The herbal extract of a flowering mountain plant long used to ease stress has been found to increase the lifespan of fruit flies.
University of California-Irvine researchers said the extract — Rhodiola rosea, also known as golden root — appears to affect molecular pathways in flies that may also have implications for people. Lead researchers Mahtab Jafari and Sam Schriner said the extract’s benefits are unrelated to dietary restriction and molecular mechanisms tied to other natural compounds such as resveratrol, in red wine and grapes.
"We found that Rhodiola actually increases lifespan on top of that of dietary restriction," said Jafari, an associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences, noting limiting calorie intake has been shown to improve lifespan in laboratory animals.
"It demonstrates that Rhodiola can act even in individuals who are already long-lived and healthy. This is quite unlike resveratrol, which appears to only act in overfed or unhealthy individuals."
Jafari noted the research not only demonstrated that Rhodiola extended the lifespan of treated flies by an average of 24 percent in multiple strains of flies, but it also delayed the loss of physical performance as they aged.
Jafari and Schriner cautioned that they are not claiming that Rhodiola supplements will enable humans to live longer, but their discovery is enhancing scientific understanding of how supplements believed to promote longevity actually work in the body.
In past clinical studies, Rhodiola has been shown to decrease fatigue, anxiety and depression; boost mood, memory and stamina; and prevent altitude sickness. The herb has been used for centuries by Scandinavians and Russians to reduce stress and is believed to have antioxidant properties.
Jafari's team is now exploring the plant's potential to kill cancer cells, fight Alzheimer's disease, and help stem cells grow.
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