Eating less keeps the brain young, research finding

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 20th December 2011

Italian scientists have found that overeating may cause the brain to age quicker. Their research was published in the US journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences today

Researchers at the Catholic University of Sacred Heart, in Rome, claim their discovery may help develop future therapies to prevent brain degeneration and the aging process. In addition, they say their study sheds light on the correlation among metabolic diseases as diabetes and obesity and the decline in cognitive activities.

The researchers discovered that a molecule, called CREB1, is triggered by “caloric restriction” (low caloric diet) in the brain of mice. They found that CREB1 activates many genes linked to longevity and to the proper functioning of the brain.

The research was led by Giovambattista Pani and directed by Professor Achille Cittadini in collaboration with Professor Claudio Grassi from the Catholic University of Sacred Heart.

Dr Pani said, “Our hope is to find a way to activate CREB1 to keep the brain young without the need of a strict diet.”

He said that, typically, caloric-restricted mice do not become obese and do not develop diabetes. Moreover, they show greater cognitive performance and memory, are less aggressive. Furthermore they do not develop, if not much later, Alzheimer’s disease and with less severe symptoms than in overfed animals.

“Caloric restriction keeps the brain young,” Dr Pani said. “The precise molecular mechanism behind the positive effects of an hypocaloric diet on the brain was unknown till now.”

The researchers discovered that CREB1 is the molecule activated by caloric restriction and that it mediates the beneficial effects of the diet on the brain by turning on another group of molecules linked to longevity, the “sirtuins”.

Dr Pani said, “This finding is consistent with the fact that CREB1 is known to regulate important brain functions as memory, learning and anxiety control, and its activity is reduced or physiologically compromised by aging.”