So you probably read this title and started guessing at what main things would help us live longer. Maybe more exercise, eating organic, avoiding toxins, having close loving relationships…Yes, those are all great but the science is in the genes and how all our choices effect them.
Lets start with one of the genes associated with aging known as SIRT1. Caloric restriction can help organisms live longer and healthier and we know that it also favorably effects SIRT1. Fasting, even one day a week can make a difference. But lets face it, that can be difficult to do, especially for those with other health challenges. Instead, resveratrol interacts with this gene and delays the degenerative processes of aging. Melatonin also activates SIRT1 and both compounds work synergistically together.
Telomere function has also gotten a lot of headlines lately. These are the short DNA sequences found on the ends of chromosomes that protect our genetic material. Researchers claim that if we preserve them it could extend our longevity and improve health. Regular meditation is linked to healthier telomeres. Eating nutrient dense whole foods as well as curcumin, resveratrol and other botanical compounds can also support healthy telomeres. On the other hand, emotional stress, processed foods, and a high burden of environmental toxins have been linked to shorter telomeres and premature aging.
Another important gene to know about is p53. It is known as “the guardian of the genome” because it regulates the cell reproductive cycle and suppresses tumors. This p53 gene is an important anti-cancer gene. It corrects errors in DNA replication. And if the errors can’t be fixed, then p53 promotes apoptosis (cell death). One theory, is that when situations shorten telomeres, aged cells produce more p53, which then puts more oxidative stress on mitochondria. There are natural ways to boost mitochondrial activity. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) helps mitochondria make ATP energy. Pyrroloquinolone (PQQ) is a molecule similar to CoQ10 and it increases mitochondrial activity as well as increasing the number of mitochondria. PQQ is found in foods such as natto, parsley and green tea, as well as in supplement form. Medicinal mushrooms, such as cordyceps and reishi are excellent for mitochondrial health. As far as lifestyle changes…eating a nutrient dense, low glycemic diet along with aerobic interval exercise supports mitochondrial health.
Finally, one of the newest biomarkers on the block is Galectin-3 (Gal-3). A 10 year Gal-3 study involving 8000 people showed that an elevated Gal-3 was associated with a 3-fold increase in all cause mortality in the general population. High levels of this circulating blood marker was seen in life threatening illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and metastatic cancers. Whereas a 2016 cohort study showed that lower levels of Gal-3 are associated with healthy aging. The reason Gal-3 is involved in the progression of life threatening illnesses, is because it fuels chronic inflammation and fibrosis (thickening and scarring) in organs and tissues. It also acts as a sticky surface molecule that allows cancer cells to aggregate and move throughout the circulatory system without being seen where cancer can form and metastasize.
Researchers have shown that Modified Citrus Pectin (MCP) binds to Gal-3 to reverse inflammation and fibrotic changes to the heart, kidneys, liver, nervous system and other tissues. Gal-3 is recognized as a predictive biomarker and therapeutic target for heart disease. It is easily measured in the blood and covered by most insurance companies for cardiovascular screening. It can also be used to assess cancer risk and progression.
So healthy aging is possible by keeping Gal-3 levels in check, promoting mitochondrial health and encouraging favorable gene expression. Mind-body practices such as yoga, meditation, Tai Chi and Qi Gong are equally important. Any healthy form of stress relief will help prevent the inflammatory cascade that leads to degenerative aging and disease.
References: Elias, I. Telomeres, Mitochondria, and The New Age of Aging. Holistic Primary Care, Vol. 18, No. 1. Spring 2017.
DeFilippi, CR, Felker GM. U.S. Cardiology, 2010; 7(1): 3-6.
Sanchis-Gomar F, et al. Clin Chem Lab Med. 2016 April 1; 54(5): 873-877.