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Live longer: Two dietary patterns that may turn on ‘longevity gene’ shared by centenarians

Lifespan is closely linked with environmental factors, but the role of genes is equally important. Certain genes play a unique role in the ageing process by protecting against age-related diseases. In identifying these genes, research has provided new insight into the different ageing mechanisms. Some studies suggest the dietary patterns of fasting and restricting calories may be instrumental in activating these proteins.

A specific variation of the FOXO gene, known as FOXO3, is known to have a strong impact on ageing and age-related phenotypes.

Studies have shown it can regulate the stress response and therefore affect lifespan.

In 2009, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that the FOXO3 association of the gene “was considerably stronger in centenarians than in nonagenarians”.

Such studies, largely conducted on centenarian populations, have helped identify the ways in which the gene can be activated through lifestyle.

READ MORE: Live longer – four expert tips to reduce your metabolic age

Generally speaking, it’s been understood that the process of activating the longevity gene requires a combination of lifestyle changes.

These include eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and getting adequate sleep, but some measures may even be more effective.

Several studies have revealed that intermittent fasting may be beneficial for individuals seeking to extend their lifespan, for instance.

The dietary pattern involves alternating between periods of eating and fasting at various mealtime schedules.

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It has been suggested this may help to reduce inflammation, improve metabolic health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

The journal of Current Topics in Developmental Biology explained: “FOXOs are activated by upstream signals under conditions of low nutrient availability or starvation.

“For example, in the liver, low nutrient status and thus low levels of insulin signalling activate FOXOs to restore glucose levels via glycogenolysis and gluconeogenesis.”

Additionally, some experts believe the dietary pattern may help to extend lifespan by potentially activating certain cellular processes that protect against ageing.

READ MORE: 70% of people who age successfully have 5 factors in common

The Mayo Clinic states: “Some research suggests that intermittent fasting may be more beneficial than other diets for reducing inflammation and improving conditions associated with inflammation.”

The health body cautions, however, that while the practice is generally safe, it may not be for everyone.

It added: “Skipping meals may not be the best way to manage your weight if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

“If you have kidney stones, gastro-oesophageal reflux, diabetes and other medical problems, talk with your doctor before starting intermittent fasting.”

Additonal research suggests caloric restriction may also result in the activation of sirtuins, a family of signalling proteins, leading to the activation of FOXOs.

According to Harvard University, the term is used to describe up to 50 percent reduction in calories from a normal diet.

The dietary pattern also correlates with the activation of autophagy and other mechanisms leading to healthy ageing.

Though the discovery of the FOXO3 gene has led to several breakthroughs in the field of ageing and longevity, more research is needed to confirm the link between intermittent fasting and the activation of the FOXO3.

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