Low calorie diets slow ageing brain changes in mice

A study of mice on a calorie-restricted diet showed slower changes in genes linked to ageing and memory formation.

Posted on 17th November 2014

Researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center in the US have found that female mice on a calorie-restricted diet show changes in the activity of 900 genes linked to ageing and memory formation. The results are presented at Neuroscience 2014, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience on Monday 17 November.

The researchers fed healthy female mice either a normal diet or one with a 30% restriction on calories, for 2.5 or 12.5 months. At these timepoints, they analysed brain samples from the mice for the expression of thousands of genes implicated in ageing and memory formation. The samples were taken from an area of the brain called the hippocampus, involved in memory formation and known to be vulnerable to damage in Alzheimer’s.

The team studied changes in a signature of 882 genes that change with age. They found that the longer-term calorie-restricted diet was able to prevent or delay changes in this age-dependent genetic signature. The genes were involved in a range of different biological processes, some of which are believed to be involved in memory processing in the hippocampus.

Dr Eric Karran, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:

“This study suggests that a calorie-restricted diet could influence a large group of genes in the female mouse brain which are associated with ageing, but it’s not clear whether these changes would translate into benefits for learning and memory in these mice. Interventional studies would be needed in people to determine what impact calorie restriction might have on long-term health and age-related memory impairment. As we know, many people would find it challenging to sustain such a calorie-restricted diet, even if it was shown to be beneficial to brain health.

“It’s important to maintain a balanced and healthy diet, particularly into older age, and if people are considering making large changes to their diet they should consult their doctor. Current evidence suggests that the best way to maintain a healthy brain into older age is to not smoke, keep a healthy weight, eat a balanced diet, drink only in moderation and keep high blood pressure and cholesterol in check.”

Posted in Science news