One of the indicators of a cell's health is the state of its DNA and containers-the chromosomes-so when these fuse together or suffer anomalies, they can become the source of illnesses like cancer and/or ageing processes.
According to a study carried out by a team led by Mar-a Blasco, the director of the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) and head of the Telomeres and Telomerase Group, a sustained lowering of food intake over time results in an increase of telomere length-the ends of chromosomes-in adult mice, which has a protective effect on the DNA and genetic material.
These beneficial effects on the youth of the chromosomes translate to a lower incidence of cancer and other age-related illnesses. The journal PLOS ONE is to publish the details of this study in its online edition this week.
A lower incidence of cancer and better health
To carry out the study, researchers used young mice-just three months old-and reduced their caloric intake by 40% before observing them until the end of their life cycle.
"We see that mice that undergo caloric restriction show a lower telomere shortening rate than those fed with a normal diet," says Blasco. "These mice therefore have longer telomeres as adults, as well as lower rates of chromosome anomalies," she adds.
To study the effects of this phenomenon on the health of the mammals, researchers observed the incidence of age-related illnesses like cancer. The mice that had been fed a lower calorie intake showed a reduction in the incidence of cancer. Furthermore, these mice also showed a lower incidence of other age-related illnesses such as osteoporosis, greater glucose uptake or improvements in motor coordination.