October 3, 2023

Anthony Ademiluyi

A new study has indicated that reducing calorie intake may slow down ageing.

Caloric intake is the amount of energy consumed via food and beverage.

However, ageing at the biological level results from the impact of the accumulation of a wide variety of molecular and cellular damage leading to a gradual decrease in physical and mental capacity, the World Health Organisation says.

As reported by Medical News Today, the study found that reducing calorie intake may slow the pace of ageing, based on some biomarkers.

Participants in the study who reduced their calorie intake with a carefully designed and orchestrated dietary programme slowed their pace of ageing shown by certain epigenetic biomarkers, by 2 – 3 % after two years.

The authors cite previous research that equates the 2–3 per cent rate decrease to a reduction in mortality risk of 10–15 per cent. This is similar to the risk reduction expected when a smoker quits smoking.

Exploring calorie reduction as a way to slow down ageing, the study says, is a test of the geoscience hypothesis. It suggested that by slowing down or reversing ageing-related molecular changes, a person’s lifespan may be extended and they may be able to avoid serious chronic diseases.

The study was published in Nature Ageing.

The study’s senior investigator Dr. Daniel W. Belsky, associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, said: “Our results are exciting because they suggest it may be possible to slow the pace of aging in humans. That opens a lot of doors to what we might be able to do in the years ahead,” Medical News Today reported.

The researchers of the study employed a precision calorie-reduction and assessment system called “CALERIE.” CALERIE is an acronym for “Comprehensive Assessment of Long-Term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy.” It is very different from what one would find in a diet for weight loss based on reducing one’s intake of calories.

The authors noted that the study’s calorie reduction was carefully designed to lower energy intake without depriving participants of essential nutrients.

“This was a complicated intervention that involved teams of nutritionists and dietitians working with participants to design diets that worked and physicians monitoring participants’ health to ensure safety,” said Dr. Belsky.

The study’s trial took place at three sites and initially involved 220 healthy men and women. Men were ages 21–50, and (premenopausal) women were ages 21–47. For two years, 145 participants were tasked with achieving a 25 per cent calorie reduction in the CALERIE programme compared to their baseline caloric intake level. Forty-five individuals served as a control group.

The number of individuals who finally completed the trial was 117 people in the CALERIE group and 68 in the control group.

To measure the effects and impact of calories, the researchers depended on three age biomarkers, or “ageing clocks”:  PhenoAgeTrustedSourceGrimAgeTrusted Source, and DunedinPACETrusted Source. All are based on DNA methylationTrusted Source that can be measured in blood samples.

“Humans live a long time. So, the biomarkers can give us a first hint of whether the intervention is having the effect we are interested in testing,” said Dr. Belsky.

Both PhenoAge and GrimAge claim to estimate a person’s chronological age based on their current biology. This would be the age at which they would be viewed as standard. DunedInPace, on the other hand, measures the rate at which a person is ageing.

DunedInPace is something like an ageing speedometer. PhenoAge and GrimAge are comparable to snapshots.

Dr. Matt Kaebarline, professor and director of the Healthy Aging and Longevity Research Institute at the University of Washington Medicine, who was not involved in the study, said:

“It’s important to keep in mind that these measurements only report on a portion of biological aging, and are probably not a precise overall measurement of ‘biological age’ or the ‘rate of biological aging’.”

The study found that calorie reduction had an effect on the DunedInPace biomarker, but not on PhenoAge or GrimAge measurements.

It may be that two years is not long enough to manifest a measurable change in PhenoAge or GrimAge.

“For the static ageing biomarkers, we just don’t know how long we would need to intervene in order to see an effect. In small-scale and uncontrolled trials, some interventions have shown changes over short timescales, and others do not,” Dr. Belsky said.

Dr. Kaeberlein, however, expressed concern specifically about DunedInPace, which Dr. Belsky helped to develop.

“While the DunedinPACE test provides valuable information, it is not yet widely accepted as a definitive measure of overall biological aging rate,” Dr. Kaeberlein said.

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