24 November 2021

Save on geroprotectors

Which is better to help with old age – medication or diet?

"First-hand science"

Disputes about what is old age – a natural process or a disease? – they have been conducted for a long time. But regardless of the answer to this question, we are all interested in specific ways and means to prevent aging, and many scientists engaged in the biology of aging are engaged in these searches. A new study conducted on laboratory mice has once again shown the benefits of a balanced diet in comparison with fashionable "anti-aging drugs".

It evaluates the amount of nutrients available to a living cell thanks to special molecular sensors and ways of transmitting biochemical signals. As a result, the cell starts or slows down the synthesis of various molecules, including those necessary for replication (doubling) DNA and synthesis of cellular proteins.

This process is responsible, in particular, for the signaling pathway, which involves a regulatory protein – the enzyme protein kinase mTOR. This pathway, which primarily controls the growth and survival of cells, is activated by amino acids, which are formed during the breakdown of food proteins. At the same time, excessive mTOR activity can be dangerous, as it can cause uncontrolled growth and malignant cell degeneration.

With age, these pathways are activated above the norm, which can lead to negative consequences. If you slightly weaken the work of mTOR (for example, with the help of the immunosuppressant rapamycin), this will lead to a partial blockage of cell reproduction. As a result, the processes of disposal of damaged structures will increase, which can contribute to prolonging life.

But although rapamycin has shown good results in prolonging life on model objects, it cannot be used for these purposes in humans due to its high toxicity. The "anti-aging drugs" also include the antidiabetic drug metformin and the antioxidant resveratrol contained in red wine. They do not have the toxicity of rapamycin, however, there is no consensus among experts regarding the use of these compounds in healthy people.

But what if we influence the intracellular molecular pathways of "assessing" the availability of nutrients in the most natural way – simply by changing the volume of their intake into the body? In other words, with the help of special diets?

Scientists from Kyoto University (Japan), using the example of laboratory mice, studied the comparative effect of diet and drugs (metformin, rapamycin and resveratrol) on the proteome (the totality of all produced protein molecules) of the liver – a key organ in the regulation of metabolism. In total, the influence of 40 combinations of factors was studied, including the level of proteins, fats and carbohydrates and the calorie content of food, as well as the dose of drugs.

As expected, rapamycin and metformin reduced the negative effect of food proteins on the functions of hepatic mitochondria – cellular organelles responsible for energy production, and resveratrol suppressed the negative effects of carbohydrates and fats. However, the biggest impact was demonstrated not by medications, but by the total caloric content of the diet and the balance of proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

Thus, a strong negative relationship was found between the energy coming from food and the process of maturation of mRNA necessary for the synthesis of cellular proteins, primarily involved in DNA repair, maintenance of the normal cell cycle, elongation of telomeres – the "protective" end sections of chromosomes, etc. And there is a strong positive relationship between the amount of protein coming from food and the oxidative stress that develops during the work of mitochondria. And, as you know, the gradual increase in oxidative stress is one of the characteristics of cellular aging.

Given that the pathways of nutrient signaling are similar in humans and mice, it can be assumed that it is better to change the diet to improve metabolic health than to use drugs, especially when there are no medical indications for this. Scientists do not give specific dietary recommendations, but the results of this work once again indicate in favor of reducing the total calorie content and the need to balance the composition of our food. They also say that when prescribing medications such as metformin for medical reasons, it would be nice to take into account their interaction with the patient's diet.

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