New Research: Possible Ways to Slow Aging
Life span is determined by how quickly your body cells age (innate aging) and external forces that affect the aging process (secondary aging). Excessive food intake, a lack of exercise, and the impact of chronic disease accelerate the aging process. Anti-aging medicine seeks to understand the metabolic changes that occur in response to lifestyle choices. Understanding these changes can lead to medications and treatments that may slow or even reverse the aging process.
There is a strong demand for age management products and supplements as evidence accumulates that while aging is inevitable, the rate at which it occurs may not be. Anti-aging supplements are expected to improve physical appearance, longevity, and health outcomes. The time to think about anti-aging is now. Start today by making lifestyle changes that could lead to a longer, healthier lifespan.
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For the last several decades, the life span in higher- and lower-income countries has increased due to better access to plentiful and nutritious foods. However, over the last decade, life expectancy has reached a plateau.1 Under optimal settings, the human life span is expected to reach 120 years. However, in the general population, it is more realistically 61 to 83 years.2
Calorie restriction is meant to reduce your dietary intake while still maintaining optimal nutrition. Clinical trial data and animal studies support the idea that calorie restriction has the potential to add 1–5 years to your lifespan with an increase in quality of life.2,3 A calorie-restricted diet must be high in micronutrients and fiber.
Primate animals fed a regular diet had more severe and twice the rate of age-related diseases such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis than animals fed a calorie-restricted diet.4
Restricting calories too much can reduce bone density, muscle mass, and fat mass. It can also lead to nutritional deficiencies that affect overall health.3 The optimal amount of calorie restriction for aging is expected to promote harm to physical fitness and mental health and, therefore, is not readily prescribed. Calorie restriction of 10% to 30%, along with micronutrient supplements, has shown beneficial effects on aging biomarkers and human health.2
Since long-term calorie restriction is difficult to adhere to, alternatives such as intermittent fasting have been considered. The length of fasting varies from 18 hours to several days. In between fasts, people eat as usual.5
People with prediabetes who used time-restricted fasting had better immune function, insulin sensitivity, and blood pressure, independent of weight loss.6 Limited clinical trial data suggests that intermittent fasting may preserve fat-free mass better than fasting alone. Other than potential weight loss, research on the benefits of intermittent fasting is limited.3
To get started with intermittent fasting, consider skipping one meal per day, either breakfast or dinner.
Physical inactivity increases your risk of 35 different chronic diseases. Noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mental disorders account for 68% of deaths worldwide.7 Physical inactivity and poor diet are significant contributors to noncommunicable disease risk.
“Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” Sir Edward Stanley
Benefits of exercise to prevent chronic disease include the following:8
- Improves insulin sensitivity.
- Improves blood sugar control, especially with supervised and high-intensity exercise.
- Lowers blood pressure.
- Improves cardiovascular fitness.
- Lowers risk for 13 cancers.
- Reduces inflammation.
Increased abdominal fat is associated with increased cardiovascular disease, dementia, colon cancer and breast cancer, and all-cause mortality.9,10
The World Health Organization estimates that genetic factors explain approximately 25% of differences in the rate at which the aging process occurs, and the environment explains the other 75%.11
Several theories on how environmental factors impact the aging process have been proposed. One thing they all seem to have in common is that it is the cellular response to damage, not the damage itself, that causes cellular aging.
Environmental factors, such as ultraviolet radiation (UVR), cause chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. UVR causes visible signs of aging, such as wrinkles, pigmentation changes, and skin sagging. Exposure to UV radiation prematurely ages the skin.12
Wayne Cascio, director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Health and Environmental Effects Laboratory, says that published studies investigating the effects of pollution on older adults and the aging process is limited.13
Potential associations between the environment and chronic disease/aging include:11,13
- Fine matriculate matter (air pollution) is associated with an increased risk of dementia.14
- Air pollution is associated with frailty.
- Air pollution is associated with increased oxidative stress and inflammation in cells.
- Air pollution increases the prevalence of respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and psychiatric diseases.
- Extreme temperature changes are associated with higher mortality, especially among the elderly.15
- Water hardness may be associated with increased cardiovascular disease.16 However, other studies have linked low levels of calcium and magnesium with lower life expectancy and poorer health.17
- Increased soil selenium is associated with increased longevity,18 but in high concentrations, it can negatively impact human health.19
Invasive anti-aging tools like surgery should be reserved for specific purposes. With good nutrition, exercise, and skin protection, you can look good at any age without surgery.
Mental health is an important determinant of successful aging. Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other mental health conditions increase in prevalence with aging. Advances in technology are helping older adults compensate for some declines in cognitive function associated with aging. However, researchers are finding that mental health significantly impacts the aging rate.
An international collaboration led by Deep Longevity that involved U.S. and Chinese scientists has measured the effect of being lonely, feeling unhappy, and having restless sleep on how fast you age. Their results indicate that anti-aging therapies need to focus as much on mental health as they do on physical health.
Using an aging clock that was developed using blood and biometric data from 11,914 Chinese adults, researchers found that:20
|Variable||Acceleration in biological age, years|
|Poor psychological state (fearful, hopeless, depressed, lack of focus, unhappy, lonely, bothered, restless sleep)||+1.65|
|Living in a rural area (low availability of medical services)||+0.39|
|Never being married||+0.32|
Several medications are being studied for their potential to extend health span.
Metformin is a medication used to treat type 2 diabetes. It is also thought to have anti-aging potential. In animal studies, it increased the median and maximum lifespans by 5%.21 Metformin is thought to suppress inflammation caused by aging and damaged cells. When a cell becomes damaged, it stops dividing. This is to protect the organism from out-of-control cell division (cancer). But the cell continues to secrete inflammatory chemicals that harm surrounding cells.22 Metformin also enhances protein recycling and improves mitochondrial function.23
The clinical trial Targeting Aging with Metformin (TAME) explores metformin’s potential ability to prolong health span by studying how long it takes for participants to develop age-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease and dementia. Metformin also needs further study in terms of its effects on individuals. Its mode of action and potential side effects are not fully understood.24
Rapamycin is a cell growth inhibitor (protein mTOR) and immunosuppressant that is produced by bacteria and used to treat cancer and prevent organ rejection. Inhibiting the protein mTOR gives cells time to recycle damaged proteins instead of allowing them to build up in cells. Producing replacement proteins is the preferred process because it takes less energy to build proteins than to recycle them.25 Rapamycin also targets senescent cells.26
In experiments with fruit flies, researchers found that short-term courses of rapamycin had anti-aging benefits. This may be important for human use because it has the potential to minimize rapamycin’s side effects. Researchers found the best antiaging effects when rapamycin was given in early adulthood.27
In 2021, researchers in Shanghai found that procyanidin C1, a natural compound found in grape seeds, prolonged the lives of old mice by 9% and improved their physical fitness. Procyanidin C1 helps to clear older or senescent cells from the body before they cause damage by releasing inflammatory chemicals.28
In another animal study, researchers found that when mice were treated with quercetin (a plant pigment) and dasatinib (treats blood cancer), older cells were destroyed, and the mice became healthier, stronger, and lived longer.
Animal studies have shown that senolytic drugs (kill old and damaged cells) can delay, prevent, or ease more than 40 diseases.26
Supplements that reduce oxidative stress or activate SIRT enzymes are thought to support antiaging. Research supports the theory that DNA damage, not oxidative damage, contributes most to the aging process.
Commonly used vitamins and supplements recommended for age management include:
- Sermorelin is a growth hormone secretagogue. Sermorelin can increase muscle mass and strength and reduce body fat. There is some evidence that increased growth hormone may reduce longevity.29
- Glutathione is a potent antioxidant; glutathione can improve immune function and reduce oxidative stress.
- NAD+ is a universal cellular electron transporter, coenzyme, and signaling molecule that transfers energy from foods to body cells, which can be used for growth and repair.
- Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant and mitochondrial cofactor that is involved in energy conversion in mitochondria. These organelles produce cellular energy.
- Metformin synergy combines the antiaging benefits of metformin with leucine and sildenafil, which act synergistically to reduce body weight and triglycerides by activating SIRT1.
While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.
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