Diet exceeds anti-aging and metabolic health drugs
A preclinical study by the Charles Perkins Center, University of Sydney, which compares the impact of diet versus drugs on the inner workings of our cells, found that nutrition has a much stronger impact than drugs to keep away conditions such as diabetes, stroke and heart disease. Research on mice has shown that nutrition (including overall calories and macronutrient balance) has a greater impact on aging and metabolic health than three drugs commonly used to treat diabetes and slow down aging. The findings demonstrate the protective role of diet and specific combinations of proteins, fats and carbohydrates against aging, obesity, heart disease, immune dysfunction and the risk of metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
The principal author and academic director of the Charles Perkins Center, Professor Stephen Simpson, said that drugs can target the same biochemical pathways as nutrients. “A huge effort has been made to discover drugs that can improve metabolic health and aging without considering a change in diet,” he said.
“Diet is a powerful medicine. However, presently, drugs are administered without considering whether and how they might interact with the composition of our diet, even when these drugs are designed to act in the same way and on the same nutrient-signalling pathways as diet.”
The researchers set out to find out if the drugs or diet were stronger in reshaping nutrient sensitivity and other metabolic pathways, and if the drugs and diet interacted in ways that made them more or less effective.
“We found that the composition of the diet had a much stronger effect than the drugs, which greatly attenuated the responses to the diet, rather than reshaping them,” said Professor Simpson. “Because humans have essentially the same nutrient signaling pathways as mice, research suggests that humans would get better results by changing their diet to improve metabolic health, rather than taking medication.”
A strong point of the study was the use of the geometric framework for nutrition, developed by professors Stephen Simpson and David Raubenheimer. This allowed the research team to consider how mixtures and interactions of different nutrients influence health and disease, rather than focusing on any nutrient in isolation, which is a limitation in other nutrition studies.
The results of the research in this study add another piece to the puzzle in understanding the mechanisms that link “what we eat” to “how we age.” It has been found that the calorie intake and balance of macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) in the diet have a strong impact on the liver. Protein and total calorie intake have had a particularly strong effect not only on metabolic pathways, but also on the fundamental processes that control how our cells function. For example, the amount of protein consumed has influenced the activity of mitochondria, the part of cells that produce energy. This creates a downstream effect, as the amount of protein and food energy consumed influences how accurately cells translate their genes into different proteins. These are needed to help the cells function properly and to make new cells.
“We all know that what we eat affects our health, but this study has shown how food can dramatically affect many of the processes that work in our cells. This gives us insight into how diet impacts health and aging.”
Healthy eating plays a key role in preventing and treating various ailments, and with the help of the Dahna app, which you can download for free from the App Store or Google Play, you have access to personalized diets, depending on your needs.