Scientists discover simpler way to achieve the benefits of intermittent fasting

Scientists found a simpler way to achieve the benefits of intermittent fasting, potentially leading to longer lifespans and healthier aging.

Monash University scientists have found a simpler way to achieve the benefits of intermittent fasting, potentially leading to longer lifespans and healthier aging.

Instead of the traditional fasting approach, the researchers focused on depriving fruit flies of a single essential amino acid, isoleucine. This method proved highly effective in enhancing stress resistance and extending the flies' lifespan.

What is Isoleucine?

Isoleucine (symbol Ile or I) is an α-amino acid that is used in the biosynthesis of proteins. It contains an α-amino group (which is in the protonated −NH+3 form under biological conditions), an α-carboxylic acid group (which is in the deprotonated −COO− form under biological conditions), and a hydrocarbon side chain with a branch (a central carbon atom bound to three other carbon atoms).

It is classified as a non-polar, uncharged (at physiological pH), branched-chain, aliphatic amino acid. It is essential in humans, meaning the body cannot synthesize it. Essential amino acids are necessary in the human diet.

In plants isoleucine can be synthesized from threonine and methionine. In plants and bacteria, isoleucine is synthesized from pyruvate employing leucine biosynthesis enzymes. It is encoded by the codons AUU, AUC, and AUA.

According to PhD candidate Tahila Fulton, who led the research, isoleucine deprivation offers a more practical strategy compared to conventional intermittent fasting.

"Our research not only expands our knowledge of dietary impacts on lifespan but also holds the potential to revolutionize how we approach diet and longevity," she explained.

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While previous studies showed that restricting all dietary amino acids can increase stress resistance, this typically requires long-term adherence. Fulton's team discovered that short-term deprivation of just one amino acid can have significant benefits.

Initially, the researchers wanted to see if flies could develop nicotine tolerance through short periods of isoleucine deprivation as they aged. They subjected flies to varying durations of isoleucine-free diets at different stages of their lifespan and then tested their survival when exposed to a lethal toxin.

The results were striking. Flies subjected to one week of isoleucine deprivation during mid and later stages of their lifespan showed a remarkable increase in lifespan, regardless of their diet in earlier or later stages.

"This discovery challenges existing notions about the rigid nature of dietary modifications for longevity and health benefits," Fulton noted.

The milder approach of isoleucine deprivation appears to mimic the benefits of broader dietary restrictions observed in conventional fasting methods.

This finding not only advances understanding of dietary impacts on fruit fly lifespan but also suggests a less invasive pathway for aging research in other species.

"The identification of specific amino acid restriction as a viable alternative to intermittent fasting opens doors for more targeted investigations into the mechanisms behind dietary interventions," Fulton concluded.

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Joseph Shavit
Joseph ShavitSpace, Technology and Medical News Writer
Joseph Shavit is the head science news writer with a passion for communicating complex scientific discoveries to a broad audience. With a strong background in both science, business, product management, media leadership and entrepreneurship, Joseph possesses the unique ability to bridge the gap between business and technology, making intricate scientific concepts accessible and engaging to readers of all backgrounds.