Weight watching 'keeps brain young'
Published 19/12/2011 | 23:52
A new discovery about diet and the brain might make it easier to resist that extra helping of Christmas dinner.
Cutting calories activates a molecule that keeps the brain young, Italian scientists have discovered.
In contrast, over-indulgence is believed to speed up early brain ageing, leading to diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Experts have long known that reducing food intake can extend life.
Mice restricted to 70% of the calories they normally consume live 30% to 40% longer than usual. Typically, they also do not suffer from obesity or diabetes, have enhanced mental powers and memory, and are less aggressive.
Calorie-restricted mice also take much longer to develop dementia than overfed mice.
Many other studies have linked obesity to brain ageing, but why eating less should benefit the brain has been a puzzle until now.
According to the Italian scientists, the answer lies with a molecule called CREB1 which is activated in the brain by calorie restriction. CREB1 switches on another group of molecules linked to longevity called "sirtuins".
Study leader Dr Giovambattista Pani, from the Catholic University of Sacred Heart in Rome, said: "This discovery has important implications to develop future therapies to keep our brain young and prevent brain degeneration and the ageing process.
"In addition, our study sheds light on the correlation among metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity and the decline in cognitive activities. Our hope is to find a way to activate CREB1, for example through new drugs, so to keep the brain young without the need of a strict diet."