Does a Healthy Lifestyle Result in “Anti-Aging”? Part 2
Joel Peterson – Level 5 Personal Trainer Apple Athletic Club
“Without health there is no happiness. An attention to health, then, should take the place of every other object.” – Thomas Jefferson, 1787
In Part One of this segment, I asked the question: Do you think that a healthy nutritional diet and physical activity may slow down the aging process, sometimes drastically?
I trust that you correctly see the direct link between them. We discussed the role that “Telomeres” play in the aging process and began exploring ways we can slow down the aging process. Please refer to Part One in our archives to up-date or to refresh your memory.
This week we are going to explore the role that nutrition plays in this process called life – and aging.
NUTRITION AND TELOMERES
Nutritionists have long been interested in the dynamics of telomere length in the body, and how telomeres figure into human health and life expectancy. The mechanism by which nutrients appear to affect telomere length is by influencing the activity of telomerase. This is an enzyme that adds the telomeric and repeats to the ends of your DNA. Thousands of studies have been published on telomerase, and they are well-known to maintain genomic stability, prevent the inappropriate activation of DNA damage pathways, and regulate cellular aging.
In 1984, Elizabeth Blackburn PhD, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF, discovered that the enzyme telomerase actually has the ability to lengthen the telomere by synthesizing DNA from an RNA primer. She, along with Carol Greider and Jack Szostak were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009 “for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase.”
The science of telomeres offers the most exciting and viable possibility for extreme life extension—the kind of anti-aging strategy that can actually allow you to regenerate and in effect “grow younger.” This is great news, as short telomeres are a risk factor not just for death itself, but for many diseases as well.
Top 12 Key Nutrients for Life Extension
- Vitamin D In one study of more than 2,000 women, those with higher vitamin D levels were found to have fewer aging-related changes in their DNA, as well as lowered inflammatory responses. Women with higher levels of vitamin D are more likely to have longer telomeres, and vice versa. This means that people with higher levels of vitamin D may actually age more slowly than people with lower levels of vitamin D.
The good news is that vitamin D is a potent inhibitor of your body’s inflammatory response, and by reducing inflammation, you diminish your turnover of leukocytes, effectively creating a positive chain reaction that can help protect you against a variety of diseases. The absolute best way to optimize your vitamin D levels would be through safe sun exposure.
- Astaxanthin In the 2009 study on multivitamin use and telomere length, longer telomeres were also associated with the use of antioxidant formulas. According to the authors, telomeres are particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress. Additionally, inflammation induces oxidative stress and lowers the activity of telomerase (again, that’s the enzyme responsible for maintaining your telomeres).
Astaxanthin has emerged as one of the most potent and beneficial antioxidants currently known, with potent anti-inflammatory and DNA-protective capabilities. It has a number of unique features that make it stand out from the crowd. Astaxanthin crosses both your blood-brain barrier AND your blood-retinal barrier (beta carotene and lycopene do not), which brings antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection to your eyes, brain and central nervous system.
- Ubiquinol (CoQ10) CoQ10 is used by every cell in your body. Premature aging is one primary side effect of having too little CoQ10 because this essential vitamin recycles other antioxidants, such as vitamin C and E. CoQ10 deficiency also accelerates DNA damage, and because CoQ10 is beneficial to heart health and muscle function this depletion leads to fatigue, muscle weakness, soreness and eventually heart failure.
- Fermented Foods / Probiotics It’s quite clear that eating a diet consisting of high amounts of processed foods will shorten your life, yet 90 percent of the money Americans spend on food is spent on processed food, and the number one source of calories in the US comes from high fructose corn syrup – a staple ingredient in nearly all processed foods, from frozen dinners, to condiments, snacks, and soda. Researchers have even discovered that genetic mutations and malfunctions that cause disease are created in future generations when highly processed and artificial foods are consumed!
Part of the problem is that these processed, sugar- and chemical-laden foods effectively destroy your intestinal microflora. Your gut flora has incredible power over your immune system, which, of course, is your body’s natural defense system. Antibiotics, stress, artificial sweeteners, chlorinated water and many other factors can also reduce the amount of probiotics (beneficial bacteria) in your gut, which can predispose you to illness and premature aging. Ideally, you’ll want to make traditionally cultured and fermented foods a staple in your daily diet. You can use a probiotic supplement, but getting your probiotics from food is definitely better as you can consume far more beneficial bacteria, in many cases up to 100X more.
- Omega 3 Oils According to Dr. William Harris, an expert on omega-3 fats, those who have an omega-3 index of less than four percent age much faster than those with indexes above eight percent. Although this research is preliminary, I would suggest that optimizing your omega-3 levels above eight percent would be a good strategy if you’re interested in delaying aging.
- Vitamin K2 While most people get enough vitamin K from their diets to maintain adequate blood clotting, they’re NOT enough to offer protection against more serious health problems. For example, research over the past few years suggest that vitamin K2 can provide substantial protection from prostate cancer, which is one of the leading causes of cancer among men in the United States. And research results are similarly encouraging for the benefits of vitamin K to your cardiac health:
In 2004, the Rotterdam Study, which was the first study demonstrating the beneficial effect of vitamin K2, showed that people who consume 45 mcg of K2 daily live seven years longer than people getting 12 mcg per day.
- Magnesium According to research, magnesium also plays an important role in DNA replication, repair, and RNA synthesis, and dietary magnesium has been shown to positively correlate with increased telomere length in women. Other research has shown that long term deficiency leads to telomere shortening in rats and cell cultures. It appears the lack of magnesium ions has a negative influence on genome integrity. Insufficient amounts of magnesium also reduce your body’s ability to repair damaged DNA, and can induce chromosomal abnormalities.
- Polyphenols Polyphenols are potent antioxidant compounds in plant foods, many of which have been linked to anti-aging benefits and disease reduction. Here are but a few examples of these potent antioxidant compounds:
- Grapes (resveratrol) — Resveratrol deeply penetrates the center of your cell’s nucleus, giving your DNA time to repair free radical damage.
- Cacao — Quite a few studies have confirmed the potent antioxidant properties, and subsequent health benefits, of raw cocoa powder. Dark, organic, unprocessed chocolate has been found to benefit your glucose metabolism (diabetic control), blood pressure, and cardiovascular health.
- Green tea — Polyphenols in tea, which include EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) and many others, have been found to offer protection against many types of cancer.
- Folate (aka Vitamin B9, or Folic Acid) B vitamin folate correspond to telomere length in both men and women. Folate plays an important role in the maintenance of DNA integrity and DNA methylation, both of which influence the length of your telomeres. It is useful for preventing depression, seizure disorders and brain atrophy. In fact, folate deficiency can lead to elevated homocysteine levels, which can be a major contributor to heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. The ideal way to raise your folate levels is to eat plenty of fresh, raw, organic leafy green vegetables, and beans.
- Vitamin B12 Vitamin B12 is fittingly known as “the energy vitamin,” and your body requires it for a number of vital functions. Among them: energy production, blood formation, DNA synthesis, and myelin formation. (Myelin is insulation that protects your nerve endings and allows them to communicate with one another.) Unfortunately, research suggests about 25 percent of American adults are deficient in this vitally important nutrient, and nearly half the population has suboptimal blood levels. Vitamin B12 is found almost exclusively in animal tissues. If you aren’t getting sufficient B12 in your diet, I recommend you begin supplementation immediately.
- Curcumin (Turmeric) Curcumin — the active ingredient in the spice turmeric—acts both as an immune booster and potent anti-inflammatory. But perhaps its greatest value lies in its anti-cancer potential, and it has the most evidence based literature backing up its anti-cancer claims of any other nutrient. It affects over 100 different pathways once it gets into a cell—among them, a key biological pathway needed for development of melanoma and other cancers.
- Vitamin A According to a featured study in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, telomere length is positively associated with dietary intake of vitamin A in women who do not take multivitamins. It plays an important role in your immune response, and if you’re deficient, you become predisposed to infections that can promote telomere shortening. However, vitamin A does not appear to have a dose-dependent effect on telomere length, so you don’t need high amounts.
Increasing Glutathione Levels Also Helps Reduce Telomere Shortening
Another powerful strategy that shows great promise in reducing telomere shortening is to increase your glutathione levels. There are studies in progress indicating that increasing glutathione levels can provide similar results as high-intensity exercise to preserve telomere length.
Glutathione (GHS) is manufactured inside your cells from its precursor amino acids: glycine, glutamate and cystine, and is therefore not a compound you can ingest directly. Expensive glutathione supplements are available, but you can also increase your glutathione levels by making sure your diet includes foods rich in the sulfur amino acids your cells need to synthesize glutathione. Eating a high quality whey protein is the easiest and most convenient way to do this.
Stay tuned for Part 3 on exploring the effects of Chronic Stress on accelerated aging and health.
And lastly, I’ve always lived by these sage words from Yogi Berra: Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.
*References available upon request