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Will Eating Less Help You Live Longer?

Does this include competitive eaters? Champion Miki Sudo (L) poses with competitor Michelle Lesco during the official weigh-in ceremony for the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest in Brooklyn, New York, July 1, 2016. (REUTERS/Andrew Kelly)
Will Eating Less Help You Live Longer?
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From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

If you want to slow aging, you might want to eat less. Researchers in the United States say eating less can slow the aging process of cells in the body.

This finding is good news – if you are a mouse. The researchers studied mice, not people.

John Price is a biochemistry professor at Brigham Young University in the U.S. state of Utah.

He and other researchers studied two groups of mice. One group was able to eat as much as it wanted. The researchers restricted what the other animals in the other group ate. Their diet had 35 percent fewer calories than the first group of mice.

Price says the mice with the diet restrictions were “more energetic and suffered fewer diseases.” They were not just living longer, they seemed to stay younger for a longer period of time.

Price says that when you restrict calories (in mice), there is a direct increase in lifespan – the average age of the animal. He and his team found that calorie “restriction caused real biochemical changes that slowed down the rate of aging."

But how?

The researchers found that fewer calories slow down a natural mechanism in cells called ribosomes. Price explains that ribosomes are responsible for making important proteins in the cells. But with fewer calories, they slow down. This gives the cells more time to repair themselves.

The University of Utah researchers say ribosomes use from 10 to 20 percent of the cell's energy to make those proteins.

In a press release on the study, Price wrote that "because of this, it is impractical to destroy an entire ribosome” when it starts to break down.

However, “repairing individual parts of the ribosome on a regular basis enables ribosomes to continue producing high quality proteins for longer than they would otherwise. This top quality production, in turn, keeps cells and the entire body functioning well."

Price used automobiles to explain how ribosomes repair themselves. He said that a “ribosome is a very complex machine,” like a car.

Ribosomes, likes cars, need “maintenance to replace the parts that wear out the fastest. When tires wear out,” he explained, “you don't throw the whole car away and buy” a new one. It costs less to replace the old tires.

Earlier studies have suggested a link between calorie restrictions and slowed aging. However, this is first to show how the ribosomes can influence aging.

Price noted calorie restriction as a way to slow aging has not been tested in humans. But he adds that the main finding for people is the "the importance of taking care of our bodies."

"Food,” he said, “isn't just material to be burned -- it's a signal that tells our body and cells how to respond.”

Price said the findings help to explain how exactly our bodies age. And this may “help us make more educated decisions about what we eat."

I’m Anna Matteo.

This story first appeared on Anna Matteo adapted the report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

calorie n. an amount of food having an energy-producing value of one large calorie

biochemical adj. represented by, produced by, or involving chemical reactions in living organisms

mechanism n. a process or system that is used to produce a result

impractical adj. not easy to do or use

regular adj. happening or done very often

basisn. a fixed method or system for doing something

functioning v. to work or operate

maintenance n. the act of keeping property or equipment in good condition by making repairs or correcting problems