Aging and food restriction: effect on lipids of cerebral cortex.
In experimental animals dietary restriction reduces the body weight increase due to aging, increases longevity and delays the onset of age-related physiological deterioration, including age-related changes in serum lipids. Little is known about the influence of food restriction on brain lipids, whose concentration and composition have been shown to change with age. We studied whether some biochemical and biophysical parameters of rat brain membranes, known to be modified with age, were affected by a diet low in calories, in which 50% of lipids and 35% of carbohydrates have been replaced by fibers. The diet was started at weaning and maintained throughout the animal's entire life span. Animals fed the low calorie diet survived longer and gained less body weight than standard diet fed rats. Age-related increases in microviscosity, cholesterol/phospholipid and sphingomyelin/phosphatidylcholine ratios were reduced or restored to the levels of young animals in cortex membranes of 32 old rats fed the low calorie diet, while the age-related increase in mono- to polyunsaturated fatty acid ratios in phospholipids was further raised. In conclusion we have shown that a diet low in calories and high in fibers affects lipid composition in the rat brain, in a direction opposite to that normally believed to reduce age-related deterioration of brain functions.