Aging and carbohydrates seem to share an unfavourable association. One thing is for sure according to several scientific studies—the legendary fountain of youth has zero carbohydrates. Several studies have been trying to establish a link between aging and carbohydrates. Accordingly, it might be possible that the secret to aging slowly lies in restricting carb intake.
Carbohydrates are one of the main types of nutrients and are a common source of energy in living organisms. Known examples of carbohydrates include sugar, starch, and cellulose and common sources include grain byproducts, such as breads and pastas, as well as sweetening agents, such as cane sugar and corn syrup.
Renowned biologist and geneticist Dr. Cynthia Kenyon has been revolutionising the science behind aging. One of her biggest breakthroughs was figuring out that carbohydrate intake is a universal hormonal control for aging. So far, this theoretical link between aging and carbohydrates has proven true for worms, mice, rats, and monkeys.
In a study published in the journal Cell Metabolism, Kenyon together with colleagues Seung-Jae Lee and Coleen T. Murphy found out that dietary glucose shortened the lifespan of a round worm called C. elegans by inhibiting the activities of FOXO family member DAF-16 and the heat shock factor HSF-1. Glucose is a carbohydrate byproduct produced chiefly by humans through aerobic respiration.
Both DAF-16 and HSF-1 are transcription factors responsible for extending lifespan, reducing insulin production, and boosting repair and renovation activities. In other words, these transcription factors play a critical role in the overall process of aging.
Another study by Dr. Stephen Ginsberg, neuroscientist from Langone Medical Center at New York University, concluded that a diet that restricts intake of carbohydrates could regulate the functions of about 900 genes responsible for aging and memory formation.
During the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience held in Washington from November 15 to November 19 in 2014, Ginsberg presented his study that involved two groups of female mice. The first group was fed with food pellets that had 30% fewer calories while the second group was fed with food that had standard calorie level.
It is worth mentioning that female mice, like people, are more prone to dementia than males.
After performing tissue analyses of the hippocampal region on mice to examine differences in gene expressions, Ginsberg concluded that restricting carbohydrate intake stalls brain aging. Take note that the hippocampal region is an area of the brain affected earliest in Alzheimer’s disease.
The findings of Ginsberg further bolster the link between aging and carbohydrates. However, the neuroscientist noted that this does not mean restricting carbohydrate intake leads to everlasting youth. Furthermore, he highlighted the need for more research to determine the impact of carbohydrate restriction on long-term health and age-related memory impairment.
A 2010 research by Stephanie Seneff, Glyn Wain Wirght, and Luca Mascitelli highlighted the detrimental effect of a high carbohydrate diet on the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Accordingly, neurons become severely damaged due to chronic exposure to glucose and oxidising agents. Due to impaired functions, these neurons enter a state of apoptosis or a programmed cell death.
Without a doubt, science is directing its attention toward the effects of carb-rich diet on aging. However, the body of literature is considerably young and it is thereby hard to fully establish the link between aging and carbohydrates. There is also a need to consider diet in its entirety when linking its influence on ageing, especially by taking into consideration different types of macronutrients and macronutrient concentrations, along with their specific impacts.
Further details of the study of Kenyon et al are in the article “Glucose Shortens the Life Span of C. elegans by Downregulating DAF-16/FOXO Activity and Aquaporin Gene Expression” published in the journal Cell Metabolism. Further details of the study of Seneff et al are in the article “Nutrition and Alzheimer’s disease: The detrimental role of a high carbohydrate diet” published in the journal European Journal of Internal Medicine.