Recently, some worms got really lucky.
The worms were the subject of an experiment by scientists from US Northwestern University, who successfully disabled the ‘genetic switch’ causing the worms to age. According to senior researcher Richard Morimoto, the “findings suggest there should be a way to turn this genetic switch back on and protect our [humans] aging cells by increasing their ability to resist stress.”
That’s pretty exciting stuff. Because although we love the wisdom that comes with age, other changes are less desirable (though as with anything, that is a matter of perspective – just ask Elle Macpherson).
In fact, we already have the knowledge available to enable us to create the conditions for enjoying an extended period of good health. Indeed, Millennials (i.e. 18-34 year olds) might even be the first generation that is equipped with enough knowledge to be able to completely avoid memory loss conditions.
Thanks to some proactive demographers, we have new insights into the communities around the world that live the longest. This research points to clues about what really causes us to age, and what factors might help us to extend our lifespan.
At the same time, science is offering up increasingly concrete theories of why we age, and that awareness is leading to some fascinating conclusions about lifestyle factors and other interventions that we can adopt relatively early on to stall the aging process.
At a mind level, and thanks to the efforts of certain neuroscience trailblazers, we are being switched on to the idea of controlling our own health fate through the thoughts that we routinely select. At the very least, more of us are learning techniques to control our own responses to challenging physical conditions and difficult life events, enabling us to conquer stress – the biggest killer of our time.
This guide attempts to draw together all of these different perspectives. It offers advice on how to ‘de-age’ throughout, but to make things a little easier, you’ll find a list of 39 things you can do to grow younger now, right at the bottom. In fact you could totally just skip straight to that bit – I’ll never know.
- 1 Aging – a definition
- 2 What age can we reach?
- 3 How exactly do we age?
- 4 What’s going wrong
- 5 Why we get early onset disease
- 5.1 1. Telomeres shortening
- 5.2 2. Chronic inflammation – the ‘silent killer’
- 5.3 3. Glycation or Glycosylation
- 5.4 4. Methylation deficit
- 5.5 5. Mitochondrial energy depletion
- 5.6 6. Hormone imbalance/Neuroendocrine theory
- 5.7 7. Calcification
- 5.8 8. Fatty acid imbalance
- 5.9 9. DNA expression
- 5.10 10. Immune dysfunction
- 5.11 11. Decline of longevity enzymes
- 5.12 12. Circulatory deficit
- 5.13 13. Oxidative stress/’free radical theory’
- 6 Anti-aging supplements – what actually works?
- 7 Fasting
- 8 Carrel’s Protocol
- 9 The Power 9 – Lessons from those that break 100
- 10 The regrets of dying people
- 11 Is the answer all in our heads?
- 12 Google and Calico
- 13 Aubrey De Gray and SENS
- 14 39 things you can do to grow younger now
Aging – a definition
We age on a number of different levels – not just physical and biological.
That’s important because in order to truly anti-age, we need to address everything that might be causing us to grow old ahead of time.
Biologically speaking, aging can be described as an accumulation of damage or, as Fight Ageing puts it, “breakages in the molecular machinery of your cells, a build-up of metabolic waste products that your body cannot break down, the flailing of biological systems that are increasingly unable to cope.” Over time, aging affects every cell in every organ, structure and tissue in the body (see further below).
Aging might also be defined as an accumulation of emotional toxins, as we gather and respond to life experiences.
The impact on our psyches of reaching certain decades is well documented. Life crisis’ aren’t just for those in midlife anymore. At certain milestones, a lot of us start asking ‘what’s it all about?’ That process has even been described as an existential necessity, as we come face-to-face with our limitations, our restricted possibilities, and our mortality.
Physically, aging can be defined as a gradual loss of youthful vigor, which can be seen in the quality of our skin, changes in our body shape and discoloration of hair.
All that we are sure about is that the aging process varies a great deal from person to person, and there isn’t an accurate way to determine or measure the rate or degree of aging.
What age can we reach?
Demographers, epidemiologists, gerontologists and other researchers on aging have long puzzled over the theoretical question of the maximum potential for human lifespan.
The longest-lived person in the world (on record) is Jeanne Calment of France, who died in 1997 at the age of 122 years and 164 days.
In some quarters, it has been suggested that we should live to around 120 to 140 years old.
Theoretically at least, there is no limit to the human lifespan.
How exactly do we age?
Even in healthy aging, we are still going to experience some kind of deterioration – there is no escaping it. Here is a brief-n-brutal account of the process. If you’re at all mortality-anxious, look away now please.
Bone density starts to diminish at age 35 (women peak at around 30), with an accelerated rate of loss in menopausal women. After 30, muscle mass declines more than 20% in the absence of regular exercise. You might even become a bit shorter. Muscles generally lose strength and flexibility, and you might become less coordinated or have (even more) trouble balancing.
How to deal with it? Two words: strength training. Body weight or free weights; just get it done.
Both men and women need to do strength training to keep bone mass, but as men tend to do it anyway, I will tailor my voice towards women. Women, resistance training is critical if we want to prevent osteoporosis. Resistance training should ideally be done around 3 or 4 times per week, and can be done as part of a circuit for cardiovascular benefits too. If you’re new to strength training, here’s a nice little 101 from Nerd Fitness.
Digestion is less affected by aging, but aging can still be a factor in several digestive disorders. Older adults are more likely to get constipated frequently, which can be a side effect of medications and certain medical conditions (such as diabetes and IBS).
To help to ward off any decline, prioritize good digestive health throughout your lifetime:
- Drink water;
- Ensure adequate intake of soluble and insoluble fiber;
- Manage stress; and
- Use a probiotic, and eat prebiotic and probiotic foods.
Our maximum lung capacity decreases gradually after we hit peak at 25. We also see decreases in measures of lung function such as vital capacity (the maximum amount of air that can be breathed out following a maximum inhalation), a weakening of the respiratory muscles and a decline in the effectiveness of lung defense mechanisms.
Decreased lung capacity negatively impacts our health in several ways. In fact, a famous study which followed 5,200 individuals for three decades demonstrated that lung volume is the greatest predictor of health and longevity.
Oh and eat apples. Your lungs love apples.
After about age 30 to 40, approximately two thirds of us undergo a gradual decline in the rate that our kidneys filter blood. Loss of bladder control is common for women around menopause and medical conditions, such as diabetes, might contribute to incontinence.
For women, at around menopause, menstrual cycles stop and the ovaries stop producing oestrogen. For men, testicular tissue mass decreases. The level of the male sex hormone, testosterone, decreases gradually. Men may experience problems getting an erection. This is a general slowing, instead of a complete lack of function.
The psychological adjustments might be the biggest thing here, especially for women.
In terms of the biological changes, traditional hormone replacement therapy has been shown to be flawed – but there is another option. Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, also known as natural hormone therapy, refers to the therapeutic use of hormones that are identical on a molecular level with our natural hormones. It is probably preferable to synthetic hormone replacement therapy. Oprah certainly thinks so.
Endocrine glands – hormone makers
There are typical ages at which hormones begin to decline.
At 30, human growth hormone begins its regression and falls at around 14% per decade.
At around 40, when women move into menopause, progesterone, testosterone and oestrogen begin to decrease.
At 50, the thyroid begins to take strain, and hyper or hypo thyroidism might develop.
At this age, men may begin to experience andropause (the male version of menopause). A decline in DHEA (the precursor to a lot of other hormones) may mean an increased vulnerability to various cancers.
At 60, the body’s ability to cope with sugar declines, and the insulin resistance or diabetes becomes more prevalent. That’s the reason for the typical ‘middle age spread.’
At 70, the hormone responsible for protecting against loss of calcium in the bones declines. This makes osteoporosis prevalent.
The state of our hormones is key to health. Hormonal imbalance is a cause of premature aging/degenerative disease (see more below). The good news is we can manage our hormones successfully through diet and lifestyle choices (see section ‘hormone inbalance’ below).Generally, it is all the sensible stuff, like avoiding toxins, sleeping well and exercising.
At around 40, your heart muscle thicken and blood vessels stiffen. This causes your heart to work harder to pump blood through them. This can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension) and other cardiovascular problems.
Regular, sustained aerobic (just means uses oxygen) exercise can improve heart and lung function.
Note that walking is the only exercise that has been scientifically showed to extend lifespan.
The nervous system doesn’t decline drastically in normal aging. Some nerve cell structure is lost, along with some function of individual nerve cells. The most severe decline in mental function is a result of diseases like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, which can be categorized as ‘abnormal’ aging (see more below).
By age 40, the lens begins to stiffen, resulting in difficulty focusing on near objects. Hearing loss might develop (occurs more rapidly in men than in women). Also, your memory worsens.
To help keep the nervous system functioning optimally, ensure a good intake of B vitamins throughout your lifetime. Most B vitamins you are able to get from food sources, but you probably need to supplement with B12.
Food wise, a new study suggests that the MIND diet – a variation on the Mediterranean diet – might be the best for stalling brain ageing.
Protective organs, including skin
Stem cell production declines with age, causing the epidermal cells to slow in their reproduction. This causes thinner, more translucent skin, resulting in more frequent skin injuries, tearing, and infections.
To keep skin young for as long as possible, follow Dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams’ Future Proof Your Skin Eating Plan. (Better still, read her book). It’s an excellent nutritional strategy for general health and longevity anyway. Here is how her diet looks.
There are some really great skincare products that you can use now – some have actually been scientifically proven to reduce wrinkles.
And the science is getting more exciting all the time.
What’s going wrong
According to statistics, currently the leading causes of death in the US are heart disease, cancer, and chronic lower respiratory disease. In the UK, top causes are heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Heart disease and stroke are the number one and two killers in the world, and diabetes (specifically the preventable type 2 type) is predicted to be the seventh biggest cause of death by 2030.
Why we get early onset disease
Longevity researchers have come up with at least 13 theories of what causes early onset degenerative disease. Just to be clear: these are the things that cause us to age and die early, as distinct from the natural changes that occur in healthy aging (described above).
Below is a brief explanation of the theories, together with what science has discovered about preventing and reversing them.
1. Telomeres shortening
This is the one you might have heard about in the news. Lots of research is being done into telomeres and what they tell us about how we age.
Telomeres are often likened to the plastics tips on shoelaces (our chromosomes being the shoelaces). Each time a cell divides, the telomeres get shorter. This shortening process is associated with aging, cancer, and a higher risk of death.
Author Dean Ornish MD says, “findings indicate that telomeres may lengthen to the degree that people change how they live. Research indicates that longer telomeres are associated with fewer illnesses and longer life.”
Note it is possible to have your telomeres measured.
The cures – Diet, meditation and exercise
The keys are to avoid the things that speed up the shortening (some are surprising) and do the things that can prevent it.
We can help to prevent shortening of our telomeres through diet, meditation and exercise.
The specific nutrients that have been found to have an impact on telomeres length are magnesium (probably the most important mineral), Omega 3, fermented foods, Coenzyme Q10 (discussed more below), Astaxanthin and Vitamin D. See my previous post on supplementation for a discussion about where to get Omega 3 and Vitamin D.
The other ways we can ensure against early shortening of our telomeres is by reducing stress, regular exercise, eating an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant diet and reducing body weight. Usefully, healthy habits are understood to work in unison to protect us.
2. Chronic inflammation – the ‘silent killer’
Inflammation is a normal (and beneficial) process that we need a certain level of in order to stay healthy. However, because of the way we live now, it’s increasingly common for the inflammatory response to get out of hand.
Chronic inflammation is low-grade and systemic, often silently damaging your tissues over an extended period of time. This process can go on for years without you noticing, until a disease suddenly sets in.
Inflammation has been called the real cause of all disease. Of the ten leading causes of mortality in the US, chronic inflammation contributes to at least seven. Links have been made between chronic inflammation and Alzheimers disease, a huge concern particularly for middle aged women.
There are 6 common inflammatory markers you can ask your GP to test for.
The cures – Anti-inflammatory diet, stress free lifestyle and earthing
Chronic stress needs to be prioritized as a starting point. The whole body negative effects of elevated cortisol levels (stress hormone) have been demonstrated time and time again.
Barry Sears, Author of the Zone diet, says that with silent inflammation, food is more powerful than any drug. He says to combat the insidious killer, we need to (1) lose inflammatory fat and (2) understand glycaemic load.
Other experts recommend a slightly different approach: (1) optimizing our primary inflammatory response through Omega 3, and (2) building up our immune system, 70% of which lives in the gut.
Functional doctor Andrew Weil advocates an anti-inflammation food pyramid, which is an excellent food plan for general good health.
Also worth mentioning is grounding, or earthing – aka the process of connecting with the earth’s healing energy. Sounds a bit hippy I know. Grounding might help us to protect our bodies against chronic inflammation – it has been shown to reduce cortisol levels. To get grounded, take a barefoot walk, go bathing in the sea whenever you can, and use an earthing sheet or grounding mat.
3. Glycation or Glycosylation
Glycation is the name of what happens when the sugar in your bloodstream attaches to proteins to form harmful new molecules called advanced glycation end products (AGEs for short). The more sugar in your diet, the more AGEs you develop.
The proteins most susceptible to glycation are collagen and elastin, the same ones that make a youthful complexion so plump and springy. This is the reason why sugar literally ages you.
Glycation can’t be completely stopped, but it can be slowed.
The cure – A low sugar diet (to prevent); Use of compounds (to reverse)
AGEs are the subject of ongoing research. There are three therapeutic approaches:
- Preventing the formation of AGEs;
- Breaking crosslinks after they are formed; and
- Preventing their negative effects.
Dermatologist Nicholas Perricone MD suggests eating some protein at the start of any meal, and avoiding eating fruit on an empty stomach, to prevent any rapid rise in blood sugar.
In terms of breaking cross links and/or reducing their effects, scientists have found that a number of nutritional components in the diet that can play a helpful role.
Studies in rats and mice have found that natural compounds such as resveratrol and curcumin can prevent the negative effects of the AGEs. In fact, resveratrol and curcumin supplements are looking increasingly like excellent inclusions in your supplements regime. More on that below.
4. Methylation deficit
Methylation is a vital biological process controlling how your body removes toxins, grows and repairs, and functions properly. Methylation defects are linked to a number of conditions including diabetes and cancer.
Experts have identified maximizing methylation as the key to healthy aging. A variety of internal and external factors including stress, nutritional deficits, certain disease states, and genetics can contribute to insufficient methylation.
The cures: Eat more dark, leafy greens, get more Bs in your diet, and minimize animal protein, sugar, and saturated fat
The way to test methylation decline is by testing the level of homocysteine in the plasma.
The ‘normal’ range for healthy individuals is considered to be between 5 and 15 µmol/L (stands for micromoles
High homocysteine levels can be normalized through diet and vitamin supplementation. Several nutrients that can help lower homocysteine levels have been identified. Most important are the B vitamins.
Good dietary suggestions are to consume more dark leafy greens and minimize animal protein, sugar and processed foods. It really is the same old stuff.
5. Mitochondrial energy depletion
Over time, there are changes within our cells that lead to the destruction of mitochondria. A growing number of cell biologists have suggested that the number and functionality of the mitochondria can determine an individual’s longevity.
As an interesting aside, scientists have speculated that the health of our mitochondrial DNA might be a factor in why females live longer (theirs exhibit less damage).
The cure: Coenzyme Q10 (or ‘CoQ10’)
CoQ10 is a natural antioxidant synthesized by the body and found in many foods. Levels of CoQ10 decline rapidly with age, but research has found that supplemental CoQ10 blocks mitochondrial aging.
The efficacy of supplemental CoQ10 is controversial. However, too many experts herald its benefits to ignore it as a potential weapon against aging. More on that below.
6. Hormone imbalance/Neuroendocrine theory
Hormones become out of balance for lots of reasons, and with profound consequences.
Hormones are produced using good fats and cholesterol, so a lack of these important dietary factors can cause hormone problems. Toxins containing chemicals that mimic either the fats or the hormones themselves (think plastic and soy) are also problematic because they confuse the body.
Gut health is thought to play a significant role in hormone regulation, so if you have a leaky gut or a lack of probiotics lining your intestinal wall, it can also cause hormone imbalance. Compounding the issue is that one hormone imbalance can easily lead to another.
The cures – Balance hormones naturally through diet and sleep, and finding alternatives to drugs
You can get your blood tested to conclusively know whether you are low in certain hormones. Otherwise, there are various clues.
And women, Dr Sara Gottfried is your best friend when it comes to balancing hormones. The straight talking Doctor is bent on transforming the conversation around hormones. Read her blog for advice on how to balance key hormones naturally.
Calcification in the body manifests as stiffening of joints, plaque on the teeth, hardening of arteries, impaired brain function and aches and pains. Many individuals aged over 60 have progressively enlarging deposits of calcium mineral in their major arteries.
Calcification (or plaque) is linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Author of Longevity Now and prominent raw fooder David Wolfe said: “The more calcium that we take, the more calcified we become and the quicker we retire from this earth and more aches and pains we experience along the way. The calcium theory has probably done more to damage our health than any single theory in the history of humanity.”
Among the list of main culprits causing calcification, according to David Wolfe? Lime scale in tap water and synthetic calcium supplements.
The cures – MSM, targeted de-calcification – and coffee
As usual, prevention is better than a cure. The main ways to prevent calcification is minimizing your toxic exposure (see my previous post on this).
Supplementing with MSM, an organic sulfur compound, is another approach to dealing with calcification. Being a calcium phosphate dissolver, MSM helps in breaking up the unhealthy calcium deposits in the body that are the root cause of degenerative diseases. MSM is also an ingredient found in quite a few foods, meat, dairy products as well as vegetables.
There are specific ways to prevent build-up of calcification in our tissue including breast tissue.
We can decalcify our glands, for example, the pineal gland (described as the ‘seat of our soul’). That’s important because of the link between plaque in the pineal gland and Alzheimer’s disease.
Coffee also has been shown to be useful in clearing out amyloid plaque (calcification that has formed in the brain, directly linked to the development of Alzheimer’s).
8. Fatty acid imbalance
Fat is a vital nutrient and we need an optimal ratio (1:1) of Omega 6 and 3. See my previous post about this.
If you eat the traditional Western diet of high carbohydrates, vegetables oils, and animal fats, then your ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids is out of balance.
This has very serious effects on our health, and is a large contributing factor in higher incidences of heart disease, cancer and diabetes in the western world.
The cures: Diet and correct supplementation
To get the correct balance of Omega 3 and 6:
- Eat foods with a high Omega 3;
- Avoid processed foods (many containing Omega 6, which tips the balance unfavorably);
- Consume foods that are good natural sources of Omega 6 and 3, such as chia and hemp seed; and
9. DNA expression
Geneticists and oncologists have long recognized that some environmental agitators, like certain chemicals and radiation, cause DNA damage and can affect the way our genes are expressed. Scientists now also know that nutrients and other environmental factors have the power to alter gene expression.
Whereas the genes you were born with will never change during your lifetime, the activity of those genes is extremely fluid and responsive to what you are experiencing every day.
That’s great news.
The cures: Nutrition and mastering thoughts
Diet wise, we’d be wise to avoid certain foods and eat more of others.
Some stand out mentions are broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, which increase the production of the body’s natural detoxification mechanisms. Soy, on the other hand, has an undesirable effect on gene expression. A substance found in green tea inhibits DNA methylation (a good thing). Curcumin, a compound found in turmeric, has multiple positive effects on gene activation.
The curcumin in turmeric is not particularly bioavailable (making it difficult to get good amounts through food alone) but there are ways to improve bio-availability.
A clutch of studies has also pointed to a role for yoga and meditation in gene regulation.
Researchers have also demonstrated that our genes respond to our conscious thoughts, emotions, and unconscious beliefs. The implications of that are profound and not something to skirt over at all, but that’s exactly what I am going to do for now. This is an article about anti-aging, after all.
Cellular biologist Bruce Lipton, PhD., is one of the leading authorities on how emotions can regulate genetic expression. He explains his research in-depth in his books, The Biology of Belief, and Spontaneous Evolution.
10. Immune dysfunction
With the compromise of our immune systems comes a body more vulnerable to infection and disease.
Another kind of immune system dysfunction is autoimmune disease, which develops when your immune system turns on itself. Autoimmune diseases – which include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, thyroid disease and inflammatory bowel disease – are getting increasingly common.
The cures: Vitamin D, Vitamin C and good gut microbes
Vitamin D deficiency is linked with a ton of diseases and notably Alzheimer’s. We could all do with reeducating ourselves about sensible sun exposure so as to maximize our ability to produce Vitamin D. Check out Dave Asprey’s guide to hacking your sun exposure.
Addressing an autoimmunity disease requires a holistic approach.
11. Decline of longevity enzymes
Enzymes are like Santa’s little helpers. They are in charge of constructing, integrating, transporting, providing and eliminating the many nutrients and toxins our body uses in its business of existing. Research has shown that people who have a chronic disease or have low energy levels also have lower enzyme content in their blood, urine, and tissues.
Enzymes are generally lumped into three categories: (1) food enzymes (which we get from food), (2) digestive enzymes and (3) metabolic enzymes.
The three main jobs of metabolic enzymes are:
- Flush toxins from the body.
- Assist in energy production.
- Help every organ function correctly.
Our body stops making metabolic enzymes when we eat a lot of cooked foods. Excessive junk food and fats take a lot of enzymes to use. Stress and environmental pollutants also depletes stores. I think you know what’s coming (in the strategy below).
Digestive enzymes (strictly speaking also metabolic enzymes) are made by our body’s organs. They are secreted by the salivary glands, stomach, pancreas, and the small intestine. Again, a lower digestive enzyme count makes you more susceptible to disease.
There are three types of digestive enzymes and they have three main jobs:
- Proteases – enzymes that digest proteins;
- Amylases – enzymes that digest carbohydrates; and
- Lipases – enzymes that digest fats.
They get compromised over time as they are overburdened in dealing with digestion.
In her book ‘The Healing Power of Enzymes‘, Dr DicQie Fuller emphasizes the importance of enzymes for digestion:
“Eighty percent of our body’s energy is expended by the digestive process. If you are run down, under stress, living in a very hot or very cold climate, pregnant, or are a frequent air traveler, then enormous quantities of extra enzymes are required by your body. Because our entire system functions through enzymatic action, we must supplement our enzymes. Aging deprives us of our ability to produce necessary enzymes. The medical profession tells us that all disease is due to a lack or imbalance of enzymes. Our very lives are dependent upon them!”
The cure: Raw (or alive, or not cooked) foods and digestive enzyme supplements
A diet high in raw foods is a two pronged defense of your enzymes. Firstly, raw foods help to stimulate metabolic enzymes and don’t deplete stores in the way that cooked foods do. Secondly, raw food actually contains food enzymes. This double whammy is probably why raw fooders all look so young.
Some raw foods, such as raw honey and apple cider vinegar, are particularly high in enzymes. Other enzymatic superheros include bananas, papaya, kiwi, grapes, pineapple, bee pollen, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, dates, raw oils and sprouts.
To boost digestive enzymes, we can build up our ‘digestive fire’ by avoiding antibiotics and chewing slowly. Ayurveda (traditional Hindu system of medicine) offers some sensible suggestions for doing this too.
12. Circulatory deficit
The circulatory system consists of two distinct systems that work in tandem: the cardiovascular circulatory system and the lymphatic circulatory system.
According to preventative medicine specialist, Dr David Katz: “Poor circulation can lead directly to heart attack, stroke, eye disease, kidney disease [and] …poor circulation also plays a role in almost every disease, from dementia to diabetes, influenza to cirrhosis.”
If your lymphatic circulation stagnates, toxins will accumulate and immune cells won’t be delivered to the areas of the body where they’re needed. This can cause deterioration of key components of your immune system and weaken your body’s ability to fight infection and disease.
The cure: Rebounding
The lymph system is stimulated by gravity, muscle contraction (exercise), hydrotherapy (alternating hot and cold water on the skin), breathing, lymph drainage therapy and massage. Dry skin brushing also helps to stimulate the lymph system.
Other interventions are the usual suspects of drinking lots of water, exercise, and healthy eating.
In addition, rebounding can really benefit the lymphatic system. Its also been identified as the best exercise by NASA.
13. Oxidative stress/’free radical theory’
Oxidative stress is the burden placed by the constant production of free radicals in the normal course of metabolism, plus whatever other pressures the environment brings to bear on our bodies.
For the past 40 years or so, oxidative stress has been increasingly recognized as a contributing factor in aging.
For further information, read ‘Why We Age’ in Andrew Weil’s book ‘Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Physical and Spiritual Well-Being‘ and ‘Oxygen: The Molecule That Made the World‘, by Nick Lane.
The cures: High dose Vitamin C, tocopherals (or Vitamin E) and high ORAC foods
We have defenses against oxidative stress in the form of physical barriers that contain free radicals at their sites of production within cells. These defenses include enzymes (see above) that neutralize dangerously reactive forms of oxygen, and substances in our diets (such as Vitamin C and Vitamin E) that act to ‘quench’ free radicals.
We probably can’t get enough Vitamin C through diet alone, so a natural based supplement (such as acerola cherry powder) is a useful weapon.
Otherwise, we can fight those annoying free radicals by eating lots of foods with a high oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC for short). Here is a list of those foods. A good rule of them is to look for purple or brown pigmented foods – think chocolate, chai spices and berries.
Anti-aging supplements – what actually works?
There are lots of supplements that are understood to help us to anti-age, and they all do different things.
Here is a whirlwind tour of my top five.
1. Fish Oil
The link between Omega 3 fatty acids and health is so impressive that an agency of the US National Institutes of Health published a report stating that fish oil can help reduce deaths from heart disease. See my earlier post for a strategy on fish oil supplementation.
Research findings indicate that resveratrol may be the most effective compound for maintaining optimal health and promoting longevity. Perhaps most exciting is its ability to mimic calorie restriction (a known longevity booster). Incidentally, possible longevity benefits are another good reason to do a prolonged fast/detoxification.
3. Coenzyme Q10
Coenzyme Q10 is an essential component of healthy mitochondrial function. Aging humans have been found to have over 50% less CoQ10 on average compared to that of young adults. CoQ10 might be one of the most important nutrients for people over 30 to supplement with.
New research shows that curcumin, the compound that gives turmeric its yellow color, may actually promote elongation of telomeres.
Known as the mother of all antioxidants. It has a powerful effect on the immune system. Although its made in the body, natural production is disrupted by stress, poor diet, medications, infections and toxins.
(Note that there are some foods which seem to help with GSH production.)
Fasting might be the only tried, tested, and proven method to achieve a significantly longer lifespan.
Fasting causes the cells in the body to enter emergency survival mode, where they perform a ‘spring clean’, getting rid of toxins.
Although lengthy periods of fasting (e.g. one week) are best, the recent trend in intermittent fasting (IF) is useful. IF involves periods of fasting of typically between 15 and 18 hours. The best (i.e. easiest) way to achieve this is to eat early in the evening (e.g. 6pm) and not eat again until lunchtime the following day. Some people do this every day, others do it for two or three days per week.
Its important to drink plenty of fluids when you are fasting, to help flush out toxins.
Dave Asprey asserts that Bulletproof coffee (the mixture of toxin free coffee plus MCT oil and grass fed butter which Asprey famously coined) does not break the fast (thus allowing you to have coffee for breakfast). That might be the case.
I have already written about the potential benefits of fasting/detoxification, which you can read here.
A very long time ago (1912), French scientist Alexis Carrel was apparently able to maintain a living tissue for 20 years by adding specific nutrients to the fluid surrounding the cells. In doing so, he said he proved that tissues can maintain their integrity indefinitely, if fed properly in a controlled environment.
Here are five principles about longevity that Carrel fathomed from his research.
- The cells must be protected from a toxic environment.
- The cells must be detoxified.
- The cells must be fed proper nutrients.
- The entire organism must be cared for properly.
- There must be no stress on the cells.
The protocol is a combination of detoxification, protection, proper nutrition, and stress modification. All these combined will result is life extension for any organism. Good to know, eh?
Note that Carrel’s experiment was never successfully replicated. In the 1960s, Leonard Hayflick came along and proposed that differentiated cells can undergo only a limited number of divisions before dying. This is known as the Hayflick limit, and is now a pillar of biology.
One theory is that aging is the result of the cells’ inability to divide once they have reached the Hayflick limit. But that isn’t conclusive.
The Power 9 – Lessons from those that break 100
In 2004, Dan Buettner (pronounced BYOOT-neer) teamed up with National Geographic and the world’s best longevity researchers to identify pockets around the world where people live measurably longer. In these ‘Blue Zones’ they found that people reach age 100 at rates 10 times greater than in the United States.
After identifying five of the world’s Blue Zones, (Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Icaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California) Dan and National Geographic took teams of scientists to each location to identify lifestyle characteristics that might explain longevity. They found that the lifestyles of all Blue Zones residents shared nine specific characteristics, which they called the Power 9.
The nine lessons:
- Move naturally. Don’t do marathons or pump iron; work around the house, garden, walk, cycle, walk when talking on the phone.
- Know your purpose. Have a reason for waking up in the morning.
- Kick back. Find ways to shed stress, whether it’s praying, napping or going to happy hour.
- Eat less. Stop eating when you are 80% full.
- Eat less meat. Beans are a cornerstone of most centenarians’ diets.
- Drink in moderation. Only the Seventh-day Adventists in California didn’t have one to two glasses a day.
- Have faith. Denomination doesn’t seem to matter, but attending faith-based services (4 times a month) does.
- Power of love. Put families first, including committing to a partner and keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby.
- Stay social. Build a social network that supports healthy behaviors.
Dan has developed some guiding nutritional principles of his own based on his research. His longevity diet includes coffee and bread. His exercise regime? Mostly long walks.
John Robbins also studied and wrote about the societies on earth where people tend to have the longest, healthiest lives. He found a number of things in common with the diets:
- They were all low (by Western standards) in overall calories.
- They were all high in good carbohydrates, including plenty of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.
- They were all ‘whole-foods’ diets, with very little (if any) processed or refined foods, sugars, corn syrup, preservatives, artificial flavors, or other chemicals.
- They all depended on fresh foods, eating primarily what is in season and locally grown rather than relying on canned foods or foods shipped long distances.
- They were all low (though not super-low) in fat, and the fats come from natural sources, including seeds, nuts, and in some cases fish, rather than from bottled oils, margarine, or saturated animal fats.
- They all derived their protein primarily from plant sources, including beans, peas, whole grains, seeds, and nuts.
The regrets of dying people
Aging is as natural a human process as any. Just why are we searching for the fountain of youth?
Is it because of vanity? Is it because we love life and want to extend the experience for as long as possible? Is it because we want to avoid the pain and misery of age-related degenerative disease? Is it because there are things we want to achieve that we need longer than one lifetime for?
Whatever the reason, if we really are searching for the fountain of youth, perhaps one thing to think about is this: if you were really younger, what would you do differently?
In his book, Top Ten Things Dead People Want to Tell You, Mike Dooley sought to answer that exact question.
Palliative nurse Bonnie Ware went a step further, and recorded the top regrets of dying people. She reported (among other things) that older adults who look back on their life will often state their regrets in terms of spending too much time working (men typically say this), and not listening to, communicating, or acting on, their true feelings or emotions (women will more often state this), and wanting to spend more time with their loved ones (almost everyone says this).
Is the answer all in our heads?
Nothing will do better to slow aging than if we spend the maximum time possible inhabiting the present moment, rather than mentally living into the future or the past. In this way, it can be said that perhaps the most productive anti-aging strategy is living as if ‘it’s already now’.
Travel – or at least change – can help us to become more present. That’s why its a good thing to seek variety in life.
Donna Gates has something interesting to say about the subject of the link between the direction of our thoughts and ageing.
When she was 40, Donna suffered from a multitude of health problems, and became so weak that she was unable to get out of bed. The answers to her health problems seemed elusive, but she began to conduct extensive research and soon started to understand the true power of the body. She has written a book about that, which I would really recommend.
What I want to draw your attention to is that Donna believes growing younger all starts with our thoughts:
“Our thoughts and emotions are always reassembling and reorganizing, but they follow our instructions! We can transform our reality if we change our beliefs. In fact, the body acts like a puppet to our thoughts, and it has a tremendous capacity for self-healing if we focus on health, not disease.”
“Have you been resigned to or obsessing over the changes in your body? If this continues to be your focus, you will certainly find more and more signs of aging with each passing year. Instead, I encourage you to begin—right this moment—to direct your thoughts to how it looks and feels to be young. Focus on what you want to become, not on what you currently are. Your body will begin to respond with new health and vitality.”
If you take anything away from this article, then let it be that.
Google and Calico
In 2013, Google launched Calico (short for California Life Company, but also means ‘cat’), an independent biotech company with the (gasp!) goal of combating aging and associated diseases.
Calico recently announced it has made a deal for access to genetic information from Ancestry, the largest family tree website. With its new DNA data, properly anonymized, Calico will look for genetic patterns in people who have lived exceptionally long lives, then make drugs to help more of us do that.
As we all know, Google has very deep pockets. Watch this space.
Aubrey De Gray and SENS
Biomedical gerontologist and Chief Science Officer of the SENS Research Foundation, Aubrey de Grey, argues that aging is merely a disease — and a curable one at that. Humans age in seven basic ways, he says, all of which can be averted. Watch his fascinating Ted Talk and read his book, the End of Ageing, if you want to know more.
39 things you can do to grow younger now
Based on all of the above, here is a list of things you can do. You’ll feel younger just reading it.
- Do strength/resistance training.
- Always practice good digestive health – includes staying hydrated, being aware of the importance of gut microbes and ensuring you have enough of both kinds of fiber.
- Practice mindful breathing. If you have ever been a smoker, make apples a daily diet staple.
- Women, remember your pelvic floor exercises.
- When needed, explore the possibilities offered by bio-identical hormone replacement therapy.
- Don’t upset your hormones – avoid hormones ‘mimickers’ like plastic and soy, and help yourself to detox.
- Do aerobic exercise.
- Pay attention to your B vitamin health.
- Read Stefanie Williams’ ‘Future Proof Your Skin’.
- Eliminate stress.
- Open up to the possibilities offered by earthing/grounding – take a barefoot walk or if you live near the sea, put your feet in it regularly.
- Know how to eat in an ‘anti inflammatory’ way.
- Avoid processed foods, sugar and overcooked foods.
- Eat lots of dark leafy greens.
- Consider a Co-Enzyme Q10 supplement.
- Balance your hormones naturally. If you have a thyroid issue, explore the alternatives to managing it through medication.
- Consider taking a Vitamin K2 supplement.
- Make MSM a part of your supplements regime.
- Supplement with a high quality fish oil. Generally be aware of getting the correct balance of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids through diet.
- Be aware of the power of your thoughts/attitude in relation to any health condition.
- Take high doses of Vitamin C.
- Supplement with Vitamin D.
- Take a probiotic daily. For advice on choosing one, read this.
- Eat lots of raw foods (assuming your digestion can handle it).
- Consider taking digestive enzyme supplements.
- Invest in a rebounder – and use it.
- Eat lots of high ORAC foods.
- Consider a Resveratrol supplement.
- Consider a Curcumins supplement.
- Consider a Glutathione supplement.
- Know your purpose in life. Or, as poet Charles Bukowski puts it, find what you love – and let it kill you.
- Eat until you are 80% full.
- Eat less meat and consider plant based sources of protein.
- Stay social.
- Keep the people you love near you.
- Eat predominantly whole foods.
- Frequently ask yourself what you would do if this was your last year of living.
- Focus on what you want to become, not what you currently are.
- Keep abreast of developments with Google and Calico.
- Donate to SENS.
If all else fails, you can learn to make time stand still, like this guy.
What are your strategies for anti-aging your body and mind? Get in touch!