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Colour-enhanced transmission electron micrograph of a lymphocyte (a type of white blood cell) from a rat.

A low-calorie diet prevents lymphocytes (pictured; artificially coloured) and other inflammatory cells from building up in the tissues of ageing rats. Credit: David M. Phillips/SPL

Ageing

Old age’s hallmarks are delayed in dieting rats

Cutting rodents’ caloric intake slows cellular changes that normally set in with time.

Diets are no fun, but they can provide benefits beyond weight loss. Researchers have found that cutting rats’ food intake reverses many signs of old age, such as the accumulation of inflammatory cells in various tissues.

Scientists have known that eating less boosts longevity in rodents and other laboratory animals. To understand how calorie restriction wards off ageing, Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, and his colleagues studied 26 middle-aged rats (Rattus norvegicus) that, for 9 months, ate 30% fewer calories than did their siblings.

After this long spell of dieting, the rats had fewer inflammatory cells in their livers and kidneys than did rodents that ate as much as they wanted. Calorie restriction extended the rats’ lifespans, and delayed the onset of several age-related changes. These included an increase in the number of dying cells in blood-vessel walls and a decline in the production of proteins involved in tissue regeneration and DNA integrity.

The findings could lead to the development of strategies to live better for longer, the researchers say.

More Research Highlights...

Camera-trap image of Dendrohyrax interfluvialis

Some tree hyraxes scream in the night, but the newly identified Dendrohyrax interfluvialis (above, camera-trap image) utters a complex series of squawks, rattles and barks. Credit: J. F. Oates et al./Zool. J. Linn. Soc.

Zoology

A bark in the dark reveals a hidden hyrax

Its neighbours scream, but a new species of tree hyrax — a cousin of the elephant — unleashes a rattling bark.
Plastic and other debris floats underwater in blue water

Plastic detritus from snacks and meals floats in the Red Sea. Marine sampling shows that food waste accounts for nearly 90% of plastic pollution at some locales. Credit: Andrey Nekrasov/Barcroft Media/Getty

Ocean sciences

Humanity’s fast-food habit is filling the ocean with plastic

Food bags, drink bottles and similar items account for the biggest share of plastic waste near the shore.
Conceptual artwork of a pair of entangled quantum particles.

An artist’s impression of ‘entangled’ particles, which share properties even at a distance. Entangled photons can be used to help secure a multi-party video meeting. Credit: Mark Garlick/Science Photo Library

Quantum information

Quantum keys dial up tamper-proof conference calls

A new experiment efficiently distributes the highly secure keys to four parties instead of the typical two.
Farmers harvest pineapples in a field.

Workers harvest pineapples in Lingao County, China. Less than one-third of the money spent on food eaten at home reaches farmers. Credit: Yuan Chen/VCG/Getty

Economics

Poor harvest: farmers earn a pitiful fraction of the money spent on food

The bulk of consumer food spending around the world ends up in the coffers of distributors, processors and other parties beyond the farm gate.
A woman wearing a protective face mask splashes her hands in a jet of water

A pedestrian seeks relief from searing temperatures in Spain, where a high proportion of heat-related deaths have been linked to climate change. Credit: SALAS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Climate change

More than one-third of heat deaths blamed on climate change

Warming resulting from human activities accounts for a high percentage of heat-related deaths, especially in southern Asia and South America.
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