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Calorie restriction slows age-related epigenetic changes

Scientists report a potential epigenetic link between calorie-restricted diet and longevity

by Emma Hiolski
September 25, 2017 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 95, ISSUE 38

Of mice and men … and monkeys

Credit: Shutterstock

Methylation drift happens at different rates depending on species lifespan. A calorie-restricted diet slows the progression of age-related methylation.
a Rate of change in methylation or demethylation of 10 genes highly conserved across species.
b Percent methylation of 24 genes identified as hypermethylated in old age.
 Source: Nat. Commun. 2017, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00607-3

Explorers may have stopped seeking the mythical fountain of youth, but biologists have found one practice that can increase longevity across multiple species: calorie restriction. Eating a nutritionally complete, reduced-calorie diet is linked to increased life span in mice and monkeys. However, the mechanism by which calorie restriction promotes longevity has eluded scientists.

New research suggests that the mechanism may involve changing patterns of DNA methylation. Over time, our cells add and remove methyl groups to and from cytosine nucleotide bases, an epigenetic process called methylation drift. The link between age-related methylation drift and age-related diseases, such as cancer and diabetes, prompted a team of geneticists to investigate the role methylation plays in aging and calorie restriction across species.

Led by Jean-Pierre Issa at Temple University, the team used powerful deep-sequencing analyses to measure methylation drift in the DNA of mice, rhesus macaques, and humans. They also assessed the degree to which calorie restriction affected methylation drift in mice and monkeys.

The rate of methylation drift was lower in longer-lived species—monkeys and humans—than in shorter-lived mice. Additionally, monkeys and mice that ate calorie-restricted diets for a significant portion of their lives had less age-related methylation drift than animals of the same age with unlimited access to food (Nat. Commun. 2017, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00607-3).

Lead author Shinji Maegawa, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, says understanding how calorie restriction delays age-related methylation drift could help identify potential drug targets to treat age-related diseases.



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Bill (September 27, 2017 2:39 PM)
It's always about drugs, isn't it? Anyone can have better health and long life now, just by eating a proper vegetarian or vegan diet, and eliminating processed sugar, sodas, and alcohol, drinking low TDS water, and getting sunshine and exercise. Best of all, none of this costs anything. Although, some people still look at you kind of funny...
40+ years without seeing allopathic doctors, and counting.
MM (September 27, 2017 5:22 PM)
Well, yes, Bill -- it IS about drugs. We live in an age of wanting to eat our cake, and then eat some more. Taking drugs is easier than exercising willpower; research and industry are simply filling a demand. Kudos to those who have the willpower -- and best of luck to those who harbor hopes that there will be 'a pill for that'.
Eileen (September 28, 2017 5:16 PM)
I'm with Bill on this and I'm tired of paying for other people's poor lifestyles.
Mike (September 30, 2017 1:57 AM)
One point, healthy eating will only get you so far. To get the 30 to 40% increase in lifespan observed across species, calories are restricted to around 40% of normal. Test subjects are in a near constant state of hunger. Most humans turn their noses up at that prospect.
Anna (October 4, 2017 2:36 PM)
How does your body get the nutrients it requires when you are always near a constant state of hunger? How does the brain work with out glucose? Are you in ketosis?
DD (October 5, 2017 9:00 PM)
Mike has a good point about healthy eating. A 30 year old woman who weighs 140 lbs and is moderately active requires about 2000 - 2200 calories per day. 40% would be approximately 800 calories per day. It doesn't matter if you're eating paleo, vegan, or garbage, 800 calories is too low to maintain nutritional needs or a normal metabolic rate. This isn't about "willpower" - unless you can summon the will to restrict yourself to 800 calories a day for the rest of your life.

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