London, May 27 : Forget cutting on the calories or exercising, if it's longevity you're trying to nab, then you might want to consider spending more time with members of the younger generation, at least that's what a new study suggests.
It is often said that humans and other vertebrates live longer if they have more social interactions, and now this has been verified - in fruit flies.
Chun-Fang Wu and Hongyu Ruan at the University of Iowa in Iowa City studied fruit flies with a genetic mutation that reduces their lifespan by interfering with an enzyme that mops up dangerous free radicals.
In age-related diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's in humans, the same enzyme is implicated.
Mutant flies that shared a home with younger flies, or non-mutants, lived longer and were more mobile than those sharing a home with similar-aged flies. They were also more resistant to the effects of extreme physical exertion, heat and oxidative stress.
Impairing the movement or activity of younger flies reduced this effect, suggesting that social interaction with the younger flies through courtship, aggression, or grooming, plays a key role in increasing the lifespan of the older flies.
"Social activity is the key," New Scientists quoted Wu, as saying.
Keeping the flies in the dark, so they could not see each other, also reduced the effect.
"This study shows that the lifespan of these flies is plastic and can be conditioned by social interactions, corroborating the notion that human patients of certain age-dependant neurological diseases may be benefited by an appropriate social environment," Wu said.
The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.