Recent research published in Molecular & Cellular Proteomics offers one glimpse into how cutting calories impacts aging inside a cell. The researchers found that when ribosomes – the cell’s protein makers – slow down, the aging process slows too. The decreased speed lowers production but gives ribosomes extra time to repair themselves. Repairing individual parts of the ribosome on a regular basis enables ribosomes to continue producing high-quality proteins for longer than they would otherwise.
“The ribosome is a very complex machine, sort of like your car, and it periodically needs maintenance to replace the parts that wear out the fastest,” said Brigham Young University biochemistry professor and senior author John Price.
“When tires wear out, you don’t throw the whole car away and buy new ones. It’s cheaper to replace the tires.” So what causes ribosome production to slow down in the first place? At least for mice: reduced calorie consumption.
Price and his fellow researchers observed two groups of mice. One group had unlimited access to food while the other was restricted to consume 35 percent fewer calories, though still receiving all the necessary nutrients for survival. “The calorie-restricted mice are more energetic and suffered fewer diseases,” Price said. “And it’s not just that they’re living longer, but because they’re better at maintaining their bodies, they’re younger for longer as well.”
Despite this study’s observed connection between consuming fewer calories and improved lifespan, Price assured that people shouldn’t start counting calories and expect to stay forever young. Calorie restriction has not been tested in humans as an anti-aging strategy, and the essential message is understanding the importance of taking care of our bodies.
Citation: Mathis, Andrew D., Bradley C. Naylor, Richard H. Carson, Eric Evans, Justin Harwell, Jared Knecht, Eric Hexem, Fredrick F. Peelor, Benjamin F. Miller, Karyn L. Hamilton, Mark K. Transtrum, Benjamin T. Bikman, and John C. Price. “Mechanisms of In Vivo Ribosome Maintenance Change in Response to Nutrient Signals.” Molecular & Cellular Proteomics 16, no. 2 (2016): 243-54. doi:10.1074/mcp.m116.063255
Adapted from press release by Brigham Young University.