While fasting, the human body enters a metabolic state called ketosis, which means that the body begins to rely on fat instead of glucose as a source of energy. One of these energy sources, collectively known as ketones, is a molecule called β-Hydroxybutyrate.
According to senior study author Dr. Ming-Hui Zou, "previously, studies on ketone bodies focused on energy metabolism, but this study showed that there are other physiological effects which regulate cell cycle to retardate aging progression."
A previous study, carried out at Harvard University in 2017, found that the activity of mitochondrial networks inside our cells can become altered due to fasting, in turn leading to better health, slower aging, and an increased lifespan.
Zou's study, though, aims to explore how high levels of β-Hydroxybutyrate might display similar effects by interfering with senescent cells, which are cells that are unable to divide or multiply.
The team discovered that β-Hydroxybutyrate actually slows down these senescent vascular cells at the perfect moment, which prompts them to divide, thereby preventing them from aging. When tested on mice, the team discovered that it was also able to keep blood vessels young by promoting stem cell factors that protect against DNA-related senescence.
"We think this is a very important discovery, and we are working on finding a new chemical that can mimic the effect of this ketone body's function," said Zou.
"We're trying to take the global approach to reducing cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer's disease. It's difficult to convince people not to eat for the next 24 hours to increase the concentration of this compound, and not everybody can do that, but if we can find something that can mimic this effect and people can still eat, it would make life more enjoyable and help fight disease."