Researchers identify a new way to slow the aging process

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The answer may lie in the number of calories we consume

There are a million “miracle” aging cures out there that promise to keep you looking young forever. But new research from Brigham Young University shows that there may not only be a way to look younger, but feel younger too.

Researcher and biochemistry professor John Price explains that this is achieved when ribosomes – the protein makers found inside cells – slow down and take time to repair and replace internal components. How can we ensure this happens, you might ask? By cutting calories.

"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. When tires wear out, you don't throw the whole car away and buy new ones. It's cheaper to replace the tires," Price says.

"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."

Slowing the aging process

Price and his colleagues tested this theory in a study using mice. The researchers split mice into two groups: one that was allowed access to an unlimited amount of food and one whose consumption was restricted by 35%, while still allowing enough nutrition to survive.

After observing the two groups for some time, the researchers found that mice who had a restricted food supply were better at maintaining their bodies than their counterparts. They appeared to be more energetic, suffered fewer diseases, and remained younger for a longer period of time, Price said.

The study paper points out that ribosomes are one of the most complex and important parts of the cell. They use approximately 10-20 percent of the cell’s total energy to maintain internal systems, and shouldering such a heavy workload eventually leads to malfunctions.

The researchers say that consuming fewer calories allowed the ribosomes to slow down its processes and repair and replace pieces that break down more quickly so that the entire component lasts longer. The result, they say, is a slower aging process.

Importance of a proper diet

While the study is the first of its kind to delve into the connection between protein synthesis and the aging process, the researchers point out that their findings are exclusive to mice and have not been tested on humans. They are also adamant that their findings do not mean that consumers should start counting and cutting calories. Instead, they say that their work may inform people about the importance of a proper diet.

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

The full study has been published in Molecular and Cellular Proteomics.

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