Vegan trumps CRON?

picture of vegetables

For about 80 years scientists have observed that animals fed complete nutrition, but with slightly less calories tended to live longer and live healthier. Some scientists now believe that people *may* be able to get these benefits by reducing methionine, an amino acid in abundance in animal foods and by reducing their intake of ILGF-1, a hormone found in large amounts in cows milk, which has been linked to breast and prostate cancer:

The New Scientist

Interest in calorie restriction began in 1935, when scientists made the surprising discovery that rats on a reduced-calorie diet lived longer, provided they were supplemented with sufficient vitamins and minerals.

Mice, for example, live up to 50 per cent longer if their calorie intake is cut by 30 to 50 per cent. What’s more, mammals are protected from a number of age-associated maladies such as cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

So far, so good. But Fontana has found a notable difference in the way people and animals respond to calorie restriction, and it is not great news. It involves a hormone made by the liver called insulin-like growth factor 1.

IGF-1 has emerged as an important promoter of ageing. IGF-1 levels are lower than normal in worms, flies and mice on a restricted diet, and this is thought to be at least partly responsible for their longer lifespan.

It’s good news, however, for people already on low-protein diets, like vegans, who avoid eating meat, eggs and dairy products. In 2007, Fontana showed that vegans have lower levels of IGF-1 than meat-eaters (Rejuvenation Research, vol 10, p 225).

There may be another reason for vegans to celebrate. Studies on flies and rodents suggest that cutting intake of one particular amino acid, called methionine, lengthens life to a similar degree as calorie restriction. Proteins in meat and other animal products have high levels of methionine, so a vegan diet would score well by that measure, too (Medical Hypotheses, vol 72, p 125).

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