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Siberian Mountain Plant May Lengthen Lifespan

Update Date: Jul 02, 2013 02:43 PM EDT

A Siberian plant may add years to your life, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the University of California-Irvine, found that fruit flies fed extracts of Rhodiola rosea, or "golden root," live 24 percent longer than their otherwise healthy counterparts.

"Potentially, humans - healthy or not - could live longer by consuming this root," lead investigator Mahtab Jafari, of the department of pharmaceutical sciences at UCI, told Medical Xpress. "So far, we've only seen the effect in flies, worms and yeast. But nothing quite like this has been observed before."

"We found that Rhodiola actually increases lifespan on top of that of dietary restriction," Jafari said in a news release. "It demonstrates that Rhodiola can act even in individuals who are already long-lived and healthy. This is quite unlike resveratrol, which appears to only act in overfed or unhealthy individuals."

Currently, the main drug that has been shown to extend lifespan is Resveratrol, according to researchers. However, the drug only lengthens lifespan in people who are diabetic or overweight. Previous studies found that Resveratrol, which is found in red wine, limits the body's access to calories and fat.  The chemical has also been shown to extend the lifespan of obese mice by about 30 percent. While the drug might have similar life-extending properties in obese humans, researchers say the drug probably won't do much for healthy people who are already slim.

However, the latest findings suggest that all people could benefit from the extracts of Rhodiola rosea. The study, published on line in the journal PLoS ONE, found that Rhodiola improved lifespan by an average of 24 percent in both sexes and multiple strains of flies.  The plant also delayed the loss of physical performance in flies as they aged and even extended the lives of old flies.

"It's always a jump from animal model to human, but we share 75 percent of our disease genes with fruit flies," Jafari said. "And if you look at the molecular pathways we study in flies, they're also highly conserved. You can find the same pathways in nearly all living things: flies, worms, rats, humans. It's scientific to think that if Rhodiola works in flies, it may also work on humans."

Researchers are not sure how Rhodiola rosea is keeping the flies alive.  However, they say that the plant has been used for centuries by Russians and Scandinavians to treat seasonal depression

In 2007, an Armenian clinical trial showed 500 milligrams of Rhodiola rosea extract helped treat mild to moderate depression. Other studies have shown that Rhodiola can decrease fatigue, anxiety and depression, boost mood, memory and stamina and prevent altitude sickness.

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