There’s a multi-billion-dollar industry devoted to products that fight signs of ageing, but moisturizers only go skin deep. Ageing occurs deeper, at a cellular level, and scientists have found that eating less can slow this cellular process.
Recent research published in Molecular and Cellular Proteomics offers a glimpse into how cutting calories impacts ageing inside a cell. The researchers found that when ribosomes, the cell’s protein makers, slow down, the ageing process slows too. The decreased speed lowers production but gives ribosomes extra time to repair themselves.
“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,” said Brigham Young University biochemistry professor and senior author John Price. “When tyres wear out, you don’t throw the whole car away and buy new ones. It’s cheaper to replace the tyres.”
So what causes ribosome production to slow down in the first place? At least for mice: reduced calorie consumption.
Price and his fellow researchers observed two groups of mice. One group had unlimited access to food while the other was restricted to consume 35 percent fewer calories, though still receiving all the necessary nutrients for survival.
“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 ageing.”
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Price’s team isn’t the first to make the connection between cut calories and lifespan, but they were the first to show that general protein synthesis slows down and to recognize the ribosome’s role in facilitating those youth-extending biochemical changes.
“The calorie-restricted mice are more energetic and suffered fewer diseases,” Price said. “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.”