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Harvard finds clues about aging in mice

Harvard finds clues about aging in mice oldmous.jpg
By Matilda Charles If it works in mice ... it's a good clue it will work in humans, right? So say Harvard University researchers who think they've discovered just how it is that human beings age. Restricting calories and getting enough exercise have been thought to hold back the effects of aging. But now there's an explanation: synapses. These are basically junction boxes within cells that send messages back and forth. As we age, the "connections" between muscles deteriorate and complete messages don't get through. They've discovered that there are vast differences in the synapses of the young and old, at least when it comes to mice. Scientists concluded two things. Restricted calories decreased abnormalities in elderly mice, and only one month of exercise (in this case, running on a wheel in a cage) reduced changes related to aging. Remember the "monkey study" from last year? Researchers studied primates for 20 years, dividing them into two groups: those that could eat what they wanted, and those that had their calories slightly reduced. Many more of the "low-cal" group are still alive. And what about the research that exercise helps to stave off cognitive impairment, especially in women? This is one more signal to us to eat a proper diet and get off the couch and get some exercise. We can, to some degree, hold back time when it comes to mental and physical aging. So where do we start? It starts at the doctor's office. We need to ask for specific diet guidelines or a referral to a nutritionist who can map out just what we need to be eating on a daily basis. We need to ask about exercise programs suitable for our age and condition. Then we need to actually do what they advise eat right and get enough exercise. Matilda Charles regrets that she cannot personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into her column whenever possible. Write to her in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mail to columnreply@gmail.com. (c) 2010 King Features Synd., Inc.