Could this habit related to eating slow down rates of aging?

Could this habit related to eating slow down rates of aging?

Previous research showed that restricting calories results in longer lives for mice, worms and flies. A new study by Columbia University researchers applied those findings to people. But what does this paper actually show?

Angela Jimenez

Last Thursday, scientists at Columbia University published a new study finding that cutting down on calories could lead to longer, healthier lives. In the phase 2 trial, 220 healthy people without obesity dropped their calories significantly and, at least according to one test, their rate of biological aging slowed by 2 to 3 percent in over a couple of years. Small though that may seem, the researchers estimate that it would translate into a decline of about 10 percent in the risk of death as people get older. That's basically the same as quitting smoking.

Previous research has shown that restricting calories results in longer lives for mice, worms and flies. This research is unique because it applies those findings to people. It was published in Nature Aging.

But what did the researchers actually show? Why did two other tests indicate that the biological age of the research participants didn't budge? Does the new paper point to anything people should be doing for more years of healthy living? Spoiler alert: Maybe, but don't try anything before talking with a medical expert about it. I had the chance to chat with someone with inside knowledge of the research -- Dr. Evan Hadley, director of the National Institute of Aging's Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology, which funded the study. Dr. Hadley describes how the research participants went about reducing their calories, as well as the risks and benefits involved. He also explains the "aging clock" used to measure the benefits.

Keep ReadingKeep Reading
Matt Fuchs

Matt Fuchs is the editor-in-chief of Leaps.org and Making Sense of Science. He is also a contributing reporter to the Washington Post and has written for the New York Times, Time Magazine, WIRED and the Washington Post Magazine, among other outlets. Follow him @fuchswriter.

A newly discovered brain cell may lead to new treatments for cognitive disorders

Swiss researchers have found a type of brain cell that appears to be a hybrid of the two other main types — and it could lead to new treatments for brain disorders.

Adobe stock

Swiss researchers have discovered a third type of brain cell that appears to be a hybrid of the two other primary types — and it could lead to new treatments for many brain disorders.

The challenge: Most of the cells in the brain are either neurons or glial cells. While neurons use electrical and chemical signals to send messages to one another across small gaps called synapses, glial cells exist to support and protect neurons.

Astrocytes are a type of glial cell found near synapses. This close proximity to the place where brain signals are sent and received has led researchers to suspect that astrocytes might play an active role in the transmission of information inside the brain — a.k.a. “neurotransmission” — but no one has been able to prove the theory.

Keep ReadingKeep Reading
Kristin Houser
Kristin Houser is a staff writer at Freethink, where she covers science and tech. Her written work has appeared in Business Insider, NBC News, and the World Economic Forum’s Agenda, among other publications, and Stephen Colbert once talked about a piece on The Late Show, to her delight. Formerly, Kristin was a staff writer for Futurism and wrote several animated and live action web series.
Scientists implant brain cells to counter Parkinson's disease

In a recent research trial, patients with Parkinson's disease reported that their symptoms had improved after stem cells were implanted into their brains. Martin Taylor, far right, was diagnosed at age 32.

Martin Taylor

Martin Taylor was only 32 when he was diagnosed with Parkinson's, a disease that causes tremors, stiff muscles and slow physical movement - symptoms that steadily get worse as time goes on.

“It's horrible having Parkinson's,” says Taylor, a data analyst, now 41. “It limits my ability to be the dad and husband that I want to be in many cruel and debilitating ways.”

Today, more than 10 million people worldwide live with Parkinson's. Most are diagnosed when they're considerably older than Taylor, after age 60. Although recent research has called into question certain aspects of the disease’s origins, Parkinson’s eventually kills the nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine, a signaling chemical that carries messages around the body to control movement. Many patients have lost 60 to 80 percent of these cells by the time they are diagnosed.

Keep ReadingKeep Reading
Sarah Philip
Sarah Philip is a London-based freelance journalist who writes about science, film and TV. You can follow her on Twitter @sarahph1lip.