The findings were announced today in three articles in a professional journal, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research is supported by grants from the National Institutes of Aging. Small clinical trials are already under way with humans to determine whether these compounds offer the same benefits to people.
The studies were done with a combination of two compounds that occur naturally, acetyl-l-carnitine and an antioxidant, alpha-lipoic acid. Previous work has shown that either of these compounds may have value in addressing some of the physical and mental deterioration associated with aging, but the newest research suggested a combination of the two works far better than either one separately.
"After just a month, older rats whose diet was supplemented with these two compounds were about twice as active as our control rats, which remained largely inactive," said Tory Hagen, an assistant professor in OSU's Linus Pauling Institute. "They also had a much better memory and cognitive performance, measured by their ability to remember objects and spatial orientation."
The researchers found that old rats given the dietary regimen had an activity level about the same as those of middle-aged rats.
The latest findings build on years of research into the aging process and these compounds, the scientists said.
There are many cellular changes associated with aging, and one particularly vulnerable area appears to be the mitochondria where the cell's energy is generated.
Although there are literally hundreds of theories about why animals age and eventually die, the OSU and Cal-Berkeley scientists believe that mitochondria may be an Achilles
Contact: Tory Hagen
Oregon State University