Can Restricting Carbs Extend Life?
Of course, that remains to be seen even though I do look as though I have shaved some twenty years off of my life by getting healthy. However, there is one geneticist who thinks it just may be possible. Professor Cynthia Kenyon, whom many experts believe should win the Nobel Prize for her research into ageing, has discovered that the carbohydrates we eat — from bananas and potatoes to bread, pasta, biscuits and cakes — directly affect two key genes that govern youthfulness and longevity.
She made her remarkable breakthrough after studying roundworms, specifically the C.elegans, a worm just a millimeter in size that lives in soil in temperate climates all over the world. By tweaking some of their genes she has been able to help these worms live up to six times longer than normal and she can even keep them healthier while they live.
Professor Kenyon’s work has been successfully repeated in labs around the world. The genes she found, controlling aging, in worms do the same thing in rats and mice, probably monkeys, and there are signs they are active in humans, too. At 18 days old the average roundworm is flabby, sluggish and wrinkled. Two days later it will probably be dead. However, Professor Kenyon, based at the University of California, San Francisco, found that damping down the activity of just one of their genes had a dramatic effect. Instead of dying at 20 days, they doubled their lifespan. With more sophisticated genetic manipulation, she now has some worms that have lived for an astonishing 144 days. An increase of that proportion would allow humans to live to 450.
Scientists have already learned that they can restrict calories in animals to increase their lifespan. However, Dr. Kenyon takes this much further because she understood why this tactic worked. The reason is because eating less turns down the gene that controls insulin, the “elixir of life.” As I’ve always written here, eating less seems to work because in essence, a person eats less carbohydrates when they eat less in general. However, as we all know, eating less has diminishing returns.
The two genes were referred to in Dr. Kenyon’s research based on the function they seemed to perform. The first gene was referred to as the “Grim Reaper” gene because when it was activated, the life span was fairly short. The second was was referred to as the “Sweet Sixteen” gene because it made the worms much like teenagers. I’ve had a similar experience with my diet. I wear the same clothing size that I did in high school.
The second ‘elixir’ gene seems to bring all the anti-ageing benefits — its proper name is DAF 16, but it was quickly nicknamed ‘Sweet Sixteen’ because it turned the worms into teenagers.
‘It sends out instructions to a whole range of repair and renovation genes,’ says Professor Kenyon.
She added that the supply of natural anti oxidants goes up, damping down damaging free radicals. These are the compounds produced by our body and the environment, which are linked to a host of diseases from cancer to Alzheimer’s.
The Sweet Sixteen gene also “boosts compounds that make sure the skin and muscle-building proteins are working properly, the immune system becomes more active to fight infection and genes that are active in cancer get turned off.”
Discovering the Grim Reaper gene has prompted the professor to dramatically alter her own diet, cutting right back on carbohydrates. That’s because carbs make your body produce more insulin (to mop up the extra blood sugar carbs produce); and more insulin means a more active Grim Reaper.
So the vital second gene, the ‘elixir’ one, won’t get turned on. To test this, last year she added a tiny amount of sugary glucose to the normal diet of some of her worms that had had their genes engineered so they were living much longer, healthier lives.
‘The effect was remarkable,’ she says. ‘The sugary glucose blocked the “youthful” genes and they lost most of the health gains.’
The same is true for human beings as well. Restrict carbohydrates and you will increase your vitality. According to the article, her diet isn’t quite as restricted as mine, but she has seen great benefits from the level of restriction that she has implemented. To that, I would add that any decrease in sugar consumption will lead to a healthier, happier life, regardless of longevity. To learn more, read here.Share on Twitter
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