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Mice Delay Aging with High-Fat Diet

Nov 06, 2014 03:31 PM EST

New research shows that mice can delay aging with a high-fat diet, a finding that can possibly lead to new treatments for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, as well as premature aging in children.

As we get older, defects begin to develop in our nervous system and our brain loses some of its intellectual capacity. This is because the repair system of our cells - which aims to prevent DNA damage - ceases to function, increasing the risk for developing diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, which is currently the fastest-growing age-related disease.

Researchers from the Center for Healthy Aging, University of Copenhagen and the National Institute of Health decided to study mice with a defect in this DNA repair system to see how it impacts aging. In humans, this defect causes a disorder called Cockayne syndrome, in which patients prematurely age as children and die as young as 10-12 years old.

But there may be hope yet for postponing such early aging in children. The study describes in the scientific journal Cell Metabolism how placing a mouse model of Cockayne syndrome on a high-fat diet helps delay aging processes such as impaired hearing and weight loss.

"The study is good news for children with Cockayne syndrome, because we do not currently have an effective treatment," researcher Vilhelm Bohr, who led the study, said in a statement. "Our study suggests that a high-fat diet can postpone aging processes."

"A diet high in fat also seems to postpone the aging of the brain," he added.

High-fat diets - for example, those with a high content of coconut oil or similar fats - most likely are linked to a delay in aging because they produce ketones. Ketones are the brain's fuel reserve when sugar isn't available (i.e. if you are fasting). So when the body needs sugar, it breaks down fat and produces ketones.

"We therefore hope that a diet with a high content of coconut oil or similar fats will have a beneficial effect, because the brain cells are given extra fuel and thus the strength to repair the damage," explained postdoc Morten Scheibye-Knudsen, who was involved in the study.

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