Low-protein high-carb diet shows promise for healthy brain aging

November 20, 2018, University of Sydney
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Low-protein high-carbohydrate diets may be the key to longevity, and healthy brain ageing in particular, according to a new mice study from the University of Sydney.

Published today in Cell Reports, the research from the University's Charles Perkins Centre shows improvements in overall health and health, as well as learning and in mice that were fed an unrestricted low protein high carbohydrate .

"There are currently no effective pharmaceutical treatments for dementia—we can slow these diseases, but we can't stop them—so it's exciting that we are starting to identify diets that are impacting how the brain ages," said lead author and Ph.D. candidate Devin Wahl.

The research shows for the first time that unrestricted low-protein, high-carbohydrate diets have similar protective benefits for the brain as calorie restriction, which is well known for its longevity benefits although not sustainable in humans.

"We have close to 100 years of quality research extolling the benefits of as the most powerful diet to improve and delay the onset of neurodegenerative disease in rodents," said Mr Wahl.

"However, the majority of people have a hard time restricting calories, especially in Western societies where food is so freely available.

"It shows a lot of promise that we have been able to replicate the same kind of gene changes in the part of the brain responsible for memory that we also see when we severely restrict calories," said Mr Wahl.

Low-protein high-carbohydrate diets are by no means a new fad.

Senior author Professor David Le Couteur said numerous cultures including the people of Okinawa in Japan and many parts of the Mediterranean have long observed this mix."The traditional diet of Okinawa is around nine percent protein, which is similar to our study, with sources including lean fish, soy and plants, with very little beef. Interestingly, one of their main sources of carbohydrate is sweet potato," said Professor Couteur, Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Sydney.

For the current study, researchers fed the mice complex carbohydrates derived from starch, and casein protein which is found in cheese and milk.

To assess the brain benefits of the diet the researchers focused on the hippocampus, the region of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

"The hippocampus is usually the first part of the brain to deteriorate with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. However, the low-protein appeared to promote hippocampus health and biology in the mice, on some measures to an even greater degree than those on the low-calorie diet," said Professor Couteur.

Learning and memory was assessed via a series of spatial awareness and memory tests, with researchers noting modest improvements in male and female mice at both young and old ages.

This research follows a landmark 2015 study from the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre that showed low protein, high carbohydrate diets could be just as effective as low calorie diets in promoting a long life in through good heart and digestive health.

Explore further: Benefits of calorie restriction on par with balancing protein and carb intake in mice

More information: Cell Reports (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2018.10.070

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4 comments

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Shootist
3 / 5 (2) Nov 20, 2018
Low-protein high-carb diet


will kill you deader than dirt.
VOR_
5 / 5 (1) Nov 21, 2018
seems more study needed, also, ya know, fat is the third caloric food, soooo what about that fat?
AlmostClever
not rated yet Nov 21, 2018
We might need a different metaphor. Last time I checked, typically, dirt was pretty lively. However, I think this is simplistic to be suggesting folks alter their diets without a broader spectrum as VOR_ is suggesting.

Then again we ain't mice on all fronts. For me, it would be nice if we could highlight the study's explored system's similarity in the animal proxy, with ours. For some, it might be valuable to include variations based on sex.

There's goes the timer! Pasta, butter, Asiago, and yum.
Look out dirt here I come!
michele91
not rated yet Nov 22, 2018
mediterranean diet is mainly based on carbs and vegetables, and the average lifespan is longer than in the US. To say that a carb-centered diet kills you is wrong, plain and simple, there's many factors that contributes to an healthy diet.
Japaneses eats mostly fish and vegetables and they lives long too, the matter is more complex than "proteins are good, carbs are bad", or the opposite statement.

P.S.
Refined sugar and starch are both carbohydrates, but they affect the body differently.

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