New research has revealed not only the nutrient that protects against obesity but also an important clue for developing a treatment that increases the period of a healthy lifespan by providing metabolic benefits.
According to the study by the Orentreich Foundation for the Advancement of Science (OFAS), adding the nutrient selenium to diets protects against obesity and provides metabolic benefits to mice.
The results could lead to interventions that reproduce many of the anti-aging effects associated with dietary restriction while also allowing people to eat as normal.
One of the proven methods of increasing healthspan in many organisms, including non-human mammals, is to restrict dietary intake of an amino acid called methionine. Several types of diet have been shown to increase healthspan – that is, the period of the healthy lifespan.
Recent studies have suggested that the effects of methionine restriction on healthspan are likely to be conserved in humans. Although it might be feasible for some people to practice methionine restriction, for example, by adhering to a vegan diet, such a diet might not be practical or desirable for everyone.
In the current study, a research team from the Orentreich Foundation for the Advancement of Science (OFAS), Cold Spring, New York, US, aimed to develop an intervention that produces the same effects as methionine restriction, while also allowing an individual to eat a normal, unrestricted diet.
The team first studied whether selenium supplementation offered the same protection against obesity as methionine restriction. They fed young male and older female mice one of three high-fat diets: a control diet containing typical amounts of methionine, a methionine-restricted diet, and a diet containing typical amounts of methionine as well as a source of selenium.
For both male and female mice of any age, the authors found that selenium supplementation completely protected against the dramatic weight gain and fat accumulation seen in mice fed the control diet, and to the same extent as restricting methionine.