This is an extract from my most recent book:
Chapter Three – The Nitty Gritty of Aging!
The one thing for sure in this life is that we are all gradually aging. Some of us not so gradually and others much less rapidly. The reason why is what we all want to know, as then we could do something about it.
It would be remiss of me at this stage to not mention your genetic inheritance and your DNA.
Why is it that some people can smoke twenty fags a day, consume vast amounts of booze, eat all the wrong foods and still live to become a centenarian, yet others, who lead the `perfect’ lifestyle, die way too young?
I can only put my view forward here, from all the research I have done, and that is that we are all born with a genetic blueprint. That blueprint is rarely perfect and some of our cells (organs) are more prone to be attacked by free radicals and other factors that affect those cells.
Here is something that very few people know.
Scientists believe that we have the potential to live to around 150 years.
Take the smoker/drinker from earlier, and change his whole lifestyle to one that did not smoke or drink or eat processed foods. One with plenty of exercise and totally free from most chemical exposure.
It is my humble belief that this man had the potential to live another twenty years or more.
So, maybe what we all get is a hand of cards (DNA CARDS) and that it is how we play those cards that will affect our longevity – what we eat, what we supplement with what we simply cannot eat all the time, what we drink, how much exercise we take and so forth.
So, if we take that as an overlay, and make a presumption that you are blessed with great genes what we need to do now is find out what causes ageing and our eventual deaths.
I mentioned cells much earlier and it is the death of cells or corruption of cells from such as free radicals, caused by chemicals that lead to organ failure.
What most people do not know is that the cells in our bodies are constantly dividing, regenerating, and dying. Each different cell however has a different life cycle.
The cells lining the stomach, because they’re exposed to acid, replace themselves about every five days.
Red blood cells live for approximately four months in the body, while hepatocytes (liver cells) live about five. These hardworking but disposable cells take a lot of punishment; they’re easily manufactured and easily replaced.
The stages in a cell’s life are called the cell cycle. This works a bit like a washing machine cycle – each stage must be finished completely before the next one is allowed to start.
Instead of wash, rinse, spin and drain, the cell cycle is made up of stages in which the cell grows and rests, copies its DNA, and divides into two new cells.
BUT NOT FOREVER!
You really do now need to get your head around this next bit.
In a small laboratory in Philadelphia, in 1965, a young biologist conducted an experiment that would revolutionize the way we think about aging and death.
The scientist who conducted that experiment was called Dr Leonard Hayflick.
His work is now known as the Hayflick Limit.
The conclusion that he drew was that cells can only reproduce a certain amount of times before they start to die. All cells have different lifespans but in general terms the fact is that by early adulthood you will have used up HALF of all your potential cell divisions.
As you age you gradually use up all of your potential cell divisions (different timescales depending on the type of cell). Eventually your cells become senescent – basically preparing to die!
The cells remain alive for a time after they stop dividing, but sometime after cellular division ends, cells do a particularly disturbing thing:
Essentially, your cells will commit suicide. Once a cell reaches the end of its life span, it undergoes a programmed cellular death called apoptosis.
The one area you can most notice this is people going grey haired. This happens because the pigment cells in our hair follicles that release the pigment melanin gradually die. The pigment becomes more transparent, taking on a grey or white colour as the hair grows.
The implications of the Hayflick limit are staggering:
It means that organisms have a molecular clock that is inexorably winding down from the moment we’re born.
The discovery of the Hayflick limit represented a radical change in the way science looked at cellular reproduction.
Sorry if this next bit seems a bit heavy but is just so important.
In 1978 the discovery of a segment of non-replicating DNA in cells called telomeres shed light on the possibility of cellular immortality.
Telomeres are repetitive strings of DNA found at the ends of chromosome pairs within diploid cells. These strings are usually compared to the plastic ends of shoelaces (called aglets) that keep the laces from fraying. Telomeres provide the same protection to chromosomes, but the telomere on the end of each chromosome pair is shortened with each cellular division. Eventually, the telomere is depleted, and apoptosis begins.
Here is the staggering thing I have discovered in my research.
There is mounting proof that you can delay cell death and even repair the all-important telomeres. More about this shortly, but I need to mention Carnosine for the first of many times.
So, what else contributes toward aging?
The oldest (since 1956) and most well-known and accepted theory of aging – most of us by now have heard of free radicals and the damage they do. The simple explanation of a free radical is a molecule with a free electron which then reacts with healthy molecules in a destructive way producing disease, cell aging and death.
You must have read lifestyle advice based on free radical theory – poor diet, alcohol, smoking, sun exposure – cause free radical build up in the body and result in ill health and premature aging. What you may not have known is that apart from the bad choices you make – just breathing in oxygen and generating energy to move or eat produces natural free radicals which are equally as bad for you.
What we all need is plenty of “free radical scavengers” – or as we now call them antioxidants – which include vitamin C, vitamin E, Beta-carotene, green tea catechins and others. Ideally – research suggests – we need to eat things containing lots of antioxidants for maximum effect.
Antioxidants are freely promoted in products like supplements and as anti-aging ingredients in skin care based on this theory of aging.
A relatively new (1990’s) theory which is becoming increasingly accepted with the work of Dr Robert H Lustig and others. Cross-linking theory is based on the damage to health caused by the presence of simple (added) sugars in the modern diet.
Simple sugars bind to proteins in a process called Glycation which results in the formation of AGE’s (Advanced Glycation End products).
Resulting health problems include: Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer, sight loss, deafness and heart failure.
Fructose in the form of High Fructose Corn Syrup or HFCS emerges as the main villain in this theory largely because in many ways it acts as a toxin in the body and has ten times the glycation activity of glucose – the body’s main fuel source. Unfortunately, since the 1950s HCFS has been increasingly added to most processed foods in the US as it was cheaper and sweeter than sugar.
Glycation is also directly linked to collagen deterioration and skin aging and there are skin care ranges (Dr Brandt, Skinceuticals, Perricone MD) based on anti-glycation ingredients.
Other advice based on this theory is to eliminate fructose (HFCS) in the diet and only eat sugars when combined with fibre. Recommended antidotes to AGE’s include vitamin E, Alpha Lipoic Acid and flavonoids (plant chemicals in highly coloured fruit and vegetables) used in both diet and skin care.
Mitochondria are the powerhouses of cells where energy is produced for everything we do, say and think in the form of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) which cannot be stored and has to be continually renewed.
The mitochondria make use of some essential nutrients to produce this energy including: L Carnosine, CoQ10, Acetyl L Carnitine and B vitamins. Both mitochondria and ATP production decline with age and this is linked in part to free radical damage.
This theory of aging focuses on the need to protect and increase ATP production by repairing mitochondrial damage. Antioxidants play a part in limiting free radical damage but supplementation with the key nutrients needed to form ATP – in particular Acetyl L Carnitine, CoQ10 and CARNOSINE.