Going back for a second dessert after your holiday meal might not be the best strategy for living a long, cancer-free life, a new study has confirmed.

University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) researchers have shown exactly how restricted calorie diets, specifically in the form of restricted glucose (sugar), help human cells live longer.

This discovery could help lead to drugs and treatments that slow human ageing and prevent cancer.

“Our hope is that the discovery that reduced calories extend the lifespan of normal human cells will lead to further discoveries of the causes for these effects in different cell types...,” said Trygve Tollefsbol, researcher at the Centre for Aging and Comprehensive Cancer Centre UAB.

“We would also hope for these studies to lead to improved prevention of cancer as well as many other age-related diseases through controlling calorie intake of specific cell types,” he added.

Tollefsbol and colleagues used normal human lung cells and pre-cancerous human lung cells that were at the beginning stages of cancer formation.

Both sets of cells were lab grown and received either normal or reduced levels of glucose. As the cells grew over a period of a few weeks, researchers monitored their ability to divide, and tracked how many cells survived over this period.

They found that the normal cells lived longer, and many of the precancerous cells died, when given less glucose. Gene activity was also measured under the same conditions, said a UAB release.

“Western science is on the cusp of developing a pharmaceutical fountain of youth,” said Gerald Weissmann, medical expert and editor-in-chief of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal, which published these findings.

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