Scientists have shown through a new study that may be possible to have a higher quality of life in old age if people start reducing their food consumption when they are young.
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, the Excellence Cluster for Ageing Research at the University of Cologne, the Babraham Institute in Cambridge and UCL have shown through a study based on mice that mice only become healthier if they start food reduction early and eat less before entering old age. The scientists conclude that healthy behaviour must be established earlier in life in order to improve health in old age and extend lifespan.
Study showed mice that were given 40% reduced food lived longer and healthier in old age. If food intake is first reduced in mice first start eating less food when they are already seniors, the researchers observe little or no effect on the life expectancy of the mice.
On the other hand, when mice are allowed to eat as much as they like after a period of reduced food consumption, they have no long-term protection, so reduced food intake has to be sustained for mice to reap the benefits. Reduced food consumption must therefore be implemented early and be sustained until the end of their lives to have positive effects on health in old age.
While the gene activity in the liver quickly adapted when mice are transferred to a restricted diet, the scientists observed a ‘memory effect’ in the fat tissue of older animals. Although the mice lose weight, the activity of the genes in the fat tissue is similar to that of the mice that continue to eat as much as they want. In addition, the fat composition in old mice does not change as much as in young mice.
This memory effect mainly affect mitochondria, the cells’ powerhouses, which play an important role in the ageing process. Usually, reduced food consumption leads to increased formation of mitochondria in fatty tissue. But the study showed that this is no longer the case when older mice are switched to a lower calorie diet. This inability to change at the genetic and metabolic levels may contribute to the shortened lifespan of these animals.