Researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School discover a potential new way in which diet affects aging-related diseases.
Doug Mashek, PhD, professor in the Departments of Medicine and Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics, leads a team of researchers who have discovered that olive oil in the Mediterranean diet can be the key to improving lifespan and mitigating diseases related to aging. Over the past eight years, with the help of multiple National Institutes of Health scholarships, their research results have recently been published on Molecular cell.
Early diet studies have suggested that red wine has contributed significantly to the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet because it contains a compound called resveratrol, which has activated a certain pathway in cells known to increase lifespan and prevent diseases related to ‘aging. However, the work done in Mashek’s laboratory suggests that it is precisely the fat contained in olive oil, another component of the Mediterranean diet, that is actually activating this path.
According to Mashek, simply consuming olive oil isn’t enough to get all the health benefits. His team’s studies suggest that if associated with fasting, limiting calorie intake and exercise, the effects of olive oil consumption will be more pronounced.
We have discovered that the way this fat works is that it must first be stored in microscopic things called lipid droplets, which is the way our cells store fat. And then, when fat is broken down during exercise or fasting, for example, it is when the signs and beneficial effects are realized. “
Doug Mashek, Ph.D., professor in the Departments of Medicine and Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics
The next steps for their research are to translate it into humans with the aim of discovering new drugs or further adapting dietary regimens that improve health, both in the short and long term.
“We want to understand biology and then translate it into humans, hoping to change the paradigm of health care by someone who turns to eight different doctors to treat his eight different ailments,” Mashek said. “These are all aging-related diseases, so let’s treat aging.”
University of Minnesota Medical School
Najt, C.P., et al. (2020) Trafficking of monounsaturated fatty acids derived from lipid droplets via PLIN5 to activate SIRT1 alarmingly. Molecular cell. doi.org/10.1016/j.molcel.2019.12.003.