Study shows link between fertility and protein balanced diet

lab beakers

Not surprisingly, research has shown that a calorie restricted diet which maintains certain vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients improves health and may extend life -- unfortunately that same diet could decrease fertility. While living longer at the expense of fertility was ok for some, researchers in the UK decided to find out what it was about the reduced calorie diet that caused the long life and/or the compromised fertility. Ends up it’s an amino acid found in proteins, methionine, which can be found naturally in high levels in sesame seeds, Brazil nuts, wheat germ, fish and meats.

The researchers, led by Dr. Matthew D.W. Piper from the Institute of Healthy Ageing in the Department of Genetics Evolution and Environment at University College London, wanted to know whether it is the reduced calorie intake which leads to increased life and decreased fertility or the reduction of certain nutrients which occurs with a reduced calorie diet. Apparently, it’s the later. Balancing protein intake may be the key to better health.

For this study the researchers used fruit flies and fed them a varying diet. They then noted their health, mortality rates, reproduction frequency and rate. They found that varying the amino acids directly affected the lifespan and fertility of the flies. There was little to no effect on the flies when they varied other aspects of the diet.

When they looked closer at their data, they realized it was the amino acid methionine which was crucial to extending lifespan and fertility. When methionine was added to the fly diet, it increased longevity without effecting fertility. “By carefully manipulating the balance of amino acids in the diet, we have been able to maximize both lifespan and fertility,” said Piper. “It is possible to extend lifespan without wholesale dietary restriction and without the unfortunate consequence of lowering reproductive capacity.”

While a fly is quite different from a human, many of the discoveries about how fly genes behave can often be matched against human counterparts. Dietary restriction appears to be an evolutionary trait shared by all organisms suggesting mechanisms which are preserved in genes that we have in common. It is likely then that what happens with the fruit flies diet will translate to humans.

Source: Medical News Today


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