London: The key to good health, energy and long life could be as simple as cutting down on your carbohydrates.
Professor Cynthia Kenyon, gerontologist at the University of California, has discovered that carbohydrates directly affect two key genes that govern youthfulness and longevity.
Kenyon, whom many believe could win the Nobel Prize for her research into ageing, made her breakthrough after studying roundworms, specifically the C. elegans, tiny worms that live in the soil.
By tweaking some of their genes she has been able to help the worms live up to six times longer than normal, reports the Daily Mail.
"Not only that, but we also know how to make them stay healthy all that time as well," she told an audience at the Wellcome Collection in London this month.
So how does a worm hold the key to human ageing? After 18 days, the average roundworm is flabby, sluggish and wrinkled. Two days later it will probably be dead.
Kenyon found that damping down the activity of just one of their genes had a dramatic effect. "Instead of dying at about 20 days, our first set of mutant worms carried on living to more than 40 days," she says.
"And they weren`t sluggish and worn out - they behaved like youngsters. It was a real shock. In human terms it was the equivalent of talking to someone you thought was about 30 and finding they were actually 60."
Kenyon has found out why drastically reducing calories has such a remarkable effect.
With more sophisticated genetic manipulation, she now has some worms that have lived for an astonishing 144 days. An increase of that proportion would allow humans to live to 450 years.
Kenyon`s work has been successfully repeated in labs around the world - the genes she found controlling ageing in worms do the same thing in rats, mice, probably monkeys. There are signs they are active in humans too.