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Calorie restriction leads to some brain benefits but not others in mice

St. Louis, Oct. 24, 2004 -- Severe calorie restriction prevents certain aging-related changes in the brain, including the accumulation of free radicals and impairments in coordination and strength, according to a mouse study at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. However, the dietary changes did not seem to prevent mice from developing some cognitive deficits associated with age, such as declines in memory.

The study will be presented at 3 p.m. PT on Sunday, Oct. 24 at Neuroscience 2004, the Society for Neuroscience's 34th Annual Meeting in San Diego.

"Our findings help us understand the processes underlying both normal aging and calorie restriction benefits," says principal investigator Laura L. Dugan, M.D., associate professor of neurology, of medicine and of anatomy and neurobiology. "If some aspects of aging are influenced by free radical damage, we may be able to prevent or reverse these impairments."

Though numerous studies have shown severe calorie restriction helps animals live longer and resist some effects of aging, scientists still do not know why. One theory suggests a restrictive diet decreases the effect of free radical damage.

Free radicals are chemically reactive molecules produced either as byproducts of the body's natural processes or as a result of stress from the environment, like smog or sunlight. It's normal to have some free radicals, but scientists think accumulating too many may cause cell damage and contribute to a variety of diseases ranging from stroke to cancer. Antioxidants like vitamins C and E help prevent free radicals from wreaking too much havoc.

Since there is evidence that both antioxidants and calorie restriction increase lifespan and reduce aging-related diseases, Dugan and her colleagues hypothesized that calorie restriction, like antioxidants, helps protect the brain against free radical damage.

To test their theory, the team compared young and old mice fed
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Contact: Gila Z. Reckess
reckessg@wustl.edu
314-286-0109
Washington University School of Medicine
24-Oct-2004


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