The Society for Experimental Biology’s Annual Main Meeting held this year in Glasgow, Scotland, was the site of a presentation on April 2, 2007 by Professor Stephen Spindler of the University of California, Riverside, of the findings that calorie restriction started later in life still elicits many of the benefits of life-long restriction, including a reduction in cancer risk, and that compounds may be found that produce similar benefits.
Research in mice has demonstrated up to a 40 percent increase in life span associated with consuming a nutritious diet that provides significantly fewer calories than a standard diet. Since most people find it difficult to reduce their calories for long periods of time, Dr Spindler’s team is seeking to identify drugs that produce the same benefits. By examining the gene expression patterns produced by calorie restriction in animals, compounds that mimic these patterns can be rapidly identified.
Although Dr Spindler’s team has identified at least one drug that induces some of the genetic changes associated with restricting calories, they stress that it is important that individuals other than those for whom the drug was originally intended benefit by using the compound. Even low levels of toxicity could become significant when a drug may need to be used over a life time.
The compounds could be given late in life to provide some of the benefits observed with lifetime calorie restriction. Although they may not be able to prevent the cell damage associated with aging, they could be used to help eliminate or repair damaged cells that have the capacity to become cancer cells. This repair process slows with aging, but is increased by calorie restriction. It is believed that when the body perceives itself as starving, it kills damaged and cancerous cells to produce energy, replacing the cells when food is consumed.
“Right now, there are no authentic ‘antiaging drugs’ capable of extending the lifespan of healthy people,” Dr Spindler stated. “The technique we have developed allows us to screen a relatively large number of drugs in months rather than years. The hope is that these drugs will be able to extend the lifespan of healthy animals, and possibly, after further testing, healthy humans.”
Two approaches are currently being explored to make the benefits of CRON (calorie restriction with optimal nutrition) more accessible. The first is the most direct: reducing calories by 30 percent to 40 percent. This requires a careful diet that is rich in nutrients, complex carbohydrates, soluble fiber, and lean protein. Soluble fiber has been shown to decrease hunger, although hunger cannot realistically be eliminated completely during a dedicated CRON diet. Consuming fiber before meals can reduce the rapid absorption of simple carbohydrates and help decrease the post-meal surge in insulin (Anderson JW et al 1993).
The second approach is the development of drugs that alter body biochemistry to mimic the benefits of CRON.
Recent studies at the BioMarker Pharmaceuticals laboratory have shown that a nutrient formula from the Life Extension Foundation that contains extracts of grape seed and skin, a whole red grape resveratrol extract, vitamin C, and calcium (from calcium ascorbate) can produce many of the gene expression effects found in mice on CRON.
Scientists have hypothesized that resveratrol may be a key component of the famous “French Paradox”, whereby the French traditionally were protected against heart disease despite a diet high in butter and animal fats. Resveratrol is a phytoalexin, a natural plant antibiotic which is produced by vitis vinifera as a response to attack by molds. Because of the wide-spread use of pesticides in modern wine-making, including the practice of copper sulphation, the level of resveratrol in modern wines has plummeted. Red wine contains resveratrol, but the quantity varies depending on where the grapes are grown, the time of harvest, and other factors. In fact, usually only 1-3 mg resveratrol per liter of red wine is currently found, even in the most robust red wines.
Life Extension's Grapeseed Extract with Resveratrol formula provides a concentrated blend of standardized proanthocyanidins found in grape seed and skins. The proanthocyanidins and flavonoids in this new formula are rapidly absorbed and distributed throughout the body, helping to eliminate free radicals while promoting healthy collagen formation.