One thing is for sure according to several scientific studies: the legendary fountain of youth has minimal to zero carbohydrates. Several studies have been trying to establish a link between aging and carbohydrates consumption. It is possible that the secret to aging slowly lies in restricting the intake of food rich in carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are one of the major macronutrients alongside fats and proteins. They are a common source of energy in living organisms. Known examples of carbohydrates include sugar, starch, and cellulose. Common food sources include grain byproducts, such as bread and pasta, as well as sweetening agents, such as cane sugar and corn syrup.
Studies Linking Aging and Carbohydrates Consumption
Carbohydrate as a Universal Hormonal Control for Aging
Renowned biologist and geneticist Dr. Cynthia Kenyon has been revolutionizing the science behind aging. One of her biggest breakthroughs was figuring out that carbohydrate intake is a universal hormonal control for aging. So far, this theoretical link between aging and carbohydrates has proven true for worms, mice, rats, and monkeys.
In a study published in the journal Cell Metabolism, Kenyon together with colleagues Seung-Jae Lee and Coleen T. Murphy found out that dietary glucose shortened the lifespan of a roundworm called C. elegans by inhibiting the activities of FOXO family member DAF-16 and the heat shock factor HSF-1. Glucose is a carbohydrate byproduct produced chiefly by humans through aerobic respiration.
Both DAF-16 and HSF-1 are transcription factors responsible for extending lifespan, reducing insulin production, and boosting repair and renovation activities. In other words, these transcription factors play a critical role in the overall process of aging.
Experiments Involving Restricted Carbohydrate Intake
Note the sugar-rich diet has been linked to abnormalities on brain function and structure. Nevertheless, another study by Dr. Stephen Ginsberg, a neuroscientist from Langone Medical Center at New York University, concluded that a diet that restricts the intake of carbohydrates could regulate the functions of about 900 genes responsible for aging and memory formation.
During the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience held in Washington from November 15 to November 19 in 2014, Ginsberg presented his study that involved two groups of female mice. The first group was fed with food pellets that had 30 percent fewer calories while the second group was fed with food that had a standard calorie level. It is worth mentioning that female mice, like people, are more prone to dementia than males.
After performing tissue analyses of the hippocampal region on mice to examine differences in gene expressions, Ginsberg concluded that restricting carbohydrate intake stalls brain aging. Note that the hippocampal region is an area of the brain affected earliest in Alzheimer’s disease.
The findings of Ginsberg further bolster the link between aging and carbohydrates. However, the neuroscientist noted that this does not mean restricting carbohydrate intake leads to everlasting youth. Furthermore, he highlighted the need for more research to determine the impact of carbohydrate restriction on long-term health and age-related memory impairment.
A 2010 research by Stephanie Seneff, Glyn Wainwright, and Luca Mascitelli highlighted the detrimental effect of a high carbohydrate diet on the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Accordingly, neurons become severely damaged due to chronic exposure to glucose and oxidizing agents. Due to impaired functions, these neurons enter a state of apoptosis or programmed cell death.
On Skin Aging and Carbohydrates Consumption
Other studies have also investigated the effects of a carb-rich diet in accelerated skin aging. A review study by Changwei Cao et al. mentioned that long-term intake of carbohydrates in mice promotes skin aging by activating the mammalian target of rapamycin.
However, it is also worth mentioning that limited carbohydrate intake may also accelerate the aging of the skin. Qiming Wu et al. used an animal model to study the effects of restricting carb intake on skin aging. Results revealed that a carbohydrate-restricted diet promotes skin senescence in senescence-accelerated prone mice.
A healthy balance of macronutrients is a possible determinant to healthy skin aging based on the 2016 study of Jonathan Hew et al. Using a mouse model, they noted that skin structure was associated with the ratio of dietary macronutrients eaten. Their systematic investigation also showed that skin structure in males was primarily associated with protein intake, whereas in females carbohydrate intake was the primary correlate.
A Note on the Link Between Aging and Carbohydrate Consumption
Of course, it is also worth mentioning that there are different theories of aging, each providing an assumption on the mechanisms and purpose behind the aging process. For instance, the evolutionary theories of aging attempt to explain senescence from an evolutionary perspective, and in consideration of survival and reproduction.
The free radical theory might be a better fit for the overall link between aging and carbohydrates consumption. Several researchers have noted that a prolonged diet composed of refined sugars and process carbohydrates might increase the production of free radicals. The accumulation of these molecules has been linked to cellular damage.
Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that science has directed its attention toward the effects of a carbohydrates-rich diet on aging. However, the body of literature is considerably young. It is hard to fully establish the link between aging and carbohydrates.
There is also a need to consider diet in its entirety when linking its influence on aging, especially by taking into consideration different types of macronutrients and macronutrient concentrations, along with their specific impacts at the cellular and molecular levels.
FURTHER READINGS AND REFERENCES
- Cao, C., Xiao, Z., Wu, Y., and Ge, G. 2020. “Diet and Skin Aging—From the Perspective of Food Nutrition.” Nutrients. 12(3): 870. DOI: 3390/nu12030870
- Hew, J., Solon-Biet, S. M., McMahon, A. C., Ruohonen, K., Raubenheimer, D., Ballard, J. W. O., Le Couteur, D. G., Nicholls, C., Li, Z., Maitz, P. K. M., Wang, Y., and Simpson, S. J. 2016. “The Effects of Dietary Macronutrient Balance on Skin Structure in Aging Male and Female Mice.” PLOS ONE. 11(11): e0166175. DOI: 1371/journal.pone.0166175
- Lee, S. J., Murphy, C. T., and Kenyon, C. 2009. “Glucose Shortens the Life Span of C. elegans by Downregulating DAF-16/FOXO Activity and Aquaporin Gene Expression.” In Cell Metabolism. 10(5): 379-391. DOI: 1016/j.cmet.2009.10.003
- Seneff, S., Wainwright, G., and Mascitelli, L. 2011. “Nutrition and Alzheimer’s Disease: The Detrimental Role of a High Carbohydrate Diet. European Journal of Internal Medicine. 22(2): 134-140. DOI: 1016/j.ejim.2010.12.017
- Wu, Q., E, S., Yamamoto, K., and Tsuduki, T. 2018. “Carbohydrate-Restricted Diet Promotes Skin Senescence in Senescence-Accelerated Prone Mice. Biogerontology. 20(1): 71-82. DOI: 1007/s10522-018-9777-1