There is more research going into anti-ageing science than ever before, and with a quick internet search, it appears that every expert seems to have discovered the “one thing” that will allow us instant access to that elusive Fountain of Youth – all at a price of course. Anti-ageing, to me, has never meant face serums, dermal fillers, or, heaven forbid, botox. I wonder how many people actually know what botox contains? It is the same stuff that gives you botulism, a life-threatening disease caused by a toxin from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. According to Wikipedia:
All forms of botulism lead to paralysis that typically starts with the muscles of the face and then spreads towards the limbs. In severe forms, it leads to paralysis of the breathing muscles and causes respiratory failure. In light of this life-threatening complication, all suspected cases of botulism are treated as medical emergencies, and public health officials are usually involved to prevent further cases from the same source.
And people want that injected into their face? I guess it comes down to the quick-fix mentality that most people want it all, now and with minimal effort. On the same bandwagon, let’s consider a couple of breakthroughs in anti-ageing that science is showing us. Many scientists who research in these areas would have us believe that the factors below are the “one thing” that will protect us from the ravages of time. I have always believed that it is a combination of everything that we do, and not just one factor, that makes the difference. However, here are a couple of much-researched areas of science that will help us to understand just how important our healthy lifestyle is on a molecular level.
- Yes, sir!
Sirtuins are a funny kind of name, and these “longevity genes”, when activated, switch our cells to survival, cell preservation and stress resistance mode. And, with these genes, it isn’t a case of either you have them or you don’t. No, sirtuins, like many of our other genes, can be greatly affected by our lifestyles. We can either activate them (=disease-free, long happy active life), or switch them off (=degeneration, pain, suffering etc). Yikes! That seems to give the responsibility back to us doesn’t it?
I have believed for a long time that, with a few exceptions, our genes don’t really determine what happens to us, but our lifestyle choices do. The activation, or not, of sirtuins really does seem to drive this message home. Want to activate your sirtuins? Here are a few things that will help –
Caloric restriction. No, I don’t mean starving yourself. I mean caloric restriction with optimal nutrition. There’s a huge difference. This could mean conducting periodic fasts, or considering intermittent fasting (e.g. one or two days per week). We know that fasting is an excellent tool for health, so if you decide that this is for you, make sure you do it correctly! My e-book, Successful Fasting for Health and Vitality, will give you the support you need to conduct a fast in the most beneficial way.
Resveratrol. This is a polyphenol compound found in dark skinned fruit, for example grape skins, blueberries, blackberries etc. Just like other phytonutrients though, I would never recommend that anyone goes out and buys the latest resveratrol supplement, although as you can probably imagine, such things do exist. We are designed to eat food, not just a single one of the 20,000 antioxidants that are found in plants! By all means use a whole food supplement that contains the foods high in resveratrol – this is what I do. But don’t take resveratrol in isolation, since it may be oestrogenic (which would increase the risk of hormonally linked cancers such as breast, prostate and endometrial), and can also increase one’s risk of bleeding. Additionally, a paper published in 2009 indicated that resveratrol did not activate one particular type of sirtuin, so the benefits might not be “across the board” anyway.
Still on the subject of resveratrol, it is not the only compound that has been found to activate our longevity genes, although it is the one we tend to hear most about. Quercetin (present in garlic and other bulbs), butein and fisetin share the same honour, as do unpronounceables such as piceatannol and isoliquiritigenin. Don’t worry about the names. You can find all of these compounds in the food that you eat, but only if your diet is based on whole, unprocessed plants.
- Telomerase activators
If I had to choose my favourite enzyme, telomerase would definitely be in my top 5. It is responsible for rebuilding the telomeres, the little end pieces of your chromosomes that dictate when cells die. In studies conducted in rodents, long telomeres are associated with vigour and a youthful appearance, whilst short telomeres seem to be a precursor for rapid bodily degeneration and death. One of the more interesting compounds I found for sale on the internet was something that was “proven” to increase telomere length, and was a concentrated extract of Astragalus root, a Chinese herb. It is available to you for a mere $4000 per 6 month supply. On closer inspection, the “proof” of its effectiveness was a Spanish study conducted on mice, rather than humans, and the mice receiving the magic extract were also found to be more prone to liver cancer, although this was apparently not considered to be statistically significant. Personally I would keep my $4000, and focus on other anti-ageing options that have also been indicated to rebuild telomerase levels –
Stress reduction. How often do we hear that stress destroys our health? It does so in many ways, not just through the action of telomerase inhibition. Chilling out and letting go has never been so important.
Reducing oxidative stress. This point is key: it is known that high levels of oxidative stress lead to telomere shortening. For more information on oxidative stress, here’s a CD/MP3 all about it.
An anti-inflammatory diet. Ensuring that your levels of omega 3 and omega 6 fats are in the correct ratios determines enzyme activation pathways which in turn lead to either a pro-inflammatory, or an anti-inflammatory state. Pro-inflammatory states seem to accelerate telomere shortening, leading to faster ageing. Anti-inflammatory states do the opposite.
Bioidentical hormones. After a certain age, our hormone levels start to drop. This is true for both men and women. Bioidentical hormones can rebuild telomerase activity, whereas synthetic hormones do not appear to do this. Regarding any hormone, firstly, get a blood test from a doctor specialising in this field, to see if your current levels are adequate. Secondly, if you need supplemental hormones, only take bioidentical ones, never synthetic. Finally, make sure you have all the sex hormones tested, not just one of them. Even bioidentical hormones should not be taken in isolation since generally more than one of them is deficient. I have a chapter on hormones and stress reduction in my book Top 10 Raw Food Tips for Osteoporosis.
So there you have it, a brief overview of some of the latest anti-ageing science. My summary remains the same as many of my summaries – eat a whole-foods, plant based diet, use only whole-food supplements, get adequate exercise and rest, and reduce stress in the way you find works best for you. Then you won’t really need to remember anything about telomeres and sirtuins, because your body will be doing the right thing naturally!