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Centre to Research Diet And Ageing

The Northern Echo

01-16-06

THE Government is backing North-East scientists in their efforts to identify how diet can affect ageing.

Research has shown that the right nutrition is not only important for everyday life, but also has a major impact on the way in which humans age.

Scientists at Newcastle University have been asked to find out exactly how foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables are so beneficial in combating toxic agents, and why foods such as those high in fats and sugars are so bad for long-term health.

The Government is funding a new 6.4m research centre at the Tyneside university to carry out the work.

To be known as the Centre for Integrated Systems Biology of Ageing and Nutrition (Cisban), the institute will try to extend people's knowledge about food.

Professor Tom Kirkwood, who is an internationally known expert on ageing, heads the institute.

He said: "Life expectancy is still growing by a staggering five hours a day.

"If we want to make the most of the extra time we are being given, we need to understand exactly what can be done to help us reach our later years with our bodies in good shape and our faculties intact.

"Longer lives are a real bonus if we can maintain our independence and enjoy a good quality of life."

Although the benefits of a good diet have long been appreciated, it is only now that scientists are beginning to discover just how fundamental these benefits can be, helping us all to make the best of our longer lives.

Prof Kirkwood said: "The damage that will determine what shape you will be in during middle and old age starts building up from even before you are born."

However, he said: "It is never too late to begin to make a real difference."

The 40 members of the Cisban team, which includes scientists from Japan, Australia and China, include researchers in computing science, mathematics and statistics.

They will use the latest computer modelling programmes to analyse how different foods affect bodies.

Systems biology is a new way of tackling complex biological problems and allows scientists to carry out detailed measurements of cells and molecules.

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