Calorie Restriction for the Brain

A new study in rhesus monkeys demonstrates one possible way in which calorie restriction protects against neurodegenerative conditions - Parkinson's in this case:

Researchers say the study suggests that calorie restriction may lessen the natural loss of dopamine that occurs with age and may reduce the risk of developing Parkinson's disease. Dopamine is a chemical used by the brain to control movement.

Although dopamine levels in the brain decline naturally with age, this decline becomes accelerated in people with Parkinson's disease and causes problems with movement and uncontrollable muscle tremors.

Researchers say previous studies have shown that people who eat a low-calorie, low-fat diet and those who exercise appear to have a lower risk of developing Parkinson's disease.

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The study showed that the calorie-restricted monkeys had higher levels of movement compared with monkeys fed an unrestricted diet. Levels of dopamine in the brain were higher in the monkeys fed the calorie-restricted diet. Those monkeys also had higher levels of a substance known as GDNF that helps dopamine cells survive longer.

Researchers say these preliminary results suggest that long-term calorie restriction may reduce the risk of Parkinson's disease by increasing the production of GDNF and preventing the destruction of dopamine cells.

The weight of science backing calorie restriction suggests that it is the best and easiest currently available method of improving your health and increasing your healthy life span. On the grand scale of what is possible, however, calorie restriction is just a small step in the right direction. This is why those of us who want to live well for far longer must do more than just take care of our own health - we must devote time and energy to ensuring that the healthy life extension medicine of the future arrives in time.

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