London: Believe it or not, eating just enough to survive could actually hold the key to living longer -- at least in animals, a new study has found.
British scientists have shown how an extreme diet can protect against the ageing process. They believe that cells do not move through their cycle of life as quickly if they are starved of energy.
In their study, animals which were fed an extremely low-calorie diet were found to have greater number of healthy dividing cells. The scientists found that a protective sheath covering the end of important genetic information in cells was intact.
Damage to this sheath, along with a rise in the number of non-dividing cells, are both key signs of ageing. Even older animals which adopted the diets late in their lives experienced the same benefits, the findings suggested.
It is hoped the work could help experts understand more about human ageing and possibly how to prevent disease.
But the scientists at Newcastle University warned that people should not adopt radical low-calorie diets in order to live longer as it`s still not known if the same benefits would be gained in humans or what the risks were.
The research examined the number of ageing cells in the livers and intestines of mice. When mice age, this type of non-dividing cell is found in higher concentrations in these organs.
Co-scientist Chunfang Wang said: "A very low-calorie diet can help to extend life-span and there`s lot of evidence that this is true. However, we need a better understanding of what`s actually happening in an organism on restricted diet."
Added Prof Thomas von Zglinicki, who led the study: "We don`t yet know if food restriction delays ageing in humans, and may be we wouldn`t want it."