IS DEATH AND THE AGING BODY PREVENTABLE?
Richard Feynman – Nobel Prize winning physicist – writes: “There is nothing in biology yet found that indicates the inevitability of death.”
It’s a New Year and a New Decade so we, at Jason Ferine Physical Therapy, are taking a moment to research some interesting facts about overall health, healing and how we can take charge of our bodies and health with a more positive outcome. With this in mind we found some interesting and controversial points of view on aging, death and the link to diet by Dr. David Andrew Sinclair an Australian biologist and professor of genetics at Harvard, best known for his advocacy for resveratrol as an anti-aging dietary supplement and potential medication.
What science is saying about old age and death
Dr. David Sinclair, in his book Lifespan – Why We Age — and Why We Don’t Have To, writes, “The genetic blueprint to be young is always there, even when we are old.”
Although there are many scientists who are very skeptical of Sinclair’s work at Harvard, this article written by Catherine Elton makes for fascinating reading:
Why we age
Scientists have their theories as to why we age, why the hair turns gray, the skin wrinkles, joints ache and people get sick. To name a few causes:
- Broken DNA. On average there are about two trillion DNA breaks per day caused during replication. Other breaks are caused by radiation, chemicals, X-rays and CT scans.
- Stem cell exhaustion (stem cells have the capacity to transform themselves into other specific cells – whether nerve, skin or liver cells).
- Cellular senescence (aged cells).
- Mitochondrial dysfunction (the energy producers).
- Telomere shortening (every time a cell replicates, its telomeres get shorter – the shorter the telomeres the closer we are to illness and death).
- ERCs – extra chromosomal ribosomal DNA. DNA damage gives rise to ECRs. As ERCs accumulate, aging results. Put ERCs in young yeast cells and they age prematurely, become sterile and die young. But when Sirtuin 2 is added, it prevents the accumulation of ECRs and there is a 30% increase in the yeast’s lifespan.
It appears that the way we can survive this constant onslaught to the trillions of daily DNA breaks is through our capacity to repair our DNA through activating our sirtuins and inhibiting mTor.
Seven actions that nurture our sirtuins and inhibit mTor
Six out of these seven actions are well-known for their health benefits. However, having the science behind why they are good for us is convincing to the mind.
1. WHAT WE EAT
- Study after study, writes Dr. Sinclair, has demonstrated that animal-based diets are associated with cardiovascular and cancer risks.
- Red meat contains the amino acid carnitine, which is converted to TMAO, a chemical that is implicated in heart disease.
- Limiting the amino acid methionine causes obese mice to shed most of their fat quickly – 70% in one month – and increased their lifespan by 20%. Beef, lamb, poultry, pork, eggs and fish are particularly high in methionine. Plant proteins have low levels of methionine, supporting appropriate weight, health and lifespan.
- The amino acids arginine, leucine, isoleucine and valine activate mTor, rather than inhibit it. Low levels of these amino acids, as found in plant proteins, lead to increased healthy lifespan.
- All-cause mortality, Dr. Sinclair writes, falls significantly when we eat plant protein instead of animal protein. All amino acids, including the nine essential ones, can be obtained from plant-based sources.
- We only need small quantities of amino acids (protein) – a little goes a long way – which is why vegetarians suffer significantly lower rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer than meat eaters (due not only reduced amino acids and inhibition of mTor but also due to lower calories and increased polyphenols found in plants). Most people eat at least twice as much protein as their body needs.
2. HOW OFTEN WE EAT
- Reduced calories – hunger rather than starvation and malnutrition – leads to good health. Okinawa is famous for the number of its centenarians, who eat 20% fewer calories than those on the mainland.
- Eating less often leads to significant improvement in health and slowed-down biological aging.
- Intermittent fasting (IF) means periodically going without eating – for example, eating during an 8-hour period and then not eating for the next 16 hours. Rats that went hungry every third day lived 15-20% longer than those on a regular diet.
- In Ikaria, Greece, one-third of the population lives past the age of ninety. The Greek orthodox church calls for fasting on a regular basis: no meat, dairy products, eggs and sometimes no wine or olive oil.
- A variation of Intermittent Fasting is to skip breakfast and eat at 12 noon, or skip food one day per week, or for several days once a month, or reduce the number of calories consumed in a 24-hour period.
- Inhibited mTor means cells spend less energy dividing and more energy recycling damaged proteins – good for prolonged vitality. mTor is inhibited by calorie restriction – also by limiting the intake of amino acids (protein).
- TET enzymes remove methyl tags from DNA that cause aging. Natural molecules that stimulate TET enzymes include vitamin C from plant-based sources, and in addition TET enzymes are boosted by calorie restriction.
3. NAD LEVELS – (NAD is derived from Nicotinamide Riboside (NR). The levels of NAD in our body determine the speed of the aging process.)
- Without NAD we would be dead in thirty seconds. Generally as people age, their NAD levels decrease in the brain, blood, muscle, immune cells, pancreas, skin and throughout the body.
- NAD acts as a fuel for sirtuins. Without sufficient NAD, sirtuins don’t work efficiently. NAD boosts the activity of all seven sirtuins, which support healthy longevity. The loss of NAD as we age reduces sirtuin activity and leads to disease.
- Nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) – made by our cells – is converted to NAD. NMN is found in foods such as avocado, broccoli and cabbage.
- Give animals NMN and the levels of NAD in the body go up about 25% in a couple of hours – the same as when fasting or exercising.
- Enzymes are the catalysts for all life processes and there are thousands of them in each cell. Over five hundred different enzymes depend on NAD.
4. REGULAR EXERCISE
- We all know that exercise improves blood flow, strengthens muscles and improves lung and heart health. But more important than all these is the effect of exercise at the cellular level.
- Those who exercise more have longer telomeres. Those who jog for half an hour five times a week have telomeres that appear to be nearly a decade younger than sedentary non-exercisers.
- Exercise is a source of healthy stress on the body, which raises NAD levels that turn up energy production in the mitochondria and stimulate muscles to grow extra oxygen-carrying capillaries.
- Exercise modulates mTor and sirtuins in the right direction (mTor down and sirtuins up). Sirtuin 1 and 6 help extend telomeres and protect them from degradation.
- In yeast, NAMPT – the gene that recycles NAD – is turned on by exercise and fasting. As we know, NAD is the fuel for sirtuins.
- Studies show that running for fifteen minutes a day reduces all-cause mortality by 45%. Even ten minutes of moderate exercise a day adds years to life.
- However, to engage healthy longevity genes, intensity makes a difference: a brisk run and high intensity interval training (HIIT) engage a large number of health-promoting genes.
- The combination of exercise plus limiting calories is what leads to a lengthened and healthy lifespan.
5. EXPOSURE TO COLD
- Exposure to cold activates our longevity genes: sirtuins are switched on by cold.
- Exposure to cold also activates brown fat – that generates body heat by burning fatty acids and glucose – as against white fat that we associate with overweight. Brown fat has a large quantity of mitochondria (the energy producers). Brown fat is associated with longevity and decreases with age. Being a bit cold activates the mitochondria in the brown fat.
- When the core temperature in female mice is reduced, they have a 20% longer life.
- Wim Hof: The Way of the Iceman: How the Wim Hof Method Creates Radiant, Long Term Health.
Wim Hof is famed for swimming in ice-cold waters, running barefoot in the snow and doing a 28-hour climb with a group of his students – many of whom are using cold water to recover from chronic illness. Together they climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in the snow, wearing only shorts and sneakers. Universities are doing research studies on his method for staying in the peak of health and the impact cold has on helping people regain their health. Wim Hof is never sick, and for many people his methods work better than medicine.
- For those of us who are curious, we might want to turn on our longevity genes with an alternating hot and cold shower, or put our feet in ice-cold water, or take a walk in shorts when it is cold outside. Or read Wim Hof’s book.
6. EXPOSURE TO HEAT
- Research with yeast cells showed that PNC1 genes are turned on in response to heat – yet another benign stressor. And PNC1 boost NAD production, which gets sirtuin2 proteins to work harder. These yeast cells lived 30% longer – the same as calorie restriction.
- A Finnish study found that physical functioning, vitality and general health were significantly better among sauna users than non-users. Of 2300 middle-aged men who had used sauna up to seven times a week for more than twenty years, there was a two-fold drop in heart disease, fatal heart attacks and all-cause mortality.
- Resveratrol is found in the skin of red grapes. But many plants produce resveratrol in times of stress when water is limited. Or in the case of lettuce, when it is exposed to heat and cold. This doesn’t mean you have to consume tons of red wine as alcohol weakens the liver and has been shown to shrink the brain. A healthier option is red grape juice. Anthony William’s book Liver Rescue is also worth reading. Human cells in culture dishes with resveratrol became resistant to DNA damage. They had more mitochondria, less inflammation, lower blood sugar levels and appeared to have protection from stroke, heart attack, cancer and dozens of diseases.
8. A FEW THINGS TO AVOID
- Smoking: cigarettes have thousands of chemicals that cause smokers to age faster by over-working sirtuins and causing DNA breaks.
- DNA damaging chemicals: PCBs in plastic bottles, bags and containers, dyes in foods, pesticides, N-nitroso compounds in foods treated with sodium nitrite such as beer, cured meats and cooked bacon for starters, radiation from UV light, X-rays, Gamma rays, security airport scanners, pollution….and more.
These studies by various scientists over the years make for very interesting reading but one thing is clear, food and exercise still plays a vital role in the aging process and these choices are simple ones we can work on to improve our overall health. Living a more simple life, lots of exercise, eating organic fruit and vegetables and healthy oils such as olive oil, plus limiting the quantity of food, exposure to the natural cycle of heat and cold. In other words getting out in nature more will all help to improve your overall health.
Jason Ferine Physical Therapy is wishing you all quicker recovery and better overall health in 2020.