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Pankaj Kapahi, a Buck professor and senior author on the paper, said the study shows dietary restriction is not a one-size-fits-all way to live longer and healthier.
"Our study is surprising and gives a glimpse into what's likely going to happen in humans, because we're all different and will likely respond differently to the effects of dietary restriction,” Kapahi said. “Furthermore, our results question the idea that lifespan extension will always be accompanied by improvement of healthspan."
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Kenneth Wilson lead the Buck team that tracked the lifespan and physical abilities of more than 50,000 flies during the course of the study. "It's hard to ask and get relevant results in individuals," he said. "With this method, we can ask questions in a much more robust manner and get answers at the population level."
Kapahi also noted that climbing ability, used to track physical ability in the flies, is just one measure of healthspan. "Other traits associated with healthspan are also important to measure. We need to understand the genetics of age-related decline in other functions, such as vision and cognition. Working in simple animals, like the fruit fly, is a great place to do this efficiently. One lesson we have learned is that lifespan extension should not be the gold standard for determining the best means of dealing with age-associated maladies."
Kapahi notes that a person’s genetic background needs to be taken into consideration when determining how best to extend a person’s health- and lifespan.
Kapahi also noted that the study supports the Buck Institute's emphasis on healthspan over lifespan. "The majority of people are much more interested in being healthy for as long as possible. I think most people, if given the choice, would choose an intervention that would give them extra years of good health over extra years of disability."