A study at Tel Aviv University suggests that periods of fasting or starvation may significantly reduce the lifespans of both children and their male descendants. A number of epidemiological studies have tried to propose that periodic fasting, like caloric restriction, may slow aging and hence increase lifespans. But, there also seems to be no evidence showing ‘even moderate caloric restriction may not extend but, on the contrary, can shorten the human lifespan,’ says the study’s lead researcher, Eugene Kobyliansky of TAU’s Sackler School of Medicine.
In the study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the team evaluated telomere lengths of survivors of a mass famine that took place in the early 1920s in Chuvashia, a rural area in the mid-Volga region of Russia. And, they were able to make three major discoveries:
- Men born after 1923 after the mass famine ended were found to have shorter leukocyte telomeres than in men born before 1922
- There was a stable inheritance of shorter telomeres by men born in ensuing generations; and
- There was no correlation between shorter telomeres and women born before or after the event.
Kobyliansky said the study while demonstrating that starvation has the potential to shorten telomere length, raises questions such as – “Does starvation exert a stronger effect on telomere length in the reproductive cells of adults than in the leukocytes of children? Is starvation-induced telomere shortening a sex-dependent phenomenon? And would fasting regimens exerting beneficial effects be accompanied by telomere shortening in descendants?”
Researchers are currently working on to conduct in vivo studies to answer these and other questions.