How eating less can slow the aging process

Caloric restriction has been touted as an effective anti-aging strategy since mid 1990s. Scientific American did multiple articles over the years and the juries are still out on whether the correlation is a sound scientific hypothesis or an urban myth.

A study published in Molecular & Cellular Proteomics threw more scientific weight behind the hypothesis and offered one glimpse into how cutting calories impacts aging inside a cell. It seems that ribosomes — the cell’s protein makers –plays a key role. The researchers found that when ribosomes slow down, the aging process slows too. The decreased speed lowers protein production, but gives ribosomes extra time to repair themselves. So what causes ribosome production to slow down in the first place?

According to the animal study, reduced calorie consumption. The researchers from the Brigham Young University observed two groups of mice. One group had unlimited access to food while the other was restricted to consume 35 percent fewer calories, though still receiving all the necessary nutrients for survival. The researcher observed that, when calorie consumption is restricted, there’s almost a linear increase in lifespan. In addition to living longer, the calorie-restricted mice are better at maintaining their bodies as they are more energetic and suffered fewer diseases – basically, they’re younger for longer as well.

Ribosomes are important — they use 10-20 percent of the cell’s total energy to build all the proteins necessary for the cell to operate. Like cars, ribosomes are complex machines — they need periodic maintenance to replace the worn out parts, which enables them to continue producing high-quality proteins. This top-quality production in turn keeps cells and the entire body functioning well. It seems that, caloric restriction slows down the workload for the ribosomes and allow them time to self-repair and maintain.

It should be noted that caloric restriction as an anti-aging strategy has not been tested out extensively in human. If you choose to practice such strategy, eat less but be sure to have enough protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. Or, if you are like me, fast periodically but pop a few vitamin supplements to ensure you are still getting essential nutrients.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Connie Wan

Journal Reference: Andrew D. Mathis, Bradley C. Naylor, Richard H. Carson, Eric Evans, Justin Harwell, Jared Knecht, Eric Hexem, Fredrick F. Peelor, Benjamin F. Miller, Karyn L. Hamilton, Mark K. Transtrum, Benjamin T. Bikman, John C. Price. Mechanisms of In Vivo Ribosome Maintenance Change in Response to Nutrient Signals. Molecular & Cellular Proteomics, 2017; 16 (2): 243 DOI: 10.1074/mcp.M116.063255

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