Rhodiola Extract Extends Lifespan in Drosophila, Scientists Find

The herbal extract of a yellow-flowered perennial plant known as Golden Root has been shown in a study reported in the journal PLoS ONE to extend the lifespan of fruit flies by 24 percent.

Rhodiola rosea has been used for centuries by Scandinavians and Russians to reduce stress. This image shows Rhodiola in the Berlin Botanical Garden

Rhodiola rosea has been used for centuries by Scandinavians and Russians to reduce stress. This image shows Rhodiola in the Berlin Botanical Garden

Scientists at the University of California Irvine have discovered that Golden Root (Rhodiola rosea) works in a manner completely unrelated to dietary restriction and affects different molecular pathways.

“This is significant, because dietary restriction is considered the most robust method of improving lifespan in laboratory animals. And scientists have been scrambling to identify compounds that can mimic its effects,” explained study senior author Dr Mahtab Jafari.

“We found that Rhodiola actually increases lifespan on top of that of dietary restriction. 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.”

The Irvine researchers proved this by putting fruit flies Drosophila melanogaster on a calorie-restricted diet.

It has been shown that fruit flies live longer when the amount of yeast they consume is decreased. The team expected that if Rhodiola functioned in the same manner as dietary restriction, it would not work in these flies. But it did.

They also tested Rhodiola in flies in which the molecular pathways of dietary restriction had been genetically inactivated. It still worked.

Not only did Rhodiola improve lifespan an average of 24 percent in both sexes and multiple strains of flies, but it also delayed the loss of physical performance in flies as they aged and even extended the lives of old flies.

The scientists previously had shown that the Rhodiola extract decreased the natural production of reactive oxygen species molecules in the fly mitochondria and protected both flies and cultured human cells against oxidative stress.

They are not claiming that Rhodiola supplements will enable humans to live longer, but their discovery is enhancing scientific understanding of how supplements believed to promote longevity actually work in the body.

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Bibliographic information: Schriner SE et al. 2013. Extension of Drosophila Lifespan by Rhodiola rosea through a Mechanism Independent from Dietary Restriction. PLoS ONE 8 (5): e63886; doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0063886