Now researchers say they have found a way to mimic the beneficial effects of this caloric restriction in the brain with a new drug.
This drug activates an enzyme in brain cells and, as demonstrated in the study, thus delaying cognitive impairment associated with aging and Alzheimer's disease the loss of nerve cells that occurs during aging.
This research was conducted in mice, but opens the way for scientists to develop drugs that prevent deterioration of human brain function.
Most previous research on caloric restriction has been performed in mice and other laboratory animals, but human studies have shown that calorie restriction can improve memory in older people.
In the new study, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology focused on how calorie restriction affect brain cells. Showed that a 30% caloric restriction in mice increases levels of an enzyme in the brain and slows nerve cell loss that can accompany brain function decline.
Later, the researchers mimicked caloric restriction, mice fed a normal diet, but they simultaneously suministaron a drug that blocks the enzyme. These mice maintained a proper functioning of brain cells and obtenian good results on cognitive tests, like the mice that were fed a diet low in calories.
The study is the first to show that the benefits of caloric restriction on cognitive function is associated with fewer neuron degeneration. This is also the first demonstration of a synthetic molecule that mimics the benefits of caloric restriction.
If calorie restriction can increase life expectancy of humans is not clear. The increase in life expectancy has been shown in studies with mice and other research organizations such as worms. But studies are underway, and have been around for over 20 years, in monkeys have had conflicting results.