New clues about how sex, age and nutrition can impact lifespan

  • Different factors, including gender, ethnicity, genetics, and lifestyle, can affect a person’s lifespan.
  • In a large mouse study, researchers at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne identified specific sex- and age-dependent genes linked to longevity.
  • The scientists also found that early nutrition had a significant impact on longevity in the mouse model.

Although no one can predict how long they will live, factors like genetic, way of life, genreand ethnicity can impact a person’s longevity.

Researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland have discovered specific sex- and age-dependent genes linked to longevity using a large-scale mouse model.

This study appears in the journal Science.

This study used a large-scale model comprising more than 3,000 genetically diverse mice. The research team identified genetic loci — the physical location of a specific gene on a chromosome — correlated with longevity.

Additionally, the researchers found that some of these specific genes were different depending on whether the mouse was male or female. Additionally, some genes did not affect lifespan until a mouse reached a certain age. This was specifically observed in male mice.

According to Dr. Maroun Bou Sleiman, Ph.D., a scientist at the Laboratory of Physiology of Integrative Systems at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and lead author of this study, he was not surprised to find distinct genetic loci determining that men and women longevity.

“First, it has been shown in other species, including Drosophila melanogaster,” he said Medical News Today. “Second, male and female mortalities are different – females live longer than males, (and) males have a surge of early deaths due to stresses associated with (a) the dominance hierarchy.”

“Thirdly, the life history of men and women is different, as well as their immunity, endocrinology and metabolism,” Dr. Bou Sleiman continued. “Finally, many interventions that extend lifespan in mice do so in a sex-specific way, so there is a need to systematically assess traits such as longevity for each sex separately.

Also in the study, Dr. Bou Sleiman and his team discovered some overlap between the genetic loci of longevity and specific genes related to body weight and growth. And the researchers also found that early childhood nutrition quality played an important role in the lifespan of a mouse.

“Longevity is one of the most complex phenotypes, because it is the culmination of very many interdependent processes or components, some of which may have a greater impact (on) one of the sexes. It is therefore not surprising that genetic effects on different processes lead to different longevity outcomes.

– Dr. Bou Sleiman

Given that body weight and nutrition are modifiable factors, could this prompt a discussion between healthcare professionals and patients about improving a person’s longevity? Dr Bou Sleiman said no – the real goal should shift from lifespan to lifespan, or how long a person lives without disease.

“It is plausible that lifespan and lifespan share some common genetic components, and therefore knowledge of one would inform about the other,” he explained.

“The scientific community will have to work hard to understand the [relationship] between early nutrition, growth, health and longevity before reaching new guidelines and recommendations for ‘optimal’ growth,” added Dr. Bou Sleiman. “Maybe one day we might have personalized recommendations that would be informed by genetics.”

Medical News Today also spoke with Dr. Scott Kaiser, geriatrician and director of geriatric cognitive health for the Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.

Dr Kaiser said that although this is a “very interesting study” which “reinforces the idea that longevity is really complicated”, it is important to remember that it is still a mouse study.

“It’s a long way from a lab mouse model to actually real-life people and unlocking the secrets of human longevity,” Dr. Kaiser explained. “But these are all milestones – it’s all part of the journey. Digging to better understand sex differences in animal models of different species is essential work.

“This kind of work could really yield key biological insights, but can also be a big step in terms of drug discovery insights, which could ultimately lead to new treatments, which could help people not only live longer, but to live better in terms of having more years where they are vibrant, active, engaged and disease-free.

– Dr. Kaiser

Dr. Kaiser agreed that there are key links between nutrition, physical activity and longevity.

“Absolutely, nutrition impacts longevity and can actually impact our longevity genes,” he continued. “That should come as no surprise – if anything that should just encourage people to focus more on healthy eating throughout their lives.”

However, Dr. Kaiser insists that people shouldn’t think it’s too late to make changes because this study refers to early nutrition.

“All of this reinforces the idea that it’s definitely never too early to think about the things that can help you live well and age well,” he explained. “It really is never too late to do something that could have a positive impact on your quality of life and your life expectancy. Ultimately, the most important thing we can do now is to focus on behaviors that we know can positively impact our lifespan, like eating healthy (and) to exercise regularly.”

“Prioritize healthy relationships because we know that loneliness and social isolation are associated with premature mortality. Focus on a full life and have a strong sense of purpose. Sleeping well no smoking – these are all things that we know can influence our lifespan and quality of life. People need to focus on this (and) this should encourage them to keep focusing on this,” Dr Kaiser added.

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