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Food additive inhibits longevity enzyme in yeast, increases cell toxicity, new study finds

Berkeley -- A common additive found in food and cosmetics has been found to inhibit the activity of sirtuins, enzymes associated with lifespan control in yeast and other organisms, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.

The study, to be published Friday, Dec. 16, in the online journal Public Library of Science (PLoS) Genetics, found that in lab tests, dihydrocoumarin (DHC), a compound found naturally in sweet clover and synthetically manufactured for use in foods and cosmetics, inhibited the activity of Sir2p and SIRT1, forms of sirtuin found in yeast and humans, respectively.

Increased sirtuin activity is known to increase longevity in yeast, roundworms and fruit flies. The opposite effect in yeast has also been shown when the sirtuin enzyme is either deleted or reduced - the lifespan decreases by as much as 30 percent.

"Although studies on sirtuins and longevity have not been done in humans, there is reason to suspect that sirtuins play a role in the aging process of human cells, so identifying sirtuin inhibitors becomes important," said Martyn Smith, professor of toxicology at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health and principal investigator of the study, which was funded by grants from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

DHC is added as a flavoring agent to a wide variety of foods, including soft drinks, yogurt and muffins, and is used as a common fragrance in cosmetics, lotions and soaps. It can be found in concentrations as high as 100 parts per million in such foods as gelatins, puddings and frozen dairy products.

"It's still a long jump from test tube to person, but our findings may imply that humans are exposed to chemicals in the diet and environment that block an important enzyme involved in longevity," said Smith.

Notably, there are five forms of sirtuins found in yeast, and seven forms
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Contact: Sarah Yang
scyang@berkeley.edu
510-643-7741
University of California - Berkeley
15-Dec-2005


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