Most dietary experts will tell you that exercise alone is not sufficient for maintaining a healthy weight and living a longer, healthier life. You must also watch your calorie intake and practice “moderation” in your food choices and portions. But is the reverse true? Do you need to exercise in order to reap the benefits of a healthy diet? A recent study* seems to point in that direction. It suggests that in order to “eat for longevity” you must also exercise, and make sure you eat enough to be energetic and active.
The study, led by Dr. Pankaj Kapahi, PhD at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, CA, looked at metabolic shifts in fruit flies on a restricted diet. Some of the flies were allowed to move freely, others had their movements restricted or had inhibited fat metabolism. The results? Only flies who were allowed to move freely exhibited an extended lifespan.
According to Dr. Kapahi, dietary restriction is known to enhance spontaneous movement in a variety of species including primates, but this is the first study to examine whether enhanced physical activity is necessary for its beneficial effects. He believes that this study establishes that simply restricting nutrients without physical activity may not be beneficial in humans.
Another researcher on the case, Dr. Subhash D. Katewa, also from the Buck Institute says that these results also suggest the potential for creating a substance that mimics the effects of restricted diet and exercise by way of a certain circulating peptide called “AKH.” According to Dr. Katewa, fruit flies genetically engineered to overexpress this peptide showed increased metabolism, spontaneous movement and extended lifespan even without being on a restricted diet.
The researchers believe that these results are an important first step to understanding the diet/exercise/longevity connection, but more research needs to be done to see if this mechanism applies to humans.
The research is published in the July 3, 2012 edition of the journal Cell Metabolism.