The role of dietary carbohydrates in organismal aging
Carbohydrates are essential nutrients that are used as a primary source of energy. Carbohydrate utilization should be properly controlled, as abnormal regulation of carbohydrate metabolism is associated with diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and stroke. These metabolic syndromes have become a serious problem in developed countries, and there is an increased need for research examining the influence of carbohydrates on animal physiology. Diets enriched in glucose, a major carbohydrate, are also associated with accelerated aging in several model organisms, including yeast and Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans). Genetic factors that mediate the effects of high glucose diets on aging have been identified during the last decade, mostly through the use of C. elegans. In this review, we describe studies that determine the effects of carbohydrate-enriched diets on aging by focusing on the mechanisms through which evolutionarily conserved pathways mediate the lifespan-altering effects of glucose in C. elegans. These include the insulin/insulin-like growth factor-1, sterol-regulatory element-binding protein, and AMP-activated protein kinase signaling pathways. We also discuss the effects of various carbohydrates and carbohydrate-derived metabolites on aging in model organisms and cultured mammalian cells. Finally, we discuss how dietary carbohydrates influence health and aging in humans.