Our work at the Orentreich Foundation for the Advancement of Science has proven that methionine restriction (MR) extends lifespan and has many beneficial effects on various systems in animal models. Rodent MR models have shown improved cardiovascular function, bone development, insulin sensitivity, stress tolerance, and glucose metabolism, as well as a reduction in body mass and cancer development. Some of these effects have also been documented in invertebrate organisms, such as yeast, nematodes, and fruit flies.
In order for these effects to translate to humans, it is crucial to have access to the appropriate food sources. Building on their previous research, Associate Science Director Gene Ables and Senior Scientist Jay Johnson utilized information from the US National Nutrient Database to compile a list of various food sources that contain methionine content in order to give individuals an idea of what foods are best for a low-methionine diet. It was revealed that food sources for beef contained the highest content of methionine, followed by other animal-based sources such as poultry, fish, and dairy, whereas food like nuts, vegetables, cereals, and fruit contained less methionine. According to the data found, in order to achieve MR, a person has to eat more plant-based food and less animal-based food. This supports the idea that a vegan diet, which is naturally low in methionine, could be beneficial to healthspan.
Cellular senescence, a stress-induced state in which cells are unable to divide, is known to prevent the proliferation of potentially cancerous cells. This growth arrest also plays a beneficial role in tissue remodeling and wound healing. In organisms, senescent cells accumulate over time and it is thought that this buildup is a part of the aging process. In a recent study published in the journal Nature, Dr. Jan van Deursen’s group explored the physiological relevance and consequences of senescent cells. They demonstrated that the elimination of these cells extended the median lifespan of both male and female mice, delayed the progress of neoplastic disease, and reduced the severity of age-related pathologies in several organs, such as kidney, heart, and adipose tissue.
Studies like this are key with respect to the ultimate goal of extending human healthspan; in part, as they provide the means to explore other methods that increase the quality of life and prevent or delay the onset of age-related disease. Dr. Jay E. Johnson, one of our senior scientists here at OFAS, is particularly interested in this type of research. The developing field of senolytics (i.e., using pharmacological agents to selectively eliminate senescent cells) represents a promising approach to translating basic aging research to improve human health. It will, of course, be quite interesting to see how efficiently such therapies prevent age-related deterioration in humans.
Dr. van Deursen will be presenting his pioneering research at our upcoming symposium “Aging and Nutrition: Novel approaches and techniques”, which will take place on December 2, 2016 at the New York Academy of Sciences. For more information, please click here.