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Blood Test to Find Your Anti-Aging Diet

In this age of commercial gene sequencing, a simple blood test might tell you which diet would give you the best chance for longevity. That’s the contention of researchers who discovered a genetic mechanism linking aging to specific diets. The study was done at the University of Southern California and published in the January 2014 issue of the journal Cell Metabolism.     

A release from the university quotes corresponding author Sean Curran as saying, “These studies have revealed that single gene mutations can alter the ability of an organism to utilize a specific diet. In humans, small differences in a person’s genetic makeup that change how well these genes function could explain why certain diets work for some but not others.”

Curran and collaborator Shanshan Pang studied Caenorhabditis elegans, a one-millimeter-long worm that scientists have used as a model organism since the ’70s. Decades of tests have shown that genes in C. elegans are likely to be mirrored in humans. The short life span of the worm allows scientists to do aging studies on it.

The release notes that Curran and Pang identified a gene called alh-6, which delayed the effects of aging depending on what type of diet the worm was fed by protecting it against diet-induced defects in mitochondria, which have been dubbed the “powerhouses of cells”.

The release quotes Curran as saying, “This gene is remarkably well-conserved from single-celled yeast all the way up to mammals, which suggests that what we have learned in the worm could translate to a better understanding of the factors that alter diet success in humans.”

Future work will focus on identifying what contributes to dietary success or failure and whether these factors explain why specific diets don’t work for everyone. This could be the start of personalized dieting based on an individual’s genetic makeup, according to Curran.

“We hope to uncover ways to enhance the use of any dietary program and perhaps even figure out ways of overriding the system(s) that prevent the use of one diet in certain individuals,” he said.

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