If you’ve been following the research into how to slow down aging, you’ve probably read that cutting calories and periodically fasting can help prolong your life. We’ve written about it frequently in these pages.
But not everybody wants to go hungry to live longer. There is some sentiment that good food is worth dying for. I can understand that.
And now there’s good news on that front. Studies show that a few adjustments to the foods you eat – without eating less or fasting – may produce some of the same anti-aging benefits. Here’s the good word. . .
The new line of investigation focuses on certain amino acids – protein building blocks – that are found in some of the most frequently consumed foods.
The two amino acids that have drawn interest contain sulfur. Analyses of their effects in the body suggest that if you restrict your intake of these nutrients you can profoundly slow the aging process.
It’s easy to start changing your diet today to take advantage of this anti-aging effect. I’ll show you how to do that in a moment.
Less Sulfur Produces Amazing Benefits
The two essential sulfur-containing amino acids that excite anti-aging researchers are called methionine and cysteine. Back in the 1990s lab tests on animals began to demonstrate that restricting these amino acids led to better health.
In one of the first trials on rodents, scientists found that cutting dietary methionine by 80 percent could extend life by up to 44 percent.
That is a huge increase.
And recently an extensive review study at Penn State looked at the research into the restriction of sulfur-containing amino acids. The review confirms that this dietary “hack” produces many of the same anti-aging benefits as restricting calories, i.e. fasting.1
In their review, the scientists found that animals that eat a diet with low levels of these amino acids not only live longer, they also lose weight, suffer less destructive free radical stress in their cells, and experience less inflammation in their body fat.
And the remarkable benefits go on. The animals are less likely to develop blood sugar and insulin problems, their mitochondria (the cells’ energy factories) work better, and they are less likely to get cancer.
You Do Need These Amino Acids Early in Life
The Penn State researchers point out, though, that one thing that has troubled researchers in the past is the fact that when you’re young, if you don’t consume these sulfur-containing amino acids you don’t grow normally. The restriction stunts your growth.
But now the research shows you can still get anti-aging benefits if you start doing this type of diet after you’re an adult and already fully grown.
“Those results we think are important because they indicate that if we were to initiate a restricted diet in adult human beings, we would still get the beneficial effects without having to worry about this issue of growth retardation,” says one of the researchers, Penn State Professor John Richie.
The other encouraging factor: Studies have not shown any serious side effects of this type of diet.
You Can Starve Cancer Out of Your Life
Some advocates of alternative cancer treatments have said for a long time that a diet low in methionine can help prevent and treat cancer. This approach has not caught on as a mainstream cancer treatment (and, of course, it’s not a magic bullet or miracle cure). But the idea may now get more attention.
Because it sure looks like restricting certain amino acids can kill cancer cells or make them more vulnerable to eradication by anti-cancer treatments.
For example, a study of brain cancer at Ohio State shows that some brain cancers depend on methionine along with the amino acid tryptophan to resist treatment and spread. The Ohio State investigators think that for people with these types of cancer, changing their diets to sharply reduce these amino acids could help conquer the disease.2
In the case of triple negative breast cancer — a difficult type of cancer to treat — researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found that restricting methionine makes the cancer cells more easily killed by targeted antibody treatment. The methionine restriction is harmless to normal breast cells.3
What to Eat to Benefit From The New Discovery
If you want to go on this type of diet, the foods you need to limit – the ones that are highest in methionine and cysteine – include meat, poultry and seafood. Eggs and dairy foods also contain these two amino acids. In short, you need to cut down on animal products.
However, vegetarian foods are almost always low in these two forms of protein. The exceptions are spirulina, soy beans and nuts. That’s kind of a bummer, since these three foods are generally healthy in other ways.
You can still enjoy helpings of seafood and meat now and then. Just don’t go overboard.