There’s a new way to remain youthful — eat less. Researchers at the Catholic University of Sacred Heart in Italy identified a molecule that preserves brain function, which is triggered by a low calorie diet.

The Rome-based institution discovered CREB1, a molecule in the brain of mice, which stimulates genes connected to longevity and proper brain function. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, an American journal, featured their findings this week.

“Our hope is to find a way to activate CREB1, for example through new drugs, so to keep the brain young without the need of a strict diet,” lead study author and researcher at the Institute of General Pathology, Faculty of Medicine at the Catholic University of Sacred Heart Dr. Giovambattista Pani said.

A low-calorie diet translated into restricting mice to consume up to 70 percent of their usual intake. Following the diet kept the mice from becoming obese or developing diabetes, according to researchers.

Mice on the low calorie diet also had better cognitive abilities, were less aggressive and were at less risk for severe Alzheimer’s disease symptoms than those higher-calorie diets.

Previous studies suggested obesity causes brain aging and made it more susceptible to both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Until now, the other positive effects of a low-calorie diet were unknown.

“Our findings identify for the first time an important mediator of the effects of diet on the brain,” Dr. Pani said. “This discovery has important implications to develop future therapies to keep our brain young and prevent brain degeneration and the aging process. In addition, our study shed light on the correlation among metabolic diseases as diabetes and obesity and the decline in cognitive activities.”