Limiting calories might extend lifespan by slowing aging: new study

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New research suggests caloric reduction could prolong life by slowing aging.

NEW YORK, April 22: Researchers at Penn State University have unveiled new findings that establish a significant connection between dieting and the aging process. Their study, published in the journal Aging Cell, delves into the impact of caloric restriction on telomeres, the protective caps found at the end of chromosomes.

The research draws upon data from a two-year study examining caloric restriction in humans. The results indicate that individuals who restricted their calorie intake experienced varying rates of telomere loss compared to those in the control group. Despite this discrepancy, both groups ultimately exhibited telomeres of nearly the same length by the study’s end.

Telomeres play a crucial role in cellular aging. As cells divide, telomeres are gradually lost, leading to a reduction in overall telomere length. This process, known as cellular senescence, renders chromosomes more susceptible to damage, hindering proper cell function and reproduction.

Dr. Idan Shalev, associate professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State, highlights the multifaceted factors influencing telomere length, including stress, illness, genetics, and diet.

Lead author Waylon Hastings, a recent doctoral graduate from Penn State, underscores the role of caloric restriction in extending human lifespans. He explains that by consuming fewer calories, cells generate fewer waste products, thereby reducing oxidative stress and delaying cellular breakdown.

The study tracked 175 participants over 24 months, with two-thirds undergoing caloric restriction and the remainder serving as the control group. Results revealed that while participants on calorie-restricted diets initially experienced accelerated telomere loss, the rate slowed after weight stabilization. By the end of the study, both groups exhibited comparable telomere lengths.

Dr. Shalev emphasizes the complexity of caloric restriction’s effects on telomere loss and highlights the need for further investigation. He anticipates analyzing additional data from the study’s participants at the 10-year mark to gain deeper insights into the long-term impacts.

While calorie restriction has been associated with various health benefits, including weight loss, blood pressure regulation, and improved cholesterol levels, researchers emphasize that drastic measures are unnecessary. Even a modest calorie deficit can initiate weight loss without causing discomfort or dissatisfaction.

The study underscores the importance of balanced approaches to dieting, debunking the notion that extreme restriction is the sole path to weight loss and overall health.

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