Nav: Home

Researchers find link between food odors and lifespan in fruit flies

February 01, 2007

Researchers hoping to learn why organisms tend to live longer if their intake of calories is restricted have made a startling discovery - in fruit flies, just the smell of food can have a negative effect on longevity.

Scientists have known for decades that restricted dietary intake can increase the lifespan of many species, but the mechanism that causes this is not understood. Short-lived organisms like the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, are studied to help unravel this mystery, and the knowledge gained could have important implications for human health.

In a paper to be published in Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a group of researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, New Mexico State University in Las Cruces and the University of Houston report that exposure to food odors can modulate lifespan and partially reverse the longevity-extending effects of dietary restriction in fruit flies.

"Not only can they not have their cake - they can't smell their cake" without shortening their lifespans, said Wayne Van Voorhees, a faculty member in the Molecular Biology Program at New Mexico State University and a member of the research collaboration.

The researchers, led by Scott Pletcher of the Huffington Center on Aging at Baylor, measured the lifespans of different strains of fruit flies in the presence and absence of food odors - specifically live yeast, which is an important component of the flies' diets. Exposure to food odors reduced lifespan in flies that had been subjected to dietary restriction. The reductions ranged from 6 percent to 18 percent - not as much reduction as actual consumption of more food caused, but significant enough to show that food odors have a modulating effect on lifespan.

The researchers also studied genetically altered strains of fruit flies to determine whether loss of olfactory function - the sense of smell - had an effect on lifespan. They found that in all cases, the longevity of the mutant flies was considerably greater than their wild-type controls.

The paper will be published by Science Express, an online publication of the AAAS, on Feb. 1. Science Express is used for rapid publication of selected research papers that are published later in the print version of Science.

Van Voorhies did the metabolic measurements for the study, using sensitive detectors in his laboratory at NMSU to analyze the aerobic respiration of the tiny flies. Carefully controlling the flow and oxygen content of air flowing to the flies in sealed systems, he can determine the flies' metabolic rates by analyzing the carbon dioxide they give off.

At the cellular level, this metabolic process is essentially the same in all organisms. Fruit flies and other short-lived organisms make useful "model organisms" for studies such as this because studying humans is impractical, Van Voorhies noted.

"If you are studying longevity, by definition the study is going to take longer than the lifespan of the researcher," he said.

Van Voorhies said metabolic studies of the fruit flies showed that longer lifespans in those subjected to caloric restriction were not simply a result of slower metabolism.

"A simple way to get a fruit fly to live longer is to put it at lower temperatures," he said. "It will live longer but everything is going slower in the animal, so you haven't fundamentally altered the way it has aged. So we wanted to make sure the effect of caloric restriction wasn't just slowing the animals down, and we found that it wasn't. You can have a high metabolic rate and be long-lived, and that's an encouraging observation."

Ultimately, understanding any link between human longevity and caloric intake, and the role our sense of smell may play in the process, will require more knowledge of the fundamental mechanisms at work, Van Voorhies said.

"You continue to work on the model organisms to try to figure out what the actual mechanism is, and then you can try to apply it to people," he said. "The pharmaceutical companies would like to be able to mimic the beneficial effects of caloric restriction by having you take a pill. But for that to work, you need to understand the mechanism by which caloric restriction extends longevity."

Sometimes - as in the new discovery of a link between food odors and lifespan in fruit flies - the questions get more complicated as scientists gain more knowledge.

Researchers hoping to learn why organisms tend to live longer if their intake of calories is restricted have made a startling discovery - in fruit flies, just the smell of food can have a negative effect on longevity.

Scientists have known for decades that restricted dietary intake can increase the lifespan of many species, but the mechanism that causes this is not understood. Short-lived organisms like the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, are studied to help unravel this mystery, and the knowledge gained could have important implications for human health.

In a paper to be published in Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a group of researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, New Mexico State University in Las Cruces and the University of Houston report that exposure to food odors can modulate lifespan and partially reverse the longevity-extending effects of dietary restriction in fruit flies.

"Not only can they not have their cake - they can't smell their cake" without shortening their lifespans, said Wayne Van Voorhees, a faculty member in the Molecular Biology Program at New Mexico State University and a member of the research collaboration.

The researchers, led by Scott Pletcher of the Huffington Center on Aging at Baylor, measured the lifespans of different strains of fruit flies in the presence and absence of food odors - specifically live yeast, which is an important component of the flies' diets. Exposure to food odors reduced lifespan in flies that had been subjected to dietary restriction. The reductions ranged from 6 percent to 18 percent - not as much reduction as actual consumption of more food caused, but significant enough to show that food odors have a modulating effect on lifespan.

The researchers also studied genetically altered strains of fruit flies to determine whether loss of olfactory function - the sense of smell - had an effect on lifespan. They found that in all cases, the longevity of the mutant flies was considerably greater than their wild-type controls.

The paper will be published by Science Express, an online publication of the AAAS, on Feb. 1. Science Express is used for rapid publication of selected research papers that are published later in the print version of Science.

Van Voorhies did the metabolic measurements for the study, using sensitive detectors in his laboratory at NMSU to analyze the aerobic respiration of the tiny flies. Carefully controlling the flow and oxygen content of air flowing to the flies in sealed systems, he can determine the flies' metabolic rates by analyzing the carbon dioxide they give off.

At the cellular level, this metabolic process is essentially the same in all organisms. Fruit flies and other short-lived organisms make useful "model organisms" for studies such as this because studying humans is impractical, Van Voorhies noted.

"If you are studying longevity, by definition the study is going to take longer than the lifespan of the researcher," he said.

Van Voorhies said metabolic studies of the fruit flies showed that longer lifespans in those subjected to caloric restriction were not simply a result of slower metabolism.

"A simple way to get a fruit fly to live longer is to put it at lower temperatures," he said. "It will live longer but everything is going slower in the animal, so you haven't fundamentally altered the way it has aged. So we wanted to make sure the effect of caloric restriction wasn't just slowing the animals down, and we found that it wasn't. You can have a high metabolic rate and be long-lived, and that's an encouraging observation."

Ultimately, understanding any link between human longevity and caloric intake, and the role our sense of smell may play in the process, will require more knowledge of the fundamental mechanisms at work, Van Voorhies said.

"You continue to work on the model organisms to try to figure out what the actual mechanism is, and then you can try to apply it to people," he said. "The pharmaceutical companies would like to be able to mimic the beneficial effects of caloric restriction by having you take a pill. But for that to work, you need to understand the mechanism by which caloric restriction extends longevity."

Sometimes - as in the new discovery of a link between food odors and lifespan in fruit flies - the questions get more complicated as scientists gain more knowledge.
-end-


New Mexico State University

Related Fruit Flies Articles:

New clues emerge about how fruit flies navigate their world
Janelia Research Campus scientists have uncovered new clues about how fruit flies keep track of where they are in the world.
Frisky female fruit flies become more aggressive towards each other after sex
Female fruit flies start headbutting each other after mating, becoming significantly more aggressive and intolerant Oxford University research has revealed.
What obese fruit flies may tell us about the evolution of cold tolerance
Researchers have hypothesized that migrations into higher, colder latitudes may lead to evolution of fast-burning metabolisms that keep cells warm in chilly conditions.
Fruit flies halt reproduction during infection
A protective mechanism that allows fruit flies to lay fewer eggs in response to bacterial infection is explained in a study published in the journal eLife.
Matching up fruit flies, mushroom toxins and human health
Some fruit flies build up tolerance to the toxin alpha-amanitin; the genetic mechanisms behind this adaptation link to an important metabolic pathway.
Enzyme key to learning in fruit flies
University of California, Riverside-led research finds enzyme that is key to learning in fruit flies.
When it comes to mating, fruit flies can make rational choices
In a paper published Jan. 17 in the journal Nature Communications, University of Washington researchers report that fruit flies -- perhaps the most widely studied insect in history -- show signs of rational decision-making when choosing a mate.
New study refutes how fruit flies developed their tolerance for alcohol
Scientists from the University of Chicago, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Wisconsin-Madison conducted experiments investigating whether a molecular change in an enzyme gave the Drosophila melanogaster fruit fly species its superior ability to metabolize alcohol.
Scientists 'plug in' to circuitry behind sex in male fruit flies
Researchers from the University of Oxford have identified a small neural circuit in male fruit flies that has evolved to allow them to perform the complex mating ritual.
Fruit flies: Food, camera, action!
Fruit flies deprived of specific essential nutrients alter their food choices -- and even the way they search for food.

Related Fruit Flies Reading:

Live Like a Fruit Fly: The Secret You Already Know
by Gabe Berman (Author)

"In Live Like a Fruit Fly, Gabe Berman shares his recipe for living a more joyful, worthwhile, and abundant life in every way. A witty, entertaining, and insightful read." ―Deepak Chopra, Author, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO LIVE LIKE A FRUIT FLY?
Fruit flies are born, begin attending to their fruit-fly agendas almost immediately, then succumb to old age before witnessing a single change of season. Likewise, we live and die in the virtual blink of an eye. Unfortunately, we often ignore our own mortality and simply... View Details


Handbook of the Fruit Flies (Diptera : Tephritidae of America North of Mexico)
by Richard H. Foote (Author), F. L. Blanc (Author), Allen L. Norrbom (Author)

About 4,200 species of tephritids in about 500 genera are currently known throughout the world. Of these, 300 species in 56 genera, all of which are discussed in this handbook, are native to, or recently introduced into, the geographic area including the continental US, Canada, Greenland, Bermuda, and their associated islands. This volume is designed as a guide to the identification of the adults of the Tephritidae known to occur in the designated geographic area at the present time. The coverage is not monographic, the information provided being limited to that which might assist users in... View Details


Fruit Flies: How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies and Other Household Flies

Do you suffer from a fly infestation in your house? These little beasts can be really veeery annoying! Millions of nasty tiny flies swarm around in your home.
This is supposed to be your place of rest and peace, but these tiny flies keep bugging you at all times, it’s sooo annoying and frustrating.

Do you think that you have already tried everything and still could not get rid of these buggers? It can be very difficult to get rid of a fly infestation. They reproduce so fast, that they seem to multiply under your eyes.

You feel ashamed and don’t want to invite... View Details


The Fruit Flies Picnic
by KATHLEEN STEFANCIN (Author)

CHILDRENS BOOK WITH CD View Details


Keys to the Tropical Fruit Flies of South-East Asia: (Tephritidae: Dacinae)
by Richard A. I. Drew (Author), Meredith C. Romig (Author)

Fruit flies are a major issue facing horticultural producers, and as global warming and species migration become more prevalent issues there is an urgent need for easy identification of these pests. A companion volume to Tropical Fruit Flies of South-East Asia (Tephritidae: Dacinae), this book provides fully-illustrated keys for the identification of all currently-known Dacinae fruit flies. Focusing on south-east Asian fauna, it covers areas including India, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, China, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Palau, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and... View Details


How To Brew: Everything You Need to Know to Brew Great Beer Every Time
by John J. Palmer (Author)

How To Brew: Everything You Need to Know to Brew Great Beer Every Time (Fourth Edition)

By John Palmer

Fully revised and updated, How to Brew is the definitive guide to making quality beers at home. Whether you want simple, sure-fire instructions for making your first beer, or you're a seasoned homebrewer working with all-grain batches, this book has something for you. John Palmer adeptly covers the full range of brewing possibilities―accurately, clearly and simply. From ingredients and... View Details


Trapping and the Detection, Control, and Regulation of Tephritid Fruit Flies: Lures, Area-Wide Programs, and Trade Implications
by Todd Shelly (Editor), Nancy Epsky (Editor), Eric B. Jang (Editor), Jesus Reyes-Flores (Editor), Roger Vargas (Editor)

The book focuses on four broad topics related to trapping of agriculturally important tephritid fruit flies, namely i) lures and traps, ii) invasion biology and detection of infestations, iii) attract and kill systems, and iv) trade regulations and risk assessment. This comprehensive structure progresses from the biological interaction between insect and lures/traps to the area-wide use of trapping systems to the utilization and impact of trapping data on international trade. The chapters include accounts of earlier research but are not simply compendia and instead evaluate past and current... View Details


Fruit Flies (Tephritidae): Phylogeny and Evolution of Behavior
by Martin Aluja (Editor), Allen Norrbom (Editor)

Fruit flies (Diptera: Tephritidae) are among the most destructive agricultural pests in the world, eating their way through acres and acres of citrus and other fruits at an alarming rate and forcing food and agriculture agencies to spend millions of dollars in control and management measures. But until now, the study of fruit flies has been traditionally biased towards applied aspects (e.g., management, monitoring, and mass rearing)-understandable, given the tremendous economic impact of this species.
This work is the first that comprehensively addresses the study of the phylogeny and the... View Details


Fruitfly Rabbi: Scientific or spiritual? Which path will Josh Stein pursue?
by Chana Shapiro (Author), Meta Miller (Contributor)

Who would expect intrigue and deception at a large midwestern synagogue? Josh Stein discovers surprising complications in his first rabbinic position. Will his scientific background and people from his past help him, or will he find guidance elsewhere? View Details


Fruit Fly Research and Development in Africa - Towards a Sustainable Management Strategy to Improve Horticulture
by Sunday Ekesi (Editor), Samira A. Mohamed (Editor), Marc De Meyer (Editor)

Horticultural sector presents many opportunities for economic development and improving livelihood of growers but several factors constrain production and limit the potential for trade of fruits and vegetables. Tephritid fruit flies constitute a major constraint. They cause enormous losses through direct feeding damage and loss of market opportunities through imposition of quarantine restrictions by importing countries to prevent entry and their establishment. In Africa, several native (Ceratitis and Dacus spp) and exotic (Bactrocera and Zeugodacus spp.) species inflict considerable losses to... View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2017

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2017. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Simple Solutions
Sometimes, the best solutions to complex problems are simple. But simple doesn't always mean easy. This hour, TED speakers describe the innovation and hard work that goes into achieving simplicity. Guests include designer Mileha Soneji, chef Sam Kass, sleep researcher Wendy Troxel, public health advocate Myriam Sidibe, and engineer Amos Winter.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#448 Pavlov (Rebroadcast)
This week, we're learning about the life and work of a groundbreaking physiologist whose work on learning and instinct is familiar worldwide, and almost universally misunderstood. We'll spend the hour with Daniel Todes, Ph.D, Professor of History of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University, discussing his book "Ivan Pavlov: A Russian Life in Science."