Live to 100? What’s the Animal Evidence?

November 09, 2006

Live to 100? What’s the Animal Evidence? 

 Competency # 20  Culture: Lifestyles of the Long-Lived.          ReferenceNature:  Nov 2006  

The New York Times just reported this week a huge article about living longer with calorie-restricted diets.  The evidence is accumulating in multiple mammal models that a 30% reduction in calories results in 30-40% increased lifespan.  Rhesus monkeys and mice are two models of animals in which this has been proven pretty well.  I’ve been told that I look close enough to a rhesus monkey that there may be some overlap. 

 On a more serious note, this information builds on other research.  A Dr. Kenyon, at University of California in San Francisco made a mutation in roundworms of an insulin receptor called daf-2.  This mutation leads to the round worms living 6 times longer.   Those little worms with that mutation can’t react to insulin.  Their cells can’t take up glucose, because they can’t react to insulin.  Without glucose, they think they are starving and go into slow-down mode.  And then they live longer, 6 times longer. 

 I reported to you in a column a couple of months back about “the common soil” hypothesis.  That’s really the cutting edge of nutrition research right now.   In that, we are speculating that the processes for metabolism and inflammation are really the same.  As we slow down metabolism, we slow down inflammation.  And then we live longer.  Because those processes are so intertwined by evolution, the only way to manipulate them is to understand that interplay.  

That explains why as we get heavier, our insulin levels rise, our inflammation rises, our cellular processes speed up and we get all the illnesses of inflammation.  Heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s become our fate. Have you become depressed yet?  Well, the answer then is the next idea.  

The same New York Times had an article from Nature magazine this week about red wine and mice living longer when they got a special concentrate of ingredients from red wine.  A compound in red wine called resveratrol, when concentrated, seems to make mice live a lot longer.  They could eat like pigs and didn’t gain weight.   In fact, they lived as long as the mice fed much healthier diets.  The good news is that it takes the equivalent of 750 bottles of wine a day to have that effect.  So, drink up! 

 WWW:  What will work for me.  I’m not going on a 30% less calorie diet just yet.  The human evidence is very powerful though that we should not be overweight.  We don’t have real human evidence that being super skinny helps.  But the pieces of the puzzle are falling together.  There is evidence that a glass of red wine a day is helpful. (Just one glass)  We have more to learn.  

This column was written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI, (262-784-5300)