In the previous article on aging, we looked at three forms of dietary restriction: caloric restriction, prolonged fasting, and alternate-day fasting. These interventions have played an important role in providing a framework for researchers to begin unraveling the molecular details of how aging happens. But these dietary restrictions are quite extreme and are simply not practical for everyone. In this article, we will look at two less extreme forms of dietary restriction: protein restriction, and the Daniel fast.
Can we improve how we age and how long we live by restricting what we eat? Nearly all signs point to yes. In this article, I will describe three major categories of dietary restriction that have been explored, the evidence of efficacy, and some of the limitations that stand in the way of our understanding of this topic.
Numerous studies on a diverse range of organisms, including bacteria, yeast, worms, flies, rodents, and primates, have shown that dietary restrictions, such as chronic or intermittent fasting, can slow down biological aging and increase maximum lifespan substantially, by up to 50% in some protocols. Some of the mechanisms by which these different dietary-restriction regimens work have been identified. Many of them are metabolic pathways that are shared across species, including humans. It is therefore reasonable to think that the beneficial effects on lifespan, in let’s say a worm or mouse, could also occur in humans. Definitively proving this, however, is difficult because longevity studies to utilize any type of intervention in humans inherently require decades of adherence to a protocol, along with decades of follow up by the research team. That’s why we love to do aging research in worms that have a twenty-day lifespan! But ultimately, in order to move from non-human intervention to safe and effective human application, we need to study promising interventions in humans. The good news is that human studies have been carried out, but instead of directly measuring lifespan, biomarkers are used. Biomarkers are biological characteristics that can be objectively measured today that can predict important health outcomes—in this case, biological aging. (Read More)
We age every moment we are alive. But the process of aging appears different depending on where one sits on the curve of life. When we are young, aging develops us. When we are old, aging diminishes our abilities. But aging begins before its effects are apparent. It’s just that we’re more likely to care about it when it’s evident. The desire within humans to avoid the perils of biological aging is as old as time itself, but now aging is a field of scientific inquiry, and the promise of extraordinary solutions is imminent. One big aim of this field is to find ways to extend lifespan. Just as interesting, if not more so, is to find strategies that preserve abilities for the duration of the lifespan. This article is the first in a series to address both.