There has been increasing interest in the benefits of fasting and calorie restriction in recent years, with these claims supported by some experts. A new study emanating from Georgia State University has found further evidence that these practices lead to production of a molecule that is capable of slowing the vascular aging process.
The researchers who carried out the study found that a molecule that fasting or calorie restriction produces is useful for keeping the vascular system in good state. It keeps our arteries lithe and young.
The molecule is believed to be capable of helping to prevent a number of serious or undesirable age-related medical conditions. These include cancer, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease, which become more susceptible to as they get older.
The findings from the new research appeared in the journal Molecular Cell.
Vascular aging the root of the problem
Study lead Dr. Ming-Hui Zou, who is the director of the Center for Molecular and Translational Medicine at Georgia State University in Atlanta, noted that age is the primary risk factor in the incidence of diseases. It follows then that anything that can help to combat or control the aging process will be beneficial in dealing with diseases.
Vascular aging entails hardening or stiffening of the arteries. This is the result of changes that occur over time. Continual mechanical stress causes the arteries to become gradually less elastic as people get older. Factors that can also contribute to this vascular aging include changes resulting from end products of advanced glycation or arterial collagen protein.
The researchers embarked on the new study with the understanding that vascular aging contributes the most to overall aging and diseases.
The anti-aging molecule
Dr. Zou and members of his team decided to find out a means by which these senescence inducing changes can be stopped or delayed. Their search led them to beta-hydroxybutyrate.
To make their discovery, the researchers made use of atherosclerosis models in mice. They carried out post-mortem investigations as well as a series of experiments involving cell culture. Similar tests were also performed on some of the animals exposed to induced starvation.
What the scientists found was that starvation led to an increase in the production of beta-hydroxybutyrate. This is a ketone, a type of compound that the body uses for energy in place of glucose during fasting, periods of starvation or following extended exercise.
The interesting part, in this case, is that the molecule was found to have the potential of fighting vascular aging. It works on the endothelial cells on the inside of blood and lymph vessels.
Beta-hydroxybutyrate can be useful for combating or delaying cellular aging, also referred to as senescence.
It is known that when cells become senescent they lose the ability to effectively divide and multiply. But researchers found in this new Georgia State University study that the molecule in focus can enable endothelial cells to divide and multiply.
Cell division and multiplication work to keep the cells young and in good state. This, in turn, can help to prevent age-related disorders and promote graceful aging.
Cellular repair molecule
In addition to promoting cell division and multiplication, the researchers found that beta-hydroxybutyrate can join to the RNA-binding protein heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein A1.
That action enhances the activity of a stem cell transcriptional factor known as Octamer-binding transcriptional factor (Oct4). When this happens, it increases an important factor Lamin B1, which is useful for preventing DNA damage.
The researchers pointed out that Oct4 can be used as pharmaceutical target for repairing aging cells and keeping the vascular system younger. Drugs capable of such have the potential of enhancing longevity of humans.