Eat junk, look good, die young

A study published today by Glasgow University scientists shows that finches given a poor diet briefly in early life become adults that can’t cope with ageing. Birds that had a low quality diet for just two weeks grew into adults with much lower levels of antioxidants in their blood, and such birds have shorter lives.

Antioxidants are a key part of the body’s defences against ageing; they reduce the damage caused by free radicals that are produced during normal metabolism. Animals cannot make these antioxidants (which include Vitamins A and E, and also carotenoids), so must get them from their food. The birds given the poor diet were not short of food, but the food they had was low in protein and vitamins. It is interesting that all the zebra finches were given the same normal diet after the early chick stage, so had been eating the same amount of these valuable substances for most of their lives. The birds all grew into apparently normal adults. However, it seems that the birds given the low quality diet early in their development were then less able to use the antioxidants that they ate when they grew up.

Professor Pat Monaghan, who led the study, said, ‘This work demonstrates a mechanism that links diet during early life to what happens much later. The reason for this has so far been poorly understood”

A further finding of the study is that birds, faced with a shortage of life-extending materials, choose to spend them on looking good to attract a mate rather than saving them for old age. Some antioxidants (such as carotenoids) are also used as pigments, often involved in red and yellow coloration. So there is potentially a conflict between the amount an animal invests in preventing ageing and the amount it puts into its body colouration. In the case of the zebra finches, the early diet of the birds did not alter the redness of their beaks, so there was no change in the amount of carotenoids used as pigments. Females prefer males with bright red beaks.

Pat Monaghan added, “Perhaps it’s not surprising that animals go for attracting mates rather than ‘saving’ for old age. Better red than, well, not dead in this case.”

The study was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, and involved collaboration between biologists at Glasgow University and at the Scottish Agricultural College at Auchencruive near Ayr.

Media Contact

Marion O’Sullivan alfa

Alle Nachrichten aus der Kategorie: Life Sciences

Articles and reports from the Life Sciences area deal with applied and basic research into modern biology, chemistry and human medicine.

Valuable information can be found on a range of life sciences fields including bacteriology, biochemistry, bionics, bioinformatics, biophysics, biotechnology, genetics, geobotany, human biology, marine biology, microbiology, molecular biology, cellular biology, zoology, bioinorganic chemistry, microchemistry and environmental chemistry.

Zurück zur Startseite

Kommentare (0)

Schreib Kommentar

Neueste Beiträge

Microscopy beyond the resolution limit

The Polish-Israeli team from the Faculty of Physics of the University of Warsaw and the Weizmann Institute of Science has made another significant achievement in fluorescent microscopy. In the pages…

Material found in house paint may spur technology revolution

Sandia developed new device to more efficiently process information. The development of a new method to make non-volatile computer memory may have unlocked a problem that has been holding back…

Immune protein orchestrates daily rhythm of squid-bacteria symbiotic relationship

Nearly every organism hosts a collection of symbiotic microbes–a microbiome. It is now recognized that microbiomes are major drivers of health in all animals, including humans, and that these symbiotic…

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.