Scientists are actively seeking aging-intervention strategies to help people maintain their youth in anticipation of a sharp rise in the elderly population – due to the "baby boomer" generation – and an unprecedented number of elderly in North America and throughout the developed world.
Now, a new study in the October issue of Cell Metabolism reports that middle-aged, male mice given a cocktail of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) – leucine, isoleucine, valine – in their drinking water lived an average of 12 percent longer (869 days compared to 774 days) than middle-aged, male mice drinking regular water.
The scientists, from Milan University, found that the BCAA-fed mice exhibited similar changes as those seen with calorie restriction or resveratrol supplementation, showing an increase in longevity-gene SIRT1 activity and an increase in cardiac and skeletal muscle mitochondria levels.
The treated mice also showed improved exercise endurance and motor coordination, and had fewer signs of damage from oxidative stress.
In future studies, the researchers plan on performing similar experiments with female mice.
"This is the first demonstration that an amino acid mixture can increase survival in mice," said lead researcher Enzo Nisoli, referring to prior studies that showed that the cocktail of BCAAs extends lifespan in yeast.
Getting BCAAs in the Diet
Nisoli suggests that older people may find similar anti-aging benefits from including BCAAs in their diets by eating protein or taking supplements high in BCAAs as part of a complete “nutritional approach” for aging gracefully.
Supplements of BCAAs are widely used by athletes, including bodybuilders, because they help to trigger protein synthesis and drive muscle growth, especially when taken within 20 minutes after workouts.
However, one of the most convenient ways to obtain greater amounts of BCAAs in the diet is by drinking one or more servings of a whey protein-based shake daily.
BCAA-rich whey protein has been shown consistently in several studies to aid in maintaining muscle as well as speeding up muscle recovery and growth after exercise. Preserving skeletal muscle and strength is a significant factor for maintaining long-term health.
Source: D’Antona G, Ragni M, Cardile A, Tedesco L, Dossena M, Bruttini F, Caliaro F, Corsetti G, Bottinelli R, Carruba MO, Valerio A, Nisoli E. Branched-Chain Amino Acid Supplementation Promotes Survival and Supports Cardiac and Skeletal Muscle Mitochondrial Biogenesis in Middle-Aged Mice. Cell Metabolism, 12(4):362-372, October 2010, doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2010.08.016.