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Fewer Calories Have Anti-Aging Effect


Lifelong habit of trimming just a few calories from the daily diet can do more than slim the waistline - a new study shows it may have an anti-aging effect.

Scientists from the University of Florida's Institute on Aging have found that eating a little less food and exercising a little more over a lifespan can reduce or even reverse aging-related cell and organ damage in rats.

The discovery, described this month in the journal Antioxidants and Redox Signaling, builds on recent research in animals and humans that has shown a more drastic 20 percent to 40 percent cut in calories slows aging damage.

Even small reductions in calories could have big effects on health and shed light on the molecular process responsible for the anti-aging phenomenon, which until now has been poorly understood.

"This finding suggests that even slight moderation in intake of calories and a moderate exercise program is beneficial to a key organ such as the liver, which shows significant signs of dysfunction in the aging process," said Christiaan Leeuwenburgh, Ph.D., an associate professor of aging and geriatric research at the UF College of Medicine and the paper's senior author.

Scientists found that feeding rats just 8 percent fewer calories a day and moderately increasing the animals' activity extended their average lifespan and significantly overturned the negative effects of cellular aging on liver function and overall health.

An 8 percent reduction is the equivalent of a few hundred calories in an average human diet and moderate exercise is equivalent to taking a short walk.

"It is better to protect what is there to improve the quality of life than to have to resort to invasive procedures," Hofer said.

Leeuwenburgh said the study results support the theory that cell death and aging-related organ damage are caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals and by cellular oxidation and inflammation.

"In a calorie-restricted environment, you reduce the inflammatory response and prevent cell death," Leeuwenburgh said.