As people around the world live longer and wish to maintain a high quality of life, the concept of adding life to our years – as opposed to simply adding years to our life – is becoming increasingly critical. Scientists’ understanding of the human body and the process of aging is evolving, and researchers today are exploring new ways to promote healthy aging and improve longevity.
Past research approaches often favored lines of inquiry around single-cause drivers of aging, such as genetics, telomeres, inflammation, free radicals, and mitochondria. However, more recent research concepts instead adopt a more integrated approach, taking into account a more diverse range of physiological systems. As a result, these are already yielding novel insights on, for example, the aging brain and related cognitive decline.1 It is hoped that gaining comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms that underlie the aging process will allow for further development of strategies to maintain – or perhaps even regain – physical condition with age.
One exciting area of research is within nutrition science. A critical factor in health maintenance and disease risk mitigation, nutrition has also been shown to promote healthy aging. Scientific evidence suggests that a healthy diet can contribute to overall wellbeing later in life and potentially reduce the risk of age-related health conditions.2 Ongoing research is exploring the potential therapeutic benefits of nutrition science applications for health across the human lifespan.
In addition, recent studies have examined how specific nutrients and dietary interventions can promote physical health in adults of varying ages. Animal studies suggest that diets high in nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and flavonoids may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and even improve hippocampal function, all of which promote healthy aging and reduce the risk of age-related health conditions.3 Preliminary evidence from human studies also suggests that dietary interventions such as nutrient supplementation may positively impact overall health outcomes in older adults.4 Beyond this, emerging studies are demonstrating how the circadian rhythm is linked to a variety of health outcomes and has the potential to be influenced by nutrition.5
Clearly, illuminating the role of nutrition science in healthy aging is an area of active research that has promising implications for public health. This constellation of emerging research areas leads to the question: how can advances across the fields of biology, physiology, and nutrition science be best connected and leveraged to meaningfully address the challenges of healthy aging – and in doing so, not just add years to our life, but life to our years?
At this year’s Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, Mars, Incorporated will host a moderated panel discussion over breakfast to explore this very question. The event will convene expertise in each field to interrogate approaches to nutrition science and help the research community unlock meaningful insights. The Partner Breakfast panel will see renowned geneticist and Nobel Laureate Michael W. Young in conversation with nutrition science expert Dr. Hagen Schroeter and Ninadini Sharma from the Max Planck Institute for Multidisciplinary Sciences.
Dr. Michael W. Young is a prominent geneticist and molecular biologist, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2017 for jointly discovering molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm. He will offer his expertise on the circadian rhythm’s implications for human health, as disruptions to it have been linked to a variety of health problems, including sleep disorders, metabolic disorders, and cancer.
Dr. Hagen Schroeter is Chief Science Officer at Mars Edge a segment of Mars, Incorporated dedicated to translating scientific insights and the outcomes of health and nutrition research into evidence-based applications. Dr. Schroeter leads Mars’ scientific contributions related to cocoa flavanols and the Cocoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS), a large-scale, clinical dietary intervention trial investigating the long-term impact of cocoa flavanols and multivitamins on health.
Partner Breakfast Panellists:
- Nobel Laureate: Michael W. Young, Professor of Genetics and Neuroscience, The Rockefeller University
- Dr. Hagen Schroeter, Chief Science Officer, Mars Edge
- Ninadini Sharma, Max Planck Institute for Multidisciplinary Sciences
- Moderator: Adam Smith, Chief Scientific Officer, Nobel Media
Partner Breakfast Biographies:
Dr. Michael W. Young is a seminal geneticist and molecular biologist, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2017 for jointly discovering molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm.
Currently a Professor of Genetics and Neuroscience at The Rockefeller University, Dr. Young’s work has focused on the genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying the circadian rhythm, which is the 24-hour cycle of physiological and behavioural processes that regulates many aspects of life, including sleep, metabolism, and hormone secretion. In the 1980s, he and colleagues used fruit flies as a model organism to identify genes that control the circadian rhythm. They also identified other genes and proteins that interact with per to form a feedback loop that regulates the circadian rhythm.
Dr Young’s more recent research has interrogated the genetic and molecular basis of the circadian rhythm, using both mice and humans. His work has focused on understanding how the circadian rhythm is regulated at the cellular and molecular levels, and how disruptions in the circadian rhythm can contribute to disease.
Dr. Hagen Schroeter is the Chief Science Officer at Mars Edge, a segment of Mars, Incorporated that is dedicated to translating scientific insights and the outcomes of health and nutrition research into evidence-based applications. His research interests are in human health and nutrition, personalized nutrition, and data-enabled innovation in nutrition and wellbeing.
At Mars Edge, Dr. Schroeter leads biomedical investigations into the role of dietary flavanols, procyanidins and other bioactive food constituents in nutrition and primary disease prevention, as well as the study of personal sensors and devices, and the application of machine learning in personalized nutrition and health.
He also leads scientific contributions made by Mars related to the Cocoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS). COSMOS, enabled by a public-private partnership, is a large-scale (21,000 participants) investigator-initiated, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical dietary intervention trial assessing the long-term impact of flavanols and multivitamins on health. Dr. Schroeter is an Adjunct Researcher at the University of California Davis Department of Nutrition.
1 Niccoli, T. and Partridge, L. (2012). Ageing as a risk factor for disease. Current Biology, 22(17), R741-R752.
2 Kritchevsky, S. B. (2016). Nutrition and Healthy Aging. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, 71(10), 1303-1305.
3 Meeusen, R., Watson, P., Hasegawa, H., Roelands, B., & Piacentini, M. F. (2007). Central fatigue: the serotonin hypothesis and beyond. Sports Medicine, 37(9), 641-656.; Spencer, R. M. (2009).
4 Gating of hippocampal activity, plasticity, and memory by behavioral state. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 33(7), 1004-1014.
5 Bouillon, R., Manousaki, D., Rosen, C., Trajanoska, K., Rivadeneira, F. and Richards, J. B. (2022). Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 18, 96-110.
6 Franzago, M., Alessandrelli, E., Notarangelo, S., Stuppia, L. and Vitacolonna, E. (2023). International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 24(3), 2571.