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Dietary Supplements As Life-Lengthening Elixir?

Dietary Supplements As Life-Lengthening Elixir?

Recent research shows how alpha-ketoglutarate increases life-span of worms

We live in a world where access to food has no boundaries at all: no when, no where, no why. At least, in developed countries. There is always a market, a cafe, or a fast food chain around the corner and, I speak for myself when I say I feel hungry every time I pass by those establishments and I smell the aroma that is coming from inside. Even though we have learnt through time that excessive ingestion of food is associated with certain conditions, that craving is frequently stronger than us. Nowadays, some people are only moderately bothered by the fact that developing type II diabetes, high cholesterol or arteriosclerosis are life-shortening. However, there are also people that want to eat whatever they feel like, but also live longer.

Dietary supplements

It is logical to think that moderate consumption of food might be the key. Moderation has always been the key for everything. However, more and more people are taking different routes to mask daily flaws. Here the dietary supplements come into the picture; either to compensate for the vegetables they do not eat or to enhance performance and body building. These supplements are a result of living in a world that cares mostly about the now,  looks and immediate satisfaction.

Researchers from the University of California studied the effect of calorie restriction in addition with chemicals involved in the metabolism. They found that when alpha-ketoglutarate (alpha-KG) is administered to roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, its life span increases by 70%. Alpha-KG acts in order to slow metabolism by impairing the enzyme ATP’s activity, decreasing oxygen consumption and increasing autophagy. Authors said: “(…) alpha-KG seems to delay aging by switching the cell from growth mode to survival mode. This is thought to be how calorie restriction works as well (…)”.

However, Mathew Gill, an investigator of Scripps Research Institute in Florida, thinks it is yet too soon to jump into conclusions. Matt Kaeberlein, a molecular biologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, is also sceptic and adds to Gill’s doubts by saying that people should not start taking alpha-KG as an anti-ageing supplement.

This study shows preliminary results that are not applicable to humans yet, however it constitutes a good starting point by establishing a relation between alpha-KG and ATP. If the worms can shows us the future, we might be looking forward to infinity and beyond, but as other scientist warn us, there is still a lot of research that needs to be done.

Compound boosts lifespan in worms
Chin RM, Fu X, Pai MY, Vergnes L, Hwang H, Deng G, Diep S, Lomenick B, Meli VS, Monsalve GC, Hu E, Whelan SA, Wang JX, Jung G, Solis GM, Fazlollahi F, Kaweeteerawat C, Quach A, Nili M, Krall AS, Godwin HA, Chang HR, Faull KF, Guo F, Jiang M, Trauger SA, Saghatelian A, Braas D, Christofk HR, Clarke CF, Teitell MA, Petrascheck M, Reue K, Jung ME, Frand AR, & Huang J (2014). The metabolite α-ketoglutarate extends lifespan by inhibiting ATP synthase and TOR. Nature PMID: 24828042

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