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Diet trumps drugs for metabolic health


Nutrition might have a greater impact on ageing and metabolic health than drugs, a new study has found. 

A pre-clinical study by the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre suggests diet could be more powerful than drugs in keeping conditions like diabetes, stroke and heart disease at bay.

Using mice, the research showed overall calories and macronutrient balance impacted ageing and metabolic health more than three drugs commonly used to treat diabetes and slow down ageing.

Researchers found protein and total calorie intake had a powerful effect not just on metabolic pathways, but also on processes that control the way cells function while drugs dampened the cell’s metabolic response to diet.

Charles Perkins Centre Academic Director and the study’s senior author Professor Stephen Simpson said there had been a huge effort to discover drugs aimed at improving metabolic health and ageing without requiring a change in diet. 

“We discovered dietary composition had a far more powerful effect than drugs, which largely dampened responses to diet rather than reshaped them,” he said.

“Given humans share essentially the same nutrient-signalling pathways as mice, the research suggests people would get better value from changing their diet to improve metabolic health rather than taking the drugs we studied.”

Lead author Professor David Le Couteur said the study offered insight into how diet impacted health and ageing.

“We all know what we eat influences our health, but this study showed how food can dramatically influence many of the processes operating in our cells,” he said. 

The team’s research has previously demonstrated the protective role of diet and specific combinations of proteins, fats and carbohydrates against ageing, obesity, heart disease, immune dysfunction and risk of metabolic diseases like diabetes.

The findings are published in Cell Metabolism.


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