Thanks to a new drug, you may soon be able to be morbidly obese without it having any sort of detrimental impact on your lifespan. At least, if you're a mouse.
It's a fairly well-established fact that animals on very low-calorie diets live significantly longer (up to 30% longer) than animals on typical diets. Rather than suggest that people start eating very little to eke out an extra twenty or thirty years, scientists have been trying to figure out why calorie restriction has this effect so that they can just duplicate it with a pill.
Recent research has focused on something called resveratrol, a compound found in red wine that, if you drink enough of it, is thought to trigger proteins called sirtuins that can help manage liver fat and blood sugar and possibly increase endurance and protect against cancer. Sounds great, but you'd probably have to drink about 4,000 glasses of wine per day to get the amount of resveratrol required to trigger enough sirtunins to notice anything different.
This new drug, called SRT-1720, has been designed from scratch to do the same thing that resveratrol does, only much more directly. Researchers from the National Institute on Aging took a bunch of genetically engineered, morbidly obese mice and fed them SRT-1720, and did the same thing with normal, non-obese mice. They found that the SRT-1720 kept the obese mice from getting fatty livers and stabilized their blood sugar, extending their lifespan by 44%. This put them on par with the lifespan of normal, non-obese mice, suggesting that SRT-1720 may counteract some of the consequences of obesity. And as for the normal mice, well, they didn't die in time to be included in the study, so we'll have to wait and see just what SRT-1720 does for them.
This is just going on in mice, of course, but the same researchers are working on a similar drug called SRT-2104 that's supposed to be "more suitable for human consumption." So go ahead, be obese! Pretty soon, you'll be able to just take a pill and it won't even matter. But if you're not obese, you may be able to take the same pill and have it extend your lifespan by up to 30%.