Have you been looking for a way to live longer while also enjoying good health? Calorie restriction might offer a way out, according to new research published in Science.
Scientists found that calorie restriction enhances both metabolic and immune responses. This, in turn, may positively impact how long an individual lives plus the number of years they enjoy good health.
Moderate calorie restriction for two years was observed to reprogram fat cell pathways that aid in regulating how mitochondria produce energy. It revamped numerous metabolic and immune responses.
Researchers also detected a protein produced by macrophages that could be controlled to increase health span.
Increased T cells and fat burning
Researchers made use of data from Pennington Biomedical Research Center’s Comprehensive Assessment of the Long-Term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy. This trial, also known simply as CALERIE 2, is the longest-running as regards calorie restriction in humans.
Produced by the gland thymus, T cells are white blood cells that play a critical part in immune function. They also help to slow the aging process.
People naturally have fewer T cells as they grow older in that their thymuses begin to shrink. This explains why an average elderly person finds it difficult to repel infections and is more susceptible to certain cancers.
Scientists found in this study that calorie restriction inhibits the shrinkage of the thymus, thus allowing more T cells to be produced. People who reduced calorie intake by roughly 14 percent over a two-year period were observed to have more T cells.
A stronger immune system is not the only benefit of greater T cells. Enhanced fat burning is another benefit.
Dr. Eric Ravussin, Pennington Biomedical’s Associate Executive Director for Clinical Science, said having more of these immune cells boosts the body’s ability to use its fatty acid stores for energy production. They, thus, help to deal with harmful fat that could cause obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and aging.
Health span extender
Previous studies show that rodents enjoyed a longer life span as a result of calorie restriction. However, that benefit came with immunity, growth, and reproduction issues.
The story seems to be different from the current study. Researchers found that curbing calorie intake could serve as a treatment to boost metabolic health and fight age-related inflammation.
“Two years of modest calorie restriction reprogrammed pathways in fat cells that help regulate the way mitochondria generate energy, the body’s inflammatory responses, and potentially longevity,” Ravussin said. “In other words, calorie restriction rewires many of the metabolic and immune responses that boost lifespan and health span.”
Results showed that calorie restriction inhibits the expression of the gene encoding platelet-activating factor acetylhydrolase (PLA2G7). Deleting this gene – or reducing the amount of PLA2G7 – improved metabolic health and lowered age-related inflammation, among other benefits.
PLA2G7 could be exploited to aid longer health spans in humans.
“If researchers can find a way to harness PLA2G7, they could create a treatment to extend a person’s health span, the time an individual experiences good health,” said John Kirwan, Ph.D., the Executive Director at Pennington Biomedical.