PROVO, Utah — Many people have their waistlines in mind when it comes to cutting back on food, but a recent study finds that eating less may actually slow the aging process as well.
The research published in the journal Molecular & Cellular Proteomics determined that reduced calorie consumption causes ribosomes, a cell’s protein makers, to slow down, which seems to slow the aging process. When ribosomes slow down on the workload, they are provided more time to work on repairing themselves instead.
“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,” the study’s senior author, John Price, who is also a biochemistry professor at Brigham Young University, says in a release. “When tires wear out, you don’t throw the whole car away and buy new ones. It’s cheaper to replace the tires.”
To test this out, the researchers examined two different groups of mice. One of the groups was given access to as much food as they felt like eating, while the other group was restricted. The restricted group ended up eating about 35 percent less food than the other group. They were given enough nutrients for survival, but not anything extra that they didn’t require. They determined that the mice living on a lower calorie diet were more healthy overall.
“The calorie-restricted mice are more energetic and suffered fewer diseases,” says Price. “And it’s not just that they’re living longer, but because they’re better at maintaining their bodies, they’re younger for longer as well.”
This study has not been replicated on humans and therefore is not suggesting that anyone limit their calorie consumption too much, but it does point to the fact that there is a lot more to learn about aging and how what we eat directly affects our bodies.
“Food isn’t just material to be burned — it’s a signal that tells our body and cells how to respond,” says Price. “We’re getting down to the mechanisms of aging, which may help us make more educated decisions about what we eat.”