nate Edwards/BYU Photo

There's a multi-billion-dollar industry devoted to products that fight signs of aging, but moisturizers only go skin deep. Aging occurs deeper—at a cellular level—and scientists have found that eating less can slow this cellular process.

Recent research published in Molecular & Cellular Proteomics offers one glimpse into how cutting calories impacts aging inside a cell. The researchers found that when ribosomes—the cell's protein makers—slow down, the aging process slows too. The decreased speed lowers production but gives 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."

So what causes ribosome production to slow down in the first place? At least for mice: reduced .

Price and his fellow researchers observed two groups of mice. One group had unlimited access to food while the other was restricted to consume 35 percent fewer calories, though still receiving all the necessary nutrients for survival.

"When you restrict calorie consumption, there's almost a linear increase in lifespan," Price said. "We inferred that the restriction caused real biochemical changes that slowed down the rate of aging."

Price's team isn't the first to make the connection between cut calories and lifespan, but they were the first to show that general protein synthesis slows down and to recognize the ribosome's role in facilitating those youth-extending .

"The calorie-restricted mice are more energetic and suffered fewer diseases," Price said. "And it's not just that they're living longer, but because they're better at maintaining their bodies, they're younger for longer as well."

Ribosomes, like cars, are expensive and important—they use 10-20 percent of the cell's total energy to build all the proteins necessary for the cell to operate. Because of this, it's impractical to destroy an entire ribosome when it starts to malfunction. But repairing individual parts of the ribosome on a regular basis enables ribosomes to continue producing high-quality proteins for longer than they would otherwise. This top-quality production in turn keeps cells and the entire body functioning well.

Despite this study's observed connection between consuming fewer calories and improved lifespan, Price assured that people shouldn't start counting calories and expect to stay forever young. Calorie restriction has not been tested in humans as an anti-aging strategy, and the essential message is understanding the importance of taking care of our bodies.

"Food isn't just material to be burned—it's a signal that tells our body and cells how to respond," Price said. "We're getting down to the mechanisms of aging, which may help us make more educated decisions about what we eat."

Explore further: Calorie-restricting diets slow aging, study finds

More information: Andrew D. Mathis et al, Mechanisms ofRibosome Maintenance Change in Response to Nutrient Signals, Molecular & Cellular Proteomics (2017). DOI: 10.1074/mcp.M116.063255

Related Stories

Calorie-restricting diets slow aging, study finds

November 17, 2014
The adage 'you are what you eat' has been around for years. Now, important new research provides another reason to be careful with your calories.

Recommended for you

Inflammation trains the skin to heal faster

October 18, 2017
Scars may fade, but the skin remembers. New research from The Rockefeller University reveals that wounds or other harmful, inflammation-provoking experiences impart long-lasting memories to stem cells residing in the skin, ...

Large variety of microbial communities found to live along female reproductive tract

October 18, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A large team of researchers from China (and one each from Norway and Denmark) has found that the female reproductive tract is host to a far richer microbial community than has been thought. In their paper ...

Study of what makes cells resistant to radiation could improve cancer treatments

October 18, 2017
A Johns Hopkins University biologist is part of a research team that has demonstrated a way to size up a cell's resistance to radiation, a step that could eventually help improve cancer treatments.

New approach helps rodents with spinal cord injury breathe on their own

October 17, 2017
One of the most severe consequences of spinal cord injury in the neck is losing the ability to control the diaphragm and breathe on one's own. Now, investigators show for the first time in laboratory models that two different ...

Pair of discoveries illuminate new paths to flu and anthrax treatments

October 17, 2017
Two recent studies led by biologists at the University of California San Diego have set the research groundwork for new avenues to treat influenza and anthrax poisoning.

New method to measure how drugs interact

October 17, 2017
Cancer, HIV and tuberculosis are among the many serious diseases that are frequently treated with combinations of three or more drugs, over months or even years. Developing the most effective therapies for such diseases requires ...

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.