Aging is considered a biological process subject to metabolic control. Not everyone ages the same way, and the reasons why are still unclear, although the process has been intensely studied by those seeking to better understand it. A team of scientists from the Department of Biological Sciences of Louisiana State University just published a landmark study showing that a botanical extract can extend the longevity of roundworms by improving their metabolic health.
Although roundworms (Caenorhabditis elegans) may appear to have little in common with humans, the investigation confirms the results of previous work involving mice, which was conducted at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center under the direction of Professor Jacqueline Stephens.
“The reason this study made so much sense to do on the worms is that the worms only live about three weeks, so within a month or two we had definitive results,” said LSU student Bhaswati Ghosh. and lead author of the recently published study. .
Both the initial study in mice and the current study in C.elegansstudied how the consumption of Artemisia scoparius (an extract named SCO) has affected laboratory organisms. Commonly known as absinthe, A. scoparius is an aromatic herb widely distributed throughout Asia. It is a member of the sunflower family and an important herb in traditional Chinese medicine. It is known to have many bioactive constituents including flavonoids, coumarins, phenolic acids, and terpenoids.
In Professor Adam Bohnert’s lab, the researchers made an extract of the plant’s leaves and fed it to worms in different doses. They found that the worms fed the highest and second highest doses showed an immediate improvement in their metabolic health. They showed increased levels of unsaturated fat, rather than accumulating saturated fat, which isn’t as healthy. Treated worms lived 40% longer than untreated worms.
Although the worms that received the extract grew in size and became less mobile, they also became healthier and more resistant to stress. The researchers found that SCO helped convert unhealthy fat stores into healthy fat stores in the body of worms. These conclusions, published in the Journal of Gerontology, suggest that diet is an important factor that can influence aging at the cellular level. Research indicates that the extract from Artemisia scoparius can activate many pro-longevity pathways in the body and effectively activate several genes involved in lifespan regulation.
“Until recently, it was unclear how aging could be altered by diet, or how essential metabolic signaling pathways influence longevity,” Bohnert said. “What we were able to show is that a natural extract can come in and influence these pathways the same way a genetic mutation would.”
The finding that a dietary supplement (SCO) can have such a significant effect on longevity suggests that we have some control over our own aging.
“Mostly, it gives us a therapeutic perspective,” Bohnert said. “We know that age is the main risk factor for many diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, but if you think of aging as a treatable disease, you can actually treat several diseases at once.”
The worms that showed the greatest improvement in lifespan were fed the A. scoparius extracted during the time before they reach reproductive maturity. However, Bohnert’s team also observed significant effects in worms first treated in middle age. Instead of a 40% increase in lifespan, these worms still managed to live about 20% longer.
This result is important because it highlights the important link between metabolic health, fat regulation and longevity. The worms that received the SCO treatment not only lived longer, but also grew larger. This indicates that the presence of fat can improve certain aspects of physiological health in the elderly, provided that it involves healthy and unsaturated fats.
“Usually people think fat is ‘bad,’ but in these cases it seems good and actually pro-longevity,” Bohnert said. “Artemisia scoparius could have exciting potential as a dietary supplement.
“Also, just because an organism is small, big, and slow doesn’t necessarily qualify it as unhealthy,” Ghosh added. “These phenotypes must be considered in the full context of other parameters, including lifespan.”
Artemisia scoparius The extract is not currently recommended for humans as a life-extending dietary supplement, and there is no understanding of what a safe or effective dosage would be. However, the properties of the extract seem to have had significant impacts. The researchers also studied the effects of extracts from several other related plant species, but only observed positive effects on fat regulation and longevity with the A. scopaire extract.
The authors of the study conclude that the A. scoparius The extract is a natural product that can alter fat regulation and promote longevity by altering key metabolic parameters. They propose that natural products like this may provide a way to extend the lifespan of animals and promote healthy aging.
By Alison Bosman, Terre.com Personal editor