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WHILE low-calories diets have been linked to longer lifespan in both animals and humans, the reason for the association has been unclear. Now researchers have evidence from studies in mice that cutting cells calories shields brain from the decline that comes with ageing.

According to investigators at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the study suggests that calorie intake may help determine a person's risk for degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Cheol-Koo Lee and his colleagues report, their findings in the July issue Nature Genetics.

In experiments with mice, the researchers found that aging boost the of genes and decreased it in others. Asthe mice aged, activity increased in genes responsible for inflammation and the stress response - two key factors related to cell damage. In addition, activity decline in genes involved in repairing cell damage.

Indeed when Lee and his colleagues compared elderly mice raised on a low calorie diet with those on a standard diet, they found the calorie deprived mice had maintained a more youthful balance of gene activity.

Exactly how calorie intake affects genes over a lifetime is unknown, according to Lee. He said it is possible that restricting energy intake results in basic changes in energy metabolism which in turn helps, regulate gene activity.

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