12.20.2011

Low-Calorie Diet Influences Brain Aging
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Researchers long have known obesity affects the brain's cognitive function and rate of decline. Now scientists in Italy have published the results of a study that might have isolated one of the key components in what makes a low-calorie diet beneficial to the brain's aging process, according to the AFP. The benefits of such a diet appear to rotate around the activation of a particular protein, known as CREB1.

What is CREB1?

CREB1 is a protein molecule known to regulate a wide range of brain functions, including learning, memory and anxiety control. As people age, this protein's efficacy is reduced, leading to a decrease in cognitive function. The comprise of CREB1 protein molecules can also lead to degenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's.

What are the specifics of the study?

The study was conducted by researchers working through the auspices of the Catholic University of Sacred Heart in Rome, in collaboration with scientists at the Institute of Human Physiology, according to Medical Xpress. The study involved the observation and testing of mice.

Mice were fed a calorie-restricted diet, which involved consuming only 70 percent of what they would normally eat. This was done to try to isolate the mechanisms by which a low-calorie diet affects brain function, something that various studies and models had already proven to be the case.

Scientists already knew CREB1 was essential to cognitive function and the brain's aging process, so they decided to focus their efforts on what results the lack or reduction of that protein would provide. In addition to the typical mice fed the calorie-restricted diet, other mice were engineered to be completely devoid of CREB1.

What were the results?

The mice that had been genetically altered to lack CREB1 experienced the loss of cognitive function and onset of degenerative illnesses in the same manner obese mice have been shown to suffer. The calorie-restricted mice showed significant retention of their cognitive abilities, including memory. Those on the calorie-restricted diet that eventually developed degenerative illnesses generally did so at a much slower and less devastating rate of decline than their CREB1-deficient or obese peers, according to UKPA.

In addition, the calorie-restricted mice lived 30 percent to 40 percent longer than their counterparts. There were behavioral differences as well, with the calorie-restricted mice showing less aggressive behavioral tendencies. They also were less likely to develop physical ailments such as diabetes.

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