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Published on: November 6, 2014
by Laura Calabrese for National Post:
Signs that both bodily aging and brain aging could be postponed by a high-fat diet are evident in a new study examining such a diet’s effects on Cockayne syndrome, wherein patients prematurely age as children and die at about 10-12 years old, Danish researchers say.
As we age, the brain loses some of its intellectual capability because defects begin to develop in our nervous systems. If our DNA inside of cells becomes damaged and unrepairable, we age and can experience hearing and weight loss. We’re also at an increased risk of developing diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. As with those diseases Cockayne syndrome has no known effective treatment.
“Our study suggests that a high-fat diet can postpone aging processes. A diet high in fat also seems to postpone the aging of the brain. The findings therefore potentially imply that patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease in the long term may benefit from the new knowledge,” said professor Vilhelm Bohr from the Center for Healthy Aging, University of Copenhagen, in a release.
The study, published this week in the journal Cell Metabolism, was conducted using mice with a defect in their DNA repair system. The defect in the DNA of the mice is what causes Cockayne syndrome in humans. The mice with the defect were put on a diet of high-fat food, with researchers noting a particularly positive effect when the mice are given the so-called medium chain fatty acids — e.g. from coconut oil. They found that both the bodies of the mice and their brains aged more slowly on the diet.
Children with Cockayne syndrome may also benefit, study authors say, citing earlier work on young patients suffering with the disease that causes of premature aging. These children age faster because their cells repair mechanisms are constantly active and therefore eating away at the cells resources. They hypothesize that switching these patients to a high-medium chain fatty acid diet may stave off the rapid aging effects of the syndrome.
“We have previously demonstrated that aging [in children with Cockayne syndrome] is a result of the cell repair mechanism being constantly active,” said postdoc Morten Scheibye-Knudsen from the National Institute of Health. “We therefore hope that a diet with a high content of coconut oil or similar fats will have a beneficial effect, because the brain cells are given extra fuel and thus the strength to repair the damage.”
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