By John Salak –
Not to knock medicinal drugs, but there is a growing belief that an individual’s diet has a greater impact on their health than some commonly used medicines.
Researchers out of the University of Sydney in Australia believe that a sound diet is particularly more effective at offsetting aging as well as holding conditions like diabetes, stroke and heart disease under control.
The university’s latest report published in Cell Metabolism builds on its earlier work on mice and humans that underscored the protective role of diet and specific combinations of proteins, fats and carbohydrates have against aging, obesity, heart disease, immune dysfunction and risk of metabolic diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes.
“Diet is a powerful medicine,” explained senior author Stephen Simpson. “However, presently drugs are administered without consideration of whether and how they might interact with our diet composition—even when these drugs are designed to act in the same way, and on the same nutrient-signaling pathways as diet.”
Simpson’s team was therefore challenged with discovering whether drugs or diet were more powerful in remodeling nutrient-sensing and other metabolic pathways that helped the best battle these conditions. The group also looked at whether drugs and diet interacted in ways that made them more or less effective.
“We discovered dietary composition had a far more powerful effect than drugs, which largely dampened responses to diet rather than reshaped them,” Simpson said. “Given humans share essentially the same nutrient-signaling pathways as mice, the research suggests people would get better value from changing their diet to improve metabolic health rather than taking the drugs we studied.”
Beyond this, researchers also found that calorie intake and the balance of macronutrients (protein, fats and carbohydrates) in the diet had a strong impact on the liver. This combination also had a powerful positive impact on the way cells function metabolically, which in turn supported healthy aging.
The research noted that drugs mainly acted to dampen the cell’s metabolic response to diet, rather than fundamentally re-shaping them for a positive impact. One anti-aging drug, in fact, had a bigger effect on changes in the cells caused by dietary fat and carbohydrates, while cancer and another diabetes drug both blocked the effects of dietary protein on the energy-producing mitochondria.
The research was admittedly complex because it examined so many different diets. The researchers, however, noted the process was critical to developing deeper insights.
“This approach is the only way we can get an overview of the interaction between diet, our health and physiology,” reported the study’s other lead author, Professor David Le Couteur. “We all know what we eat influences our health, but this study showed how food can dramatically influence many of the processes operating in our cells. This gives us insights into how diet impacts on health and aging.”
It is, of course, no secret that appropriate nutrition and balanced diets are critical to maintaining the long-term health and combating a growing number of conditions. Research seems to pour out daily on the notion.
In the last few months alone, George Washington University published findings on how nutrition and diet can have a profound impact on the microbial composition in the gut, which consequently can significantly affect an individual’s metabolic, hormonal and neurological processes.
University of California-Davis added its own take on diet as well this year by noting that regular consumption of foods rich in sugar and fats play havoc with the gut’s microbial culture and contributes to joint pain and inflammatory skin diseases such as psoriasis.
It went on to stress the need for individuals to embrace balanced diets to restore their gut health and suppress inflammation of all sorts.
This drumbeat signaling the essential need for dietary balance is only likely to grow in the future as additional conditions rather than just weight issues and general health concerns are tied to diet.