Research has found that intermittent fasting slows down ageing, but now we are getting a glimpse into how it actually works…

Manipulating mitochondrial networks inside cells by fasting may increase lifespan and promote health.

This is according to new research from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

What are mitochondrial networks?

Mitochondria – the energy-producing structures in cells – exist in networks that dynamically change shape according to energy demand.

Their capacity to do so declines with age, but the impact this has on metabolism and cellular function was previously unclear.

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Mitochondrial networks inside cells typically toggle between fused and fragmented states.

The researchers found a link between dynamic changes in the shapes of mitochondrial networks and longevity.

Related: Fasting boosts metabolism

Ageing in real time

The scientists used Caenorhabditis elegans (nematode worms), which live just two weeks and thus enable the study of ageing in real time in the lab.

The researchers found that restricting the worms’ diet, or mimicking dietary restriction through genetic manipulation of an energy-sensing protein called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), maintained the mitochondrial networks in a fused or “youthful” state. In addition, they found that these youthful networks increase lifespan by communicating with organelles called peroxisomes to modulate fat metabolism.

“Low-energy conditions such as dietary restriction and intermittent fasting have previously been shown to promote healthy ageing. Understanding why this is the case is a crucial step towards being able to harness the benefits therapeutically,” said Heather Weir, lead author of the study, who conducted the research while at Harvard Chan School and is now a research associate at Astex Pharmaceuticals.

“Our findings open up new avenues in the search for therapeutic strategies that will reduce our likelihood of developing age-related diseases as we get older.”

Source: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health via