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Salk Scientist Tells Why Eating Little Makes You Live Long

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Aired 6/24/09

Researchers at San Diego's Salk Institute have identified the cells that cause people and animals to live longer when they eat just enough to survive.

— Researchers at San Diego's Salk Institute have identified the cells that cause people and animals to live longer when they eat just enough to survive.

Scientists have long known that a very restricted diet extends life. Now Salk biologist Andrew Dillin has published an article in the journal Nature that identifies the molecules he says cause it to happen. Dillin says when researchers removed two particular enzymes from their test animals, the benefits of a restricted diet disappeared. And when those enzymes were enhanced, longevity and disease resistance increased. He says this knowledge could make people healthier.

"We can now start making small molecules or drugs that hit these enzymes," he says, "and hopefully up-regulate them to get the positive benefits of diet restriction without the negative benefits of having to reduce your diet."

Dillin says medication based on his research may prolong life. More importantly, he says, it might help people live disease-free until they die at a ripe old age.

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