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Could caloric restriction be the most reliable health and longevity approach that we have available right now while we wait for medical technology to progress? A new review suggests that “calorie restriction is the most reasonable anti-ageing intervention”.

Is this the best we can do for now?

A new meta-analysis of caloric restriction studies has been published, and it reviews a number of caloric restriction studies in fruit flies and flatworms. While the researchers indicate that they would like to expand the analysis to include rodents and other species, this initial data is useful nonetheless.

While this review is focused on other species, the practice of caloric restriction is known to convey significant health benefits in humans [2]. The effects of caloric restriction on lifespan, unfortunately, do not scale so well; we see significant increases of lifespan in animals like worms, flies, mice, and short-lived primates [3], but longer-lived species have less impressive increases; in humans, this may translate to perhaps a few years.

That said, while it is unlikely that caloric restriction or similar dietary approaches will bring decades of life, as we would have noticed this already in societies with less access to food than typical Western nations have, it may add more healthy years and possibly even a modest increase in lifespan.

Abstract

Despite technological advances, the survival records from longevity experiments remain the most indispensable tool in ageing-related research. A variety of interventions, including medications, genetic manipulations and calorie restriction (CR), have been demonstrated to extend the lifespan of several species. Surprisingly, few systematic studies have investigated the differences among these anti-ageing strategies using survival data. Here, we conduct a comprehensive and comparative meta-analysis of numerous published studies on Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila. We found that CR and genetic manipulations are generally more effective than medications at extending the total lifespan in both models, and CR can improve the ageing pattern of C. elegans. We further analysed the survival variation for different anti-ageing medications and determined that hypoglycemic agents and antioxidants are advantageous despite only moderately increasing the overall lifespan; therefore, these two types of medications are promising CR mimetics. Analysis of genetic manipulations also indicated that the genes or pathways that extend lifespan in a healthier pattern are associated with CR. These results suggest that CR or CR mimetics may be the most reasonable and potentially beneficial anti-ageing strategy.

Conclusion

Given that more robust therapies based on the repair of age-related damage are in development, it seems sensible to do whatever we can now to buy us time so that we are alive to benefit from the arrival of these advanced technologies.

Just like exercise, caloric restriction is a low-cost health and longevity strategy and provided that it is done properly with careful monitoring of nutrition to avoid malnourishment, it has many potential health benefits.

Literature

[1] Liang, Y., Liu, C., Lu, M., Dong, Q., Wang, Z., Wang, Z., … & Wang, X. (2018). Calorie restriction is the most reasonable anti-ageing intervention: a meta-analysis of survival curves. Scientific Reports, 8(1), 5779.

[2] Ravussin, E., Redman, L. M., Rochon, J., Das, S. K., Fontana, L., Kraus, W. E., … & Smith, S. R. (2015). A 2-year randomized controlled trial of human caloric restriction: feasibility and effects on predictors of health span and longevity. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, 70(9), 1097-1104.

[3] Pifferi, F., Terrien, J., Marchal, J., Dal-Pan, A., Djelti, F., Hardy, I., … & Zahariev, A. (2018). Caloric restriction increases lifespan but affects brain integrity in grey mouse lemur primates. Communications Biology, 1(1), 30.

About the author

Steve Hill

Steve serves on the LEAF Board of Directors and is the Editor in Chief, coordinating the daily news articles and social media content of the organization. He is an active journalist in the aging research and biotechnology field and has to date written over 500 articles on the topic as well as attending various medical industry conferences. In 2019 he was listed in the top 100 journalists covering biomedicine and longevity research in the industry report – Top-100 Journalists covering advanced biomedicine and longevity created by the Aging Analytics Agency. His work has been featured in H+ magazine, Psychology Today, Singularity Weblog, Standpoint Magazine, and, Keep me Prime, and New Economy Magazine. Steve has a background in project management and administration which has helped him to build a united team for effective fundraising and content creation, while his additional knowledge of biology and statistical data analysis allows him to carefully assess and coordinate the scientific groups involved in the project. In 2015 he led the Major Mouse Testing Program (MMTP) for the International Longevity Alliance and in 2016 helped the team of the SENS Research Foundation to reach their goal for the OncoSENS campaign for cancer research.
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