We live in an age of excess protein. In fact, you can find protein foods anywhere, not just at the counter “supplement“Not at the gym, but also in the supermarket, at the stall selling eggs, meat, milk and even breakfast cereals.
On average, a person living in North America is consuming 2.5 times the average amount of protein they need each day. And there is evidence that excess protein can have detrimental effects on longevity.
Conversely, a low-protein diet – especially sulfur-containing amino acids – can help slow aging, prevent heart disease, diabetes and stroke so you can live longer and healthier. than.
All of these effects seem to have to do with a particular gas: hydrogen sulphide (H2S) has the smell of rotten eggs – something that haunted us all in experimenting with FeS with high school HCl.
Scientists have long been interested in the strange role that H2S plays in the body. This is not a fresh or fragrant gas that anyone wants to smell. It smells bad, H2S is present in your stomach when you have gas.
More than 252 million years ago, H2S even poisoned the oceans and caused a major extinction of all eukaryotes here, opening a period that allowed protozoa to flourish. prosperity.
Surprisingly, biologists say: Inside the human body, H2S is automatically produced in a small concentration, as a signaling molecule for chemical communication. H2S plays many roles and produces beneficial effects on health.
The trick nutrition scientists have found is: Eating less meat, reducing sulfur intake, can cause the body to produce more H2S and thus healthier.
Dietary amino acid sulfur and longevity
“Less is more” could be an idiom true to eating and drinking. When the scientists fed the animals on a nutritionally balanced diet, the organisms lived a healthy life and significantly increased their longevity.
This recipe holds true for yeasts, fruit flies, worms, and monkeys. In rats, this diet reduced the risk of cancer, boosted the immune system and improved cognitive function.
But because aging and longevity are complex processes, it’s difficult for researchers to pinpoint the mechanism behind the diet. Recent studies have shed some light on the story, and it’s clear it has to do with H2S, a gas that plays an important role.
H2S plays many important roles in brain, lung, cardiovascular and digestive system health. It even has analgesic effects.
Studies from the 1990s have shown that reducing consumption of some sulfur-containing amino acids, the constituent of proteins, can increase longevity in rats by about 30%.
More recently, a team of scientists at Harvard did a series of animal studies in which they fed them a restricted diet of 2 sulfur amino acids – cysteine and methionine – to see what they did. What effect does this have.
As a result, the diet causes animals to increase H2S production in their tissues, causing a host of beneficial effects, including: increased production of new blood vessels, promoting cardiovascular health and better combats oxidative stress in the liver, a factor that reduces the risk of liver disease.
The question is, do the same effects appear on people? Earlier this year, a study using data from 11,576 adults in the US National Nutrition Survey (NHANES III) provided evidence that they do.
The study found that people who ate a diet with reduced levels of sulfur amino acids had lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. These are metabolic risk factors linked to heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Eat less meat, will you live longer?
The results of this study are good evidence that: Limiting the intake of foods high in sulfur amino acids can reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, while also slowing the process. old.
Sulfur amino acids, found in meat, milk and eggs, are the ones that stand out in our shopping cart. North Americans tend to eat 2.5 times their daily requirement of amino acids. Red meat is particularly high in sulfur amino acids, but fish and poultry white meat are also high (darker meats contain less).
Switching to plant proteins will help reduce these intake. Beans, lentils and legumes are good sources of protein that are also low in sulfur amino acids. But beware: soy protein, or soy-based tofu, is surprisingly high in sulfur amino acids.
Meanwhile, vegetables like broccoli are high in sulfur but not in the form of amino acids.
But it is important to note, children should not eat a diet low in sulfur amino acids, because these amino acids also play an important role in growth.
Other roles of H2S
It may sound strange that a toxic gas can help maintain health, but it can reflect the origin of life on early Earth when the atmosphere was much more sulfur rich than it is today.
The role of H2S signaling in the body is getting more and more attention. It has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, opening the door to potential new treatments for arthritis or used as a pain reliever.
The trick is to deliver the right H2S where it is needed and in a safe way. Several pharmaceutical companies are working on H2S-binding compounds that can be transported through the body and released in very small amounts in tissue.
Several studies are looking at providing H2S directly into the body.
Over time, they can be used as preventive measures to support a healthy aging process. This is helpful because dieting meat, specifically targeting meats containing sulfur amino acids, is difficult to adhere to over the long term.
A mechanism of direct tissue distribution of H2S can be a simpler and much easier to implement anti-aging drug than diet restriction. But we will have to wait for them to be released, and even then, at a low cost for everyone to have access to in the future.