Cutting consumption of glucose, the most common dietary sugar, can extend the life of healthy human cells and speed the death of precancerous cells, reducing cancer's spread and growth rate.
According to findings reported by researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, reducing calorie-intake can benefit longevity and help prevent diseases like cancer that have been linked to aging.
The researchers conducted tests by growing both healthy human-lung cells and precancerous human-lung cells in laboratory flasks. The flasks were provided either normal levels of glucose or significantly reduced amounts of the sugar compound, and the cells then were allowed to grow for a period of weeks. Restricted glucose levels led the healthy cells to grow longer than is typical and caused the precancerous cells to die off in large numbers.
Every year some 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer. It ranks as one of the leading factors for the need for costly long-term care according to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance among aging seniors.
Two key genes were affected in the cellular response to decreased glucose consumption. The first gene, telomerase, encodes an important enzyme that allows cells to divide indefinitely. The second gene, p16, encodes a well known anti-cancer protein.
Healthy cells saw their telomerase rise and p16 decrease, which would explain the boost in healthy cell growth, the researchers explained. The research into the links between calorie intake, aging and the onset of diseases related to aging is thought to be a first of its kind given that it used the unique approach of testing human cells versus laboratory animals.
The study has been published in the online edition of The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. The research was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.