Studies: Low-calorie diet may slow aging
October 2, 1997
Web posted at: 10:28 p.m. EDT (0228 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The secret of the fountain of youth may not be in some exotic cream or potion -- but right there in the dining room.
Two studies published Thursday add to evidence showing that reducing caloric intake may help slow the aging process by arresting the decline in a hormone that tends to decrease with age.
In the first study, researchers from the National Institute on Aging and the Arizona Center on Aging put monkeys on a special diet low in calories and fat.
And while they found the diet produced well-known benefits, such as lower bad cholesterol and blood pressure, they also found that the diet helped slow the body's nature decline in the level of the hormone DHEA.
DHEA is considered a good marker of the aging process because the amount in the body shrinks with age.
"The question that we're asking is whether or not eating less food will enable these monkeys to age at a slower rate and stay healthier for a longer time," said George Roth of the NIA. "My own personal belief is ... these beneficial effects that we see in calorically-restricted monkeys could be translated into people."
The link between diet and DHEA was also found by another group of researchers, who published similar findings in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
"DHEA levels are of great interest to us, not because we believe that DHEA is the fountain of youth, but rather because it gives us a very good marker to measure the rates of aging in control versus calorically-restricted monkeys," said Mark Lane of the National Institutes of Health's animal center.
Lane noted that many people currently take DHEA supplements in the hope of improving their health, but it might do no good. "Controlled clinical trials are needed before this question can be answered," he said.
Researchers also cautioned that while DHEA levels were a good measure of the aging process, they might be a symptom of aging, rather than its cause.
Still, researchers believe that if they can figure out how diet affects the aging process, they might be able to produce a drug to help slow the aging process.
Medical Correspondent Al Hinman and Reuters contributed to this report.