A new study has revealed that a common ingredient found in many skin care products mimics the effect of caloric restriction.
Calorie restriction has been found to slow down the aging process in several animal models from worms to mammals, and developing drugs that can reproduce this effect could have widespread human applications.
The scientists made the amazing discovery that allantoin, which is found in botanical extracts of the comfrey plant and is an ingredient of many anti-aging creams, can mimic the effect of calorie restriction and increase lifespan in worms by more than 20%.
Dr. João Pedro de Magalhães, from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Integrative Biology, who led the study said, “Calorie restriction has been shown to have health benefits in humans and, while more work is necessary, our findings could potentially result in human therapies for age-related diseases.”
The researchers found that worms treated with allantoin, rapamycin, trichostatin A and LY-294002 not only lived longer, but also stayed healthier longer. In addition, when the same compounds were tested in mutant worms they extended lifespan in a way expected from calorie restriction. Further molecular analysis of allantoin suggests it acts by a different mechanism from rapamycin, a well-known longevity drug.
PhD student Shaun Calvert, who carried out the work said, “Testing anti-aging interventions in humans is not practical, so developing computational methods to predict longevity drugs is of great use. We have shown so far that our compounds work in worms, but studies in mammalian models are now necessary. The next step for us is to understand the mechanisms by which allantoin extends lifespan, as this could reveal new longevity pathways.”
Allantoin-rich comfrey has long been valued as a healing medicine and “miracle” herb. Allantoin is a cell-proliferant. A cell-proliferant encourages the cells of the body to grow.
Intriguingly, the FDA banned the internal use of comfrey in supplements in 2002. The United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Germany also have banned the sale of oral products containing comfrey. The FDA’s ban was based on indications, not human testing. Can a plant with comforting folk names such as Knitbone, Woundwort, Healherb, and All Heal, really be all that bad?