It is quite common that when a person speaks to their doctor, they will be told that they should eat a healthy diet. However, the question of what constitutes a healthy diet, and how diet is connected with aging is the subject of a vast amount of scientific research.
It has long been known that calorie restriction in mice allowed them to live nearly twice as long as average. In particular, it has been shown that if mice lived on a diet that included only half the number of calories that they would consume in the course of normal eating, their youth and longevity both benefited in a remarkable way. One study showed that calorie restriction reduced the signs of aging in mice — including hair loss, vascular health, and even wrinkles. Testing in other animals yielded similar results.
Unfortunately, results in animals don’t always translate to results that are relevant for people. Furthermore — and perhaps more importantly — it is very difficult for most people to restrict calorie access while still maintaining adequate nutrition and a healthy body weight.
Research at the Center for Molecular and Translational Medicine at Georgia State University in Atlanta suggests that it might be worth the effort. A study published in Molecular Cell showed that calorie restriction delays aging of the blood vessels, known as vascular aging.
The researchers found that mice whose calories were restricted produced more of the molecule beta-hydroxybutyrate, a molecule that is known to preserve vascular health.
Beta-hydroxybutyrate is a type of ketone, a molecule produced by the liver and used as an energy source when glucose is not available. The body produces ketones when a person fasts, has a diet that is low in carbohydrates, or after extended periods of exercise. The research showed that this molecule promoted the division and multiplication of cells lining the inside of blood vessels. Cellular division is a known marker for cellular youth.
According to study author Dr. Ming-Hui Zou, vascular aging is the most important part of aging. As people get older the blood vessels that supply different organs become extremely sensitive and more subject to damage than other parts of the body.
Older people often eat less than they once did. What is important to remember is that as long as they are receiving adequate nutrition and are not underweight, this may actually provide health benefits for them.
Beacon of LIFE, in Oceanport, NJ, is a government-approved PACE program created to provide seniors, their family, caregivers and professional health care providers the flexibility to meet their health care needs while continuing to live in their community.
Beacon of LIFE maintains an interdisciplinary team of professionals who give each client the coordinated care they need. Our staff specialize in working with older people, and work with each client and their family to develop the most effective plan of care.
Our care and services allow people who would otherwise need to live in a nursing home to live where they want — in their own communities, in their own homes.