Here is how sustained portion control can lead to improved lifespan

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While resisting food may not be easy, limiting the intake helps both humans as well as animals to better their health in old age and extend the lifespan.

The pattern of diet consumption has to be established earlier in life to improve health in old age, according to a study published in the journal Nature Metabolism.

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Researchers showed that mice become healthier provided they start food reduction early and eat less before entering old age. It was concluded that healthy behaviour must be established earlier in life in order to improve health in old age and extend lifespan.

How can we stay fit and healthy in old age for as long as possible? Researchers into ageing have a simple answer: eat less and healthy.

But when do you have to start and is it enough if you only manage to do this for a short time? To investigate this, researchers led by Linda Partridge, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, in an animal study have put young and old mice on a diet – with varying degrees of success.

Mice live longer and are healthier in old age if they are given 40% less to eat after reaching adulthood than animals who are allowed to eat as much as they want.

The dieting mice are fed with food enriched with vitamins and minerals to prevent malnutrition. But if food intake is first reduced in mice first start eating less food when they are already seniors, the researchers observe little or no effect on the life expectancy of the mice.

On the other hand, when mice are allowed to eat as much as they like after a period of reduced food intake, they have no long-term protection, so reduced food intake has to be sustained for mice to reap the benefits.

But why do older mice no longer react to the change in diet? Oliver Hahn, the first author of the study and doctoral student in the Partridge department, investigated gene activity in different organs.

While the gene activity in the liver quickly adapted when mice are transferred to a restricted diet, researchers observed a ‘memory effect’ in the fat tissue of older animals.

Although the mice lose weight, the activity of the genes in the fat tissue is similar to that of the mice that continue to eat as much as they want.

In addition, the fat composition in old mice does not change as much as in young mice. This memory effect mainly affects mitochondria, which play an important role in the ageing process.

Usually, reduced food intake leads to increased formation of mitochondria in fatty tissue. But the study showed that this is no longer the case when older mice are switched to a lower calorie diet. This inability to change at the genetic and metabolic levels may contribute to the shortened lifespan.

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