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New research has given deeper insight into how our diet can impact how we age.

Diet more powerful than drugs for anti-ageing

A nutritious diet could be more effective than drugs in preventing stroke, diabetes and heart disease, a new University of Sydney study has found.

The research, published in Cell Metabolism, tested different combinations of three anti-ageing drugs with various mixtures of fats, protein and carbohydrates on young mice.

It was discovered that the amount of protein in the diet, the ratio of fat and carbohydrates to protein, had significant impacts on key elements of metabolic physiology.

By comparison, the drugs had a much weaker effect.

"The long and short of it was if you're a mouse, you're going to get a better bang for your buck in terms of improving your metabolic health and your ageing by manipulating your diet than you are by taking these three drugs," said lead author Professor Stephen Simpson.

Interestingly, the effects of the drugs on what the scientists considered to be the key measures of healthy ageing were not nearly as potent as they thought they might have been previously.

Given that humans share the same nutrient signalling pathways as mice, Simpson said, people should focus on incorporating a mix of nutrients in their diet to improve metabolic health.

“Our diet is a complex mixture of many different micro and macronutrients and other constituents, which together influence our appetite systems and in turn, influence our metabolism,” he told Nursing Review.

“This determines our health, our propensity to get various diseases, and how well and quickly we age.”

Over recent decades, scientists have been trying to understand more about how mixtures of nutrients interact with the biological process of ageing.

According to Simpson, a person's macronutrient needs shift as they reach into their 60s, 70s and 80s, to include a higher protein intake.

"It's very clear that as you go, from your middle age to your early later years, in your sort of 60s and then into your later years, 70s, 80s and beyond, the optimal macronutrient shifts," said Simpson.

"At any age, if you could track those nutritional optima, I think you would have a far greater impact on healthy ageing, especially of course when coupled with physical activity and healthy sleep," he said.

"That combination is going to give you a far more effective outcome than relying on the latest anti-ageing drug."

Researchers will now embark on a clinical trial in humans.

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