Low-cal Consequences

June 9/Canberra, Australia/Canberra Times -- An extremely low-calorie diet may be the key to living to 100 but has the downside of killing off the sex drive.

Leading brain expert Baroness Susan Greenfield doubts the diet, which has been shown to increase the lifespan of mice, would prove popular with humans.

"You get very thin; you're hungry all the time, and you don't have a love life any more," she told the National Press Club. "Perhaps you feel like you're living a long time. It's boring."

Greenfield, a professor of pharmacology at Oxford University, who was the first woman to serve as director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, had some serious messages for her audience about ageing and one of her fields of research, Alzheimer's disease.

While governments tended to focus on the costs of an aging population, Greenfield said it would be a positive thing for people to enjoy extra years of life and society could benefit from the wisdom of older people.

She said aging did not have to lead to the deterioration of the mind, and the brain could mature like a fine wine.

"Of course, the body does get baggy and saggy and wrinkly to a greater or lesser extent," she said. "But your brain does not get like that. It can be more like a fine wine and as it gets older it becomes special, it becomes more individual."

Physical and mental exercise could help keep the brain healthy, she said.

"The more you have a good blood supply going to your brain, the more oxygen you have going there, that has to be good news for the neurons."

However, diseases such as Alzheimer's are not always preventable, and the number of people with dementia in Australia is predicted to rise from 245,000 this year to more than one million by 2050.

By the 2060s, health spending on caring for and treating people with dementia will exceed expenditure on all other health conditions. While stressing that a cure for Alzheimer's was not imminent, Greenfield said she hoped a blood test could one day detect markers for the disease and medication could block the process which caused it.

"The cure is to intercept that process ... which would not involve modifying genes, and my own view is that in the future the most effective and immediate way would be to get an oral or nasal spray medication accompanied by a pre-symptomatic blood test," she said.

She said delaying the onset of Alzheimer's by five years could save $67.5 billion in health spending by 2040, and she urged governments to invest more money into research for potential cures.

"You do need to have the courage to invest in new ideas, to let a thousand flowers bloom," she said.

From the June 10, 2010, Prepared Foods' Daily News
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