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The area of the brain that’s key to a long life

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One area of the brain is the key to a long and healthy life.

Scientists have identified the hypothalamus—the control centre that keeps everything in balance—as the part of the brain that can help us live longer, and they’ve seen in experiments with laboratory mice what can happen if it starts to malfunction.

People with a healthy hypothalamus can live up to seven years longer, say scientists from Washington University School of Medicine.

It’s not surprising.  The hypothalamus regulates the body’s organs and fat tissue that, in turn, provide feedback in a loop that is essential for energy production throughout the body.  When this feedback loop starts to deteriorate, as can happen as people age, we start developing chronic health problems.

A healthy hypothalamus also helps us live longer.  The mice whose hypothalamus continued to function healthily lived for up to 70 days longer than the mice with poor brain-fat tissue feedback.  This translates to around seven extra years in people.

The scientists identified an enzyme, called eNAMPT, that fat tissue releases as part of the communication loop to the hypothalamus, and which maintains strong connections to the brain.  The next phase of their research is to give mice eNAMPT supplements to see if this helps longevity.

Other ways to maintain healthy hypothalamus functioning include a diet of fruits and vegetables, supplementing with vitamins C and B12, chromium and essential oils, eating healthy fats, and getting a good night’s sleep and reduce stress levels.

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Cell Metabolism, 2024; doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2023.12.011
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