A frugal meal that is just about enough for survival can help you lead a long and healthy life, a new study conducted by scientists at the Newcastle University in UK has revealed.

The studies conducted among animals clearly showed that an extremely frugal diet can protect the body from the ravaging influence of ageing where food that is just about enough to assist survival holds the key to longer life.

This is so because frugal meals stop cells from moving through their respective cycle of life too quickly. Cells normally pass through a cycle of growth, ageing and death. This process of rapid cell cycle can be slowed if they are starved of energy.

British researchers conducted an experiment on mice that were fed with extremely low calorie diet over a period of time. On analysis of body tissues of the mice, the researchers found a greater number of healthy dividing cells.

The cells that were not capable of division are considered unhealthy and aged. The researchers further examined the number of ageing cells in the livers and intestines of mice. These types of non-dividing cells are found in higher concentration amongst aging mice.

And more importantly, the researchers found a protective sheath covering the end of important genetic information in cells was found intact in these cells of animals fed with a frugal diet.

The sheath protecting the genetic code in the cells is believed to be crucial in the ageing process. Damage to this sheath, along with a rise in the number of non-dividing cells, are both key signs of ageing.

Not just the younger mice, even those that were aged but adopted the extremely low-calorie diet in their lives experienced the same benefits, the study found. "A very low-calorie diet can help to extend life-span and there's lot of evidence that this is true. However, we need a better understanding of what's actually happening in an organism on restricted diet," says co-lead of the project Chunfang Wang.However, Prof Thomas von Zglinicki, who led the study, is a bit more cautious. "We don't yet know if food restriction delays ageing in humans, and maybe we wouldn't want it."

The findings do not mean that you should stop eating and go for a radical low-calorie diet in order to live. There is no scientifically proven evidence in humans to show that calorie restriction could extend life. Instead, there are a lot many who believe that a rich and `proper’ diet would enhance lifespan.