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Of Mice and (WO)men: Scientists Take a Look at Anti-Aging on a Low-Protein Diet

Posted Jun 15 2010 10:00am

by Kate Nicholson

You know how annoying it can be when you make a wonderful plate of salad with  heaps of fresh vibrant veggies, or blend up a delicious health-giving green smoothie for lunch that leaves you feeling light and energised, and someone inevitably says ‘There’s no protein in that…you’ll get all weak and scrawny…you need 70 grams of protein per day…’

Grrr! Well, I think I found the answer to that in an article I read in the New Scientist today , which totally blew me away. It’s a complete vindication for the raw food way of eating!

You’ve all come across the studies on calorie-restricted mice, right? – How their lifespan can be increased up to 50% by cutting their calorific intake by up to 30%.

Well, scientists have been looking at the diets of humans who have been applying calorie restriction in an attempt to prolong their lives (with slightly higher protein levels than average – about 1.7g per kilogram of bodyweight, compared to the standard American’s 1.2 g/kg/day), and found that there are differences in the way humans and animals respond physiologically to calorie restriction.

Despite having lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels than those eating a standard diet, people on a restricted calorie diet have the same levels of the insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a hormone that is a significant promoter of aging.  Animals on a restricted calorie diet have lower than normal levels of IGF-1.

Scientists started playing around, as scientists do, and found that feeding animals a low-protein high nutrient diet had the effect of increasing their lifespans without calorie restriction…and they found that changing the diets of humans to a non-calorie restricted but low-protein, optimal nutrient diet had the effect of lowering their IGF-1 levels – i.e. an anti-aging diet, in effect.

The article goes on to offer more evidence for reducing protein in the diet; ‘Further support…comes from studying molecular pathways inside cells that affect lifespan. A molecule called TOR has been found to set off a chain of reactions that boost cell growth at the expense of longevity. Blocking TOR increases lifespan in all organisms studied to date…crucially, the most potent activators of TOR are amino acids’.

And whaddya know…the pharmaceutical companies are already looking at finding compounds to block TOR. Imagine the profits they’d make from an anti-ageing pill! Last year, an immunosuppressant drug called Rampamycin (referred to in the article as ‘toxic’ by the way!) which blocks TOR was found to increase the lifespan of mice. I wonder what side effects it has…

The article concludes with some excellent advice; ‘In the meantime, the best bet for warding off ageing and disease could still be the time-honoured advice to eat your greens’.

So there you go. Hmm, a lower-protein optimum-nutrient diet…with greens…that sounds like a diet with lots of green smoothies to me! The only side effects of those include glowing skin, boundless energy and an increased sense of joie de vivre!

You might want to check out the Green Smoothie Summer Sensation which started on June 13th…a seven-day fest of fruit and veggies, with daily support, all for $5! See you there!

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