The Takeaway: Strict Diet Keeps Brain Young; Boomer Kids Outsaving Parents

Eat Less, Stay Young? Forget young at heart-eating less could keep you young of mind, and Italian scientists now think they know why. Researchers from Rome’s Catholic University of Sacred Heart say a low-calorie diet-about 30 percent fewer daily calories-triggers the release of a protein molecule called CREB1, which turns on genes linked to brain health and longevity.

“CREB1 is known to regulate important brain functions such as memory, learning and anxiety control, and its activity is reduced or physiologically compromised by aging,” the researchers explained.

Calorie restriction has previously been shown to increase longevity and reduce the risk of cognitive decline, at least in animals.
In this new study, published in the journal of the National Academy of Sciences, mice were fed a diet of about 30 percent less calories than they normally consumed. Some of these mice were genetically altered to lack the CREB1 protein, while others were left alone.
The altered mice showed none of the same memory benefits from the low-calorie diet as the mice who had that molecule. They did, however, show similar brain disabilities to mice that were overfed.

“Our findings identify for the first time an important mediator of the effects of diet on the brain,” said lead author Giovambattista Pani. “Our hope is to find a way to activate CREB1, for example through new drugs, so to keep the brain young without the need of a strict diet.”

Savings Gap: The children of boomers-members of Generations X and Y-may be better at saving for retirement than their parents. In a new TD Ameritrade survey, just 16 percent of boomers with access to both an IRA and an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan said they contribute to both accounts. Yet a quarter of Generation Y workers and 23 percent of Gen X do so.

“Maybe saving skips a generation,” writes Dan Kadlec at Time magazine. “Boomers have never been great at putting money in the bank-even though their Depression-era parents were famously frugal.”

The study also found that while 21 percent of boomers expect to have to work in their ‘retirement’ years, only 13 percent of Gen Y expects to. Let’s take that stat with a grain of salt, however. What’s that they say about the best-laid plans?

Tuesday Quick Hits: 

  • Gold star care: The Department of Health and Human Services has designated 32 exemplary health systems nationwide part of a partnership with Medicare to encourage “accountable care.” Participating hospitals earn bonus payments if they save Medicare money by streamlining care without reducing quality.
  • Paul McCartney will release a new album this February, featuring two new songs and  covers of classic songs-by the likes of Fred Astaire and Cole Porter-that inspired he and John Lennon’s songwriting.
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