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Just starving can be enough to slow down the aging process.

Findings from a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, USA, suggest that the perception of insatiable hunger may itself lead to the anti-aging effects of intermittent fasting. In fact, the animal does not need to starve.

The belief that hunger is insatiable may lead to the anti-aging effects of intermittent fasting. “we are separated [os efeitos de prolongamento da vida da restrição alimentar] Physiologist Scott Pletcher says:

“The perception of not having enough adequate food.”

Intermittent fasting has become a popular fad in recent years, although at this time the evidence supporting its benefits is limited and relies largely on animal studies.

The work was carried out with fruit flies (Drosophila melanogasterThe rodents seem to indicate that calorie restriction can extend life and promote health. But it’s still early days and more research is needed before the findings can be extended to humans, especially since some studies have produced conflicting results or even highlighted potential risks.

To better study the molecular mechanisms of fasting, the researchers responsible for this latest investigation once again turned to the humble fruit fly.

In the past, studies of fruit flies have helped scientists identify many of the neural signals for hunger and satiety in the brain. These creatures share 75 percent of the same disease-related genes as us, and their metabolisms and brains have beneficial similarities to those of mammals.

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are essential nutrients that appear to induce feelings of satiety in flies when ingested. Therefore, eating more BCAAs reduces feelings of hunger.

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To explore the effect of this on aging, the researchers kept fruit flies hungry by giving them snacks low in BCAA.

Hunger was assessed by how much food the insects had eaten from the buffet hours after the snack.

Flies fed a low BCAA snack ate more at the subsequent buffet. They also chose protein-rich foods over carbohydrate-rich foods—an indication that the flies were driven by hunger based on need rather than need.

So the investigators went straight to the source. When the team directly activated neurons in fruit flies that trigger hunger responses, they found that these hunger-stimulated flies also lived longer.

“Thus, the hunger-stimulated state itself, rather than energy availability or diet characteristics, may delay aging,” Pletcher and colleagues wrote.

Altered histones may be linked between diet, starvation responses, and aging

Further experiments showed that reducing BCAAs in the flies’ diet also caused their starving neurons to create modified scaffolding proteins called histones, which bind to DNA and help regulate gene activity. Researchers believe that these altered histones may be the link between diet, hunger response, and aging. Interestingly, previous studies have linked an oversupply of histones to an increased lifespan.

In light of the findings, the researchers believe that chronic hunger may be an adaptive response, “mediated by changes in histone proteins in discrete neural circuits, that delay aging.”

The findings may help explain why low BCAA diets appear to be good for our health. It may provide the body with sufficient nutrients, but it does not completely calm the hunger signals in the brain.

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Of course this idea needs a lot more testing. One study on fruit flies is not sufficient.

For now, the researchers are interested in exploring whether the health of fruit flies is related to whether they eat for pleasure or out of necessity.