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This One Thing Is More Powerful Than Drugs at Fighting Aging, New Study Says

Research is shedding more light on the connection between natural bodily aging and your metabolism.

Metabolism and the natural bodily aging process are intrinsically linked. As each one of us continues to blow out birthday candles and grows a little older each year, our metabolisms slow down just a little bit more. As that happens, it usually becomes much easier to put on excess weight and much more difficult to add on muscle.

In many ways, it isn't a stretch to say that the deterioration of metabolic health is quite literally the aging process put into action. Individuals with poor metabolic health, especially as they grow older, are more prone to a litany of conditions including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and stroke. To put it succinctly, your metabolism largely determines your body's true "age," regardless of the date on your driver's license. Past research even goes so far as to conclude that obesity (a major indicator of poor metabolic health) has essentially the exact same effect on the body and its cells as premature aging processes. (Although, to be fair, high blood pressure or sugar, as well as too much HDL cholesterol, are all linked to metabolic health, too.)

So, what's the best way to promote bodily longevity and strong metabolic health? A groundbreaking new study published in Cell Metabolism compared the effect of diet versus three distinct drugs thought to hold anti-aging qualities on metabolic health and cell functioning.

Read on to learn exactly what the research team uncovered about what's most powerful at fighting aging. Then, don't miss 3 Major Secrets to Living to 99, According to Betty White.

Diet is more powerful than drugs at fighting aging

avocado toast with egg

Conducted at the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre, this preclinical research project concludes diet/nutrition is much more beneficial in terms of both anti-aging and promoting good metabolic health in comparison to three drugs usually prescribed to either treat diabetes or slow aging.

The study even indicates that the drugs actually appear to "dampen" or mitigate the body's responses to various combinations of proteins, fats, and carbs.

"Diet is a powerful medicine. However, presently drugs are administered without consideration of whether and how they might interact with our diet composition–even when these drugs are designed to act in the same way, and on the same nutrient-signalling pathways as diet," explains senior study author and Academic Director of the Charles Perkins Centre, Professor Stephen Simpson.

These findings are preliminary in nature and require further research. Still, study authors say their work makes a compelling case that the right diet can help prevent or at least "keep at bay" various conditions linked to advanced age and poor metabolic health including diabetes, stroke, and heart disease much more effectively than drugs.

"We discovered dietary composition had a far more powerful effect than drugs, which largely dampened responses to diet rather than reshaped them," Simpson adds.

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The research

medical or scientific researcher or doctor using looking at a clear solution in a laboratory

The purpose of the project was to determine if drugs or diet are more influential on nutrient-sensing and various other metabolic pathways. Additionally, researchers set out to answer if diet or drugs interact with one another and increase or decrease effectiveness from a metabolic perspective.

The three drugs examined during this study were metformin, rapamycin, and resveratrol. As many as 40 different combinations of proteins, carbs, fat, calories, and drugs were administered to a group of mice.

"Given humans share essentially the same nutrient-signaling pathways as mice, the research suggests people would get better value from changing their diet to improve metabolic health rather than taking the drugs we studied," Simpson comments.

After administering the doses, researchers largely focused on the rodents' livers as the organ plays a big role in metabolism regulation.

Yet another reason why this research is especially noteworthy was scientists' use of the geometric framework for nutrition, which focuses on combinations of nutrients as opposed to single nutrients. This allowed study authors to assess the cumulative impact of proteins, fats, and more on aging processes instead of just protein or fat singularly.

Related: The Best Foods to Slow Aging After 50, Say Dietitians

Effect on cell aging

older woman touching wrinkles on face

Sure enough, both calorie intake and nutrient levels/combos (proteins, carbs) had a strong impact on the liver.

Notably, diet also had a major influence on cell functioning in general. Protein intake levels influenced activity within the cell's mitochondria, which is where cells create energy. Cellular energy is incredibly important, as energy levels determine how efficiently cells function and ultimately create new cells. New cell development and overall cellular functioning are heavily associated with the bodily aging process. This observation suggests diet goes a long way toward keeping the body's cells "young" and full of energy.

What you eat affects how you age

oatmeal bowl with fruit

All in all, the research strongly indicates a healthy, balanced diet is great for both the liver (a key metabolic organ) and cell health (a major aspect of the aging process) and offers more anti-aging benefits than the three tested pharmaceuticals.

"This approach is the only way we can get an overview of the interaction between diet, our health, and physiology," notes lead study author Professor David Le Couteur of the Charles Perkins Centre and Faculty of Medicine and Health.

"We all know what we eat influences our health, but this study showed how food can dramatically influence many of the processes operating in our cells. This gives us insights into how diet impacts health and aging," he concludes.

For more, check out The #1 Best Way to Stay Healthy in Older Age, New Study Says.

John Anderer
John Anderer is a writer who specializes in science, health, and lifestyle topics. Read more about John
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