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Lean body mass

Calorie restriction shown to boost longevity and slow loss of muscle mass in animal experiment

Monday, July 10, 2006 by: NewsTarget
Tags: lean body mass, calorie restriction, health news


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(NewsTarget) A study recently published in the Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences suggests that eating less may help people stay strong even in old age.

Scientists from the University of Calgary found that rats fed a nutritious, calorie-restricted diet maintained their muscle mass much better than rats that ate a normal amount of food. "It's the equivalent of an 80-year-old rat with the muscles of a 20-year-old rat," said Russ Hepple, a physiologist at the University of Calgary.

Although it is well-documented that a low calorie diet increases life expectancy, this is the first study showing a connection between diet and strength. In Hepple's experiment, rats that consumed a low calorie diet lost only 20 percent of their muscle mass as they aged, with no loss of muscle function. Rats fed a normal diet lost 50 percent of their strength and 50 percent of their muscle function as they aged.

Researchers are still trying to understand how a low calorie diet preserves muscles. Experiments performed so far seem to show that cutting calories helps the mitochondria function better, which improves the rats ability to rebuild and replace cells as they age. Hepple's next study will focus on antioxidants, exercise and gene therapy to see how these areas affect muscle maintenance.

While cutting calories by 40 percent showed significant improvement in the study rats, Hepple does not recommend such severe calorie restriction for the average person. He encourages people to eat a healthy diet and stay active throughout their lives.

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