A team of Italian scientists released the findings of new research last week that indicates eating fewer calories can help spare the brain from the ravages of aging.
The study, published in the U.S. journal, The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is based on a study of mice that were fed a diet of about 70 percent of the food they normally consumed.
The calorie-restricted diet triggered a protein molecule, CREB1, that activates a host of genes linked to longevity and good brain function, the scientists reported.
“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,” said lead author Giovambattista Pani, a researcher at the Institute of General Pathology, Faculty of Medicine at the Catholic University of Sacred Heart in Rome.
Earlier studies have shown that mice on diets showed better cognitive abilities and memory, less aggression, and tended to avoid or delay Alzheimer’s disease. But the researchers did not understand why. They may have found the answer with CREB1.
“CREB1 is known to regulate important brain functions as memory, learning and anxiety control, and its activity is reduced or physiologically compromised by aging,” the study states.
“Our findings identify for the first time an important mediator of the effects of diet on the brain,” Pani said. “This discovery has important implications to develop future therapies to keep our brain young and prevent brain degeneration and the aging process.”
Scientists believe the study could shed new provide a greater understanding why some people who are obese in middle age experience cognitive problems later in life.
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