Not so sweet: Over-consumption of sugar linked to aging

March 6, 2009,

We know that lifespan can be extended in animals by restricting calories such as sugar intake. Now, according to a study published in the journal PLoS Genetics, Université de Montréal scientists have discovered that it's not sugar itself that is important in this process but the ability of cells to sense its presence.

Aging is a complex phenomenon and the mechanisms underlying aging are yet to be explained. What researchers do know is that there is a clear relationship between aging and calorie intake. For example, mice fed with half the calories they usually eat can live 40 percent longer. How does this work?

As part of the PLoS Genetics study, Université de Montréal Biochemistry Professor Luis Rokeach and his student Antoine Roux discovered to their surprise that if they removed the gene for a glucose sensor from yeast cells, they lived just as long as those living on a glucose-restricted diet. In short, the fate of these cells doesn't depend on what they eat but what they think they're eating.

There are two obvious aspects of calorie intake: tasting and digestion. By the time nutrients get to our cells there is an analogous process: sensors on the surface of the cell detect the presence of, for example, the sugar glucose and molecules inside the cell break down the glucose, converting it to energy. Of these processes, it is widely thought that the by-products of broken down sugars are the culprits in aging. The study by Rokeach and Roux suggests otherwise.

To understand aging, Rokeach and Roux in collaboration with Université de Montréal Biochemistry Professors Pascal Chartrand and Gerardo Ferbeyre used yeast as a model organism. At a basic level, yeast cells are surprisingly similar and age much like human cells, as well as being easy to study.

The research team found that the lifespan of yeast cells increased when glucose was decreased from their diet. They then asked whether the increase in lifespan was due to cells decreasing their ability to produce energy or to the decrease in signal to the cells by the glucose sensor.

The scientists found that cells unable to consume glucose as energy source are still sensitive to the pro-aging effects of glucose. Conversely, obliterating the sensor that measures the levels of glucose significantly increased lifespan.

"Thanks to this study, the link between the rise in age-related diseases and the over-consumption of sugar in today's diet is clearer. Our research opens a door to new therapeutic strategies for fighting age-related diseases," says Professor Rokeach.

More information: PLoS Genetics: www.plosgenetics.org/home.action

Source: University of Montreal

Explore further: Yeast makes ethanol to prevent metabolic overload

Related Stories

Yeast makes ethanol to prevent metabolic overload

January 7, 2019

Why do some yeast cells produce ethanol? Scientists have wondered about this apparent waste of resources for decades. Now, University of Groningen scientists think they have a solution: yeast cells produce ethanol as a 'safety ...

Solar panels for yeast cell biofactories

November 15, 2018

Genetically engineered microbes such as bacteria and yeasts have long been used as living factories to produce drugs and fine chemicals. More recently, researchers have started to combine bacteria with semiconductor technology ...

Starve a yeast, sweeten its lifespan

March 24, 2009

Johns Hopkins researchers have discovered a new energy-making biochemical twist in determining the lifespan of yeast cells, one so valuable to longevity that it is likely to also functions in humans.

Researchers examine metabolism in defective cells

April 11, 2014

University of Alberta researchers are taking a closer look at how two metabolic pathways interact to increase the lifespan of cells with mitochondrial defects. Magnus Friis is the lead author of the study, which was published ...

Recommended for you

Scientists discover new 'architecture' in corn

January 21, 2019

New research on the U.S.'s most economically important agricultural plant—corn—has revealed a different internal structure of the plant than previously thought, which can help optimize how corn is converted into ethanol.

Targeting 'hidden pocket' for treatment of stroke and seizure

January 19, 2019

The ideal drug is one that only affects the exact cells and neurons it is designed to treat, without unwanted side effects. This concept is especially important when treating the delicate and complex human brain. Now, scientists ...

Artificially produced cells communicate with each other

January 18, 2019

Friedrich Simmel and Aurore Dupin, researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), have for the first time created artificial cell assemblies that can communicate with each other. The cells, separated by fatty membranes, ...

Using bacteria to create a water filter that kills bacteria

January 18, 2019

More than one in 10 people in the world lack basic drinking water access, and by 2025, half of the world's population will be living in water-stressed areas, which is why access to clean water is one of the National Academy ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

NeilFarbstein
1 / 5 (1) Mar 06, 2009
ignorance is bliss

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.