A vegetarian diet could be the key to a long life, a new study said. Reducing consumption of a specific protein found in fish, meat and certain nuts could slow the ageing process and increase life expectancy, according to the research.

British researchers carried out a series of experiments on fruit flies and discovered that simply varying the mix of amino acids in the diet affected lifespan.

The study further found that one particular amino acid, methionine, made all the difference, The Telegraph reported. Methionine is essential to the formation of all proteins. It is naturally abundant in foods such as fish and meats as well as sesame seeds, Brazil nuts and wheat germ.

Although flies and people are very different, the researchers believe the effects are likely to be conserved

throughout a wide range of different species including humans. The team is of the opinion that by reducing foods that contain the protein, people should live longer without the need to cut down on meals.

The key to long life is reduction in specific protein and not the total number of calories, the study said. Humans have around four times more genes than the fruit fly, but both share many similar genes with basic biological functions.

Therefore, even though the fruit fly does not on the surface resemble humans, many findings about its basic biology can be extrapolated to humans.

Dr Matthew Piper, from the Institute of Healthy Ageing at University College London, said, “This work was done on flies but similar results have been found in mice. If it turns it has the same effect on humans, then the message is avoid high levels of methionine.”

“It's not as simple as saying 'eat less nuts' or 'eat more nuts' to live longer - it's about getting the protein balance right, a factor that might be particularly important for high protein diets, such as the Atkins diet or body builders' protein supplements,” Piper said.

Earlier studies have revealed that reducing calories by as much as 30 per cent could reduce risks of developing heart disease or cancer by half and increase lifetimes by nearly a third.

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