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Virulence. 2010 Nov-Dec;1(6):509-15. Epub 2010 Nov 1.

Obesity, longevity, quality of life: alteration by dietary 2-mercaptoethanol.

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VA Medical Center, Minneapolis, MN, USA.


Previous investigations demonstrated that optimization of murine immunological reactivity in tissue culture required a sulfhydryl compound; the most effective being 2-mercaptoethanol (2-Me). Since these reports, 2-Me was found beneficial for both growth/function of other cell-types in vitro, including those of other species, and when fed orally, it impeded and/or reversed some in situ physiological changes associated with aging. More recently, thiol-containing compounds possessing oxidation-reduction potentials weaker than 2-Me were found to impart beneficial effects for many other, including human, diseases. Based on these effects, the research herein addressed the question: What consequences might dietary 2-Me impart on health and disease of mice other than those associated with aging? The main parameters monitored over the lifetime of individual animals exposed to dietary 10⁻³ M 2-Me in their drinking water were: quality of life (obesity and development of recumbent, emaciated and/or cachectic health); longevity; and appearance of tumors. Instead of anticipated toxic attributes, the following unique benefits were found; mean survival of a moderately-lived strain (A/J) was increased 40.8%, high-fat-diet obesity was curtailed in C57BL/10 mice, and a goal of aging intervention protocols, namely preventing loss of quality of life during aging (recumbent, emaciated and/or cachectic) was achieved. Various mechanisms are discussed as they pertain to these findings.

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