06 April 2018

Low-calorie diet for lemurs

As a result of 10 years of work, French scientists from the National Center for Scientific Research and the French National Museum of Natural History, in collaboration with other research groups, have found that chronic maintenance on a low–calorie diet significantly increases the life expectancy of small primates - gray dwarf lemurs.

A chronic low-calorie diet implies the use of a balanced diet with low calories starting from early adulthood. The positive effect of a low-calorie diet on health has been demonstrated for various short-lived species (roundworms, fruit flies and mice), but the question about its effectiveness against primates, including humans, remains open.

The conducted studies, in particular on rhesus macaques, whose life expectancy reaches 40 years, have already demonstrated the positive effect of a low-calorie diet on the likelihood of developing age-related pathologies. However, when studying its effect on life expectancy, contradictory results were obtained. The authors decided to use gray dwarf lemurs, small primates whose lifespan of 12 years makes them a very good model for studying aging, as an animal model for studying this issue. Moreover, according to physiological parameters, these lemurs are in many ways similar to humans.

As part of the study, the authors kept a group of lemurs on a moderately low-calorie diet (30% fewer calories compared to the caloric content of the control group's diet) starting from early adulthood. Subsequently, for 10 years they collected data on the survival of animals and the age-related changes developing in them. According to the observations made, a low-calorie diet increased the life expectancy of lemurs by almost 50%. Their median life expectancy was 9.6 years compared to 6.4 years for individuals in the control group. In addition, the authors managed for the first time to register an increase in the maximum life expectancy for primates: almost a third of the animals of the experimental group were alive after the death of the last lemur of the control group, who died at the age of 11.3 years.

This positive effect was accompanied by the preservation of motor and cognitive functions, as well as a decrease in the incidence of pathologies usually associated with aging, such as cancer and diabetes mellitus. The external characteristics of lemurs kept on a low-calorie diet corresponded to younger animals. In addition, the study of brain tissues demonstrated the ability of a low-calorie diet to suppress the atrophy of gray matter represented by the "bodies" of nerve cells. Researchers are still unable to explain this effect, as well as a significant slowdown in the atrophy of white matter, consisting of nerve fibers connecting different regions of the brain.

The data obtained by the authors indicate that chronic calorie restriction of the diet is currently the most effective method of increasing the maximum life expectancy and delaying the aging process in primates. The next stage of the work will be the search for associations between a low-calorie diet and other parameters, such as physical activity, which may further raise the upper threshold of life expectancy.

The photos show 9-year-old lemurs.

The animal on the left, whose body weight is about 100 g, was kept on a "normal" diet throughout its life. The image shows the characteristics often observed in old dwarf lemurs: cataracts and lightening of the fur.

The animal on the right, whose body weight is about 70 g, from an early young age consumed food, the caloric content of which was 30% reduced compared to the food of animals in the control group. It has the external characteristics of a younger individual.

Article by Fabien Pifferi et al. Caloric restriction increases lifespan but affects brain integrity in grey mouse lemur primates published in the journal Communications Biology.

Evgenia Ryabtseva, portal "Eternal Youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru based on the materials of the National Center for Scientific Research: Eating less enables lemurs to live longer.

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