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British researchers are presenting some new research on how calorie restriction works at a conference on aging research this week. In a mouse experiment, they found that it reduces cell senescence (the point at which a cell can no longer replicate) and helps protect telomeres (which exercise does too, researchers have recently found). Interestingly, the effects seems to be significant even if if it’s only started later in life and maintained for a relatively short period of time.
As I blogged about recently, I’m a little ambivalent about this whole calorie restriction thing. I just can’t see a happy ending — if it works, you feel guilty about eating for the rest of your life, and if it doesn’t, you die! Ultimately, I respect that we want to know how the body works, and this line of research is part of that. But I was happy to see some of this ambivalence reflected in the quotes from the press release describing the research:
Professor Thomas von Zglinicki, who oversaw the research, said: “It’s particularly exciting that our experiments found this effect on age-related senescent cells and loss of telomeres, even when food restriction was applied to animals in later life. We don’t yet know if food restriction delays ageing in humans, and maybe we wouldn’t want it. But at least we now know that interventions can work if started later.
And a recognition that extra years aren’t the only thing that counts:
Prof Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive and keynote speaker at the BSRA Conference, said: “As lifespan continues to extend in the developed world we face the challenge of increasing our ‘healthspan‘, that is the years of our lives when we can expect to be healthy and free from serious or chronic illness.