The science of aging reveals how to sharpen your mind and reverse your biological clock, from the inside and out.
The science of aging is fascinating. We can, to a degree, change the speed and extent at which our bodies age through diet and lifestyle. Historically, the focus of anti-aging research has been around life extension, improving quality of life, and the reduction of the outward appearance of aging.
More recently, the aging brain is also becoming an area of study. Dementia is a growing concern, as it is increasingly affecting people at younger and younger ages—as young as in their 40s and 50s. This poses a concern for individuals, society, and our overburdened healthcare system. The upshot is that there is more research in this area than ever before.
Geneticists have figured out that the body’s chromosomes shorten as its DNA is duplicated. Someone can literally see how fast you are aging by monitoring the length of your telomeres. Our cells are in a constant state of turnover, and with the formation of each new cell, your telomeres become shorter.
This monitoring tool helped scientists learn that certain nutrients are associated with longer telomere length. By increasing these nutrients in your diet, you can slow the aging process, reduce your mortality, lower risk of the development of degenerative diseases, and increase your vitality!
Diet Dos and Don’ts
The nutrients that are associated with reduced telomere damage are those found in the Mediterranean diet. This is a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes (such as peas, beans, and lentils), and fresh herbs. Also rich in healthful plant oils from olives, nuts, and seeds. With moderate amounts of fish, grass-fed beef, and free-range poultry and eggs.
Fermented dairy products such as kefir and yogurt also support telomere length as they provide the probiotics our bodies need for proper metabolism of food nutrients.
The ideal anti-aging diet is also void of sugar. Sugar is damaging, not only because it is a primary cause of inflammation, but it has also proven to shorten telomere length.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys found a significant association between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and leukocyte telomere length leading to their release of a study titled, Soda and Cell Aging.
Eating sugar increases the risk of mortality and disease, and causes the physical signs of aging that you see. For example, sugar triggers heat and swelling, which stretches the skin causing the skin to puff—and then sag as the inflammation is reduced. The fluctuating inflammation causes flaccidity and dryness that leads to damaged and wrinkled skin. A team of German genetic specialists discovered that glucosamine improves glucose metabolism and blood sugar.
Take Your Minerals
The most effective strategy for reducing the risk of damage from a high-sugar diet is to avoid dietary sugar—and to boost your intake of the nutrients that help regulate blood sugar levels.
Fiber, minerals, and glucosamine are all nutrients that keep blood sugar stable. Both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber help to buffer the release of sugars from the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream, which allows our endocrine system time to respond to the load of a meal. And fiber provides the added benefit of reducing glucose intolerance by improving the way the body’s cells absorb sugar and burn it for energy.
Keep in mind that animal foods such as meats, eggs, and dairy do not contain fiber, and that plant foods are rich in fiber. Plant foods include vegetables, fruits, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds, and herbs. You also can boost your fiber intake by adding powdered fiber supplements to yogurt, cereal, and/or smoothies.
Your blood sugar rises as the foods you eat release sugar into your bloodstream. Your endocrine system responds by releasing the hormone insulin into the blood that is able to then carry the sugar into our cells where it can be used as energy. However, insulin isn’t able to do this effectively without specific nutrient co-factors—namely, chromium and zinc.
To increase zinc intake, add a few handfuls of pumpkin seeds to your daily diet. Nuts and seeds are good sources chromium as well, which can be eaten whole or as nut butters. Vegetables such as broccoli and onions are also good sources of chromium.
Most multivitamin and mineral supplements contain chromium and zinc. Read the label to make sure that your supplement contains highly absorbable forms of these minerals (e.g., chromium picolinate and zinc picolinate).
A team of German genetic specialists recently discovered that glucosamine—the popular joint health supplement—also improves glucose metabolism and blood sugar levels. These findings were confirmedby lab studies and published in Nature Communications, leading health professionals to now recommend glucosamine as part of anti-aging programs.
By enhancing glucose metabolism with dietary fiber and nutrients, you can increase energy and reduce the aging effects of sugar throughout the body, including the effects on your brain and cognitive abilities.
By increasing certain nutrients in your diet, you can slow the aging process, reduce your mortality … and increase vitality!
Why sleeping is key
Your metabolism and blood sugar are also affected by your sleeping patterns. Poor sleep is suspected of contributing to the proteins in the brain associated with cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. When you don’t get enough of the deep sleeping hours, your body doesn’t have enough energy and time to clean up toxins and restore endocrine function each night. Poor sleep also appears to contribute to amyloid plaque buildup in the brain that is thought to be a primary factor in Alzheimer’s development and cognitive decline associated with aging.
We need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, in a dark and quiet space. We also know that the more of these hours that we get in before midnight the better. This means going to bed earlier in the evening and getting up earlier in the morning.
Boost Your Longevity
“Oxidative stress is the strain on your body’s tissues when the amount of free radicals in your system outnumbers the amount of antioxidants,” says Michael A. Smith, MD, author of The Supplement Pyramid: How to Build Your Personalized Nutritional Regimen. “It is widely believed to be a key contributor to the aging process.
You can’t avoid free radicals (which are created every time you breathe, digest food, fight off an infection, etc.), but you can reduce your exposure—refusing to smoke, living in an unpolluted area, wearing sunscreen, avoiding processed foods, and filtering your water are some of the top preventive measures. But one of the best approaches, says Smith, is to make sure your body has the defenses to neutralize them: antioxidants. A few of his favorite antioxidant supplements for reducing oxidative stress are pomegranate, blueberry, elderberry, and açai extracts; superoxide dismutase; glutathione; R-lipoic acid; green tea extract; and tart cherry extract.
Smith also discusses natural ways to preserve cellular energy production and reverse your biological clock in his book, which offers customized supplement plans for every age and set of health goals. At the top of his list for enhancing your body’s energy production as you age are CoQ10 and a related nutrient, PQQ. He also suggests that people consider taking L-carnitine “for an additional mitochondrial boost.” This nutrient helps transport fatty acids into the mitochondria where they can be burned as fuel.
When it comes to turning back the clock, Smith emphasizes keeping telomeres long. “There are some supplements that have been shown to increase telomere length—one of these is fish oil,” says Smith. Three others to consider, suggests Smith, are resveratrol, reishi mushroom extract, and astragalus extract.
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