[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]
You may have noticed that as you get older, you start forgetting more stuff: like, where you left your glasses, or the names of your children. Well, if you’re fed up with those senior moments, put down that pastrami sandwich. Because a new study, published in the January 27th issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that cutting calories actually improves memory in older folks.
Calorie restriction lets lab animals live longer. And these hungry critters tend to be healthier, too: with lower cholesterol, better insulin sensitivity, and even slower cognitive decline. But these diets can be draconian. And it hasn’t been clear whether they’d offer the same benefits to people.
In this study, scientists asked 50 elderly women to cut the number of calories they consumed by a third. After three months, the researchers found that the dieters were not only slimmer, but they were better than they had been at memorizing lists of words. They also had better insulin levels and fewer markers of inflammation, which suggests that keeping those things under control may help keep the brain fit. It’s one of the cruel ironies of aging: if you want to remember your favorite restaurants, the less you should eat at them.