-Dr.Kathy Johnson, PhD, CMC
Findings from Harvard researchers link more exercise and restricted calorie intake to delayed mental and physical deterioration because exercising and watching what you eat rejuvenates the connections between the nerves and muscles that they control.
Researcher Joshua Sanes, a professor of molecular and cellular biology and Director of the Center for Brain Science at Harvard University, used mice with genetically engineered nerve cells to study these effects. The study showed that aging is caused by the deterioration of the connection of nerves that control muscles, called neuromuscular junctions. These links are very similar to the connection that neurons form in the brain to pass information. Sanes says that in a healthy neuromuscular synapse, nerve endings and their receptors fit together perfectly in order to achieve maximum efficiency in transmission from the brain to the muscle to cause movement. However, as people age, these synapses deteriorate and shrink. When the nerves shrink, the receptors are not covered completely, thus resulting in the interference of transmission from nerves to muscles, which can cause wasting and death of muscle fibers. The wasting of muscle, called sarcopenia, is a huge problem in aging populations.
When these mice were put on an exercise program, they partially reversed the damage to their synapses. With restricted-calorie diets, they avoided the deterioration of their synapses as well