While you think about all the biomedical discoveries emerging in aging research, flying by you in waves of popularity… antioxidants, telomeres, senescent cells, epigenetic reprogramming… it’s easy to get seduced that a magic pill will let you keep your health seemingly forever. But it would be a mistake to not look at the only thing that’s actually tangible to you right now and influencing your lifespan directly: the environment around you, right now.
Arguably, in your lifetime, the environment around you will have the greatest influence on your health and wellbeing. And if you chase a magic longevity pill to be happy, know that no pill will give you lasting happiness. Happiness is something you find in the now. So how can you make your environment right now lead you to a long life tomorrow?
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I previously discussed considerations of using metformin, rapamycin, and NAD+ boosters to promote healthy aging, and the jury was mixed for all of them. But don’t despair, there is a bullet-proof way to improve aging health: exercise. Here we’ll look at muscle-strength training.
In terms of muscle physiology, aging is accompanied by an increase in catabolism and decreased capacity for anablism. That means, ever so surely, you will undergo muscle loss. Your muscle mass will peak around age 30, and by some estimates, at the age of 70 you will have roughly 30% of this capacity1,2.
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The aging research world was rocked in 2009 when a study showed that giving old mice a drug called rapamycin could significantly extend their lifespan1. It was quite remarkable because it was the first demonstration that aged animals could still undergo beneficial aging interventions. Before 2009, most researchers assumed aging interventions had to start at a young age.
Since then, a lot of studies have followed, and rapamycin, the canonical ‘mTOR inhibitor,’ has been shown to extend lifespan in at least fourteen other studies, confirming the late-age treatments, showing lifespan extension in both males and females, and in various different mouse strains2. Not only that, rapamycin has been shown to extend lifespan in cancer disease mouse models, and mouse models of progeria and mitochondrial dysfunction2. And the list doesn’t stop there, rapamycin has been shown to have benefits in other mouse models, including those of heart diseases, infections, and for neurological conditions including alzhiemer’s, parkinson’s and huntington’s diseases2.
So what’s the catch—why aren’t older people all taking rapamycin? Continue reading →
You may have heard of so called ‘NAD boosters,’ compounds that you can easily buy online like nicotinamide riboside (NR) and others. There’s even a high profile company offering monthly subscriptions to supplements including NR that may boost your NAD levels. It makes sense: NAD levels decline as we age, and giving NAD boosting molecules like NR (which is just a metabolite precursor to NAD) can improve health parameters and extend lifespan in mice1–3.
What’s it going to do in humans? Continue reading →
How much protein should you be eating? Research from the biology of aging can help answer that, with just three facts.
Fact one: Proteins, and to be more specific, the building blocks of proteins known as amino acids, signal for a molecular pathway involving the master regulatory gene MTOR that can accelerate aging1. In lab animals, eating less protein extends lifespan, restricting certain amino acids can extend lifespan, and inhibiting MTOR with a drug known as rapamycin can extend lifespan1,2. A simple conclusion can be made from this, that eating less protein means less activity of MTOR, which means a longer life.
Fact two: One of the major threats to living independently as we age is loss of muscle mass, which progressively occurs with aging and is known as sarcopenia. This ‘muscle wasting’ that occurs as we age is due to several factors and feedback loops, the result of which is that we lose ‘anabolic capacity’ as we age, and simply can’t build muscles from the same amount of protein that we used to3. That’s why higher protein diets can actually be a good thing for the elderly, just to overcome the depleted capacity to build and maintain muscle4. So now we are saying that more protein could be good, though only when old.
Fact three: Epidemiological research shows Continue reading →
We should live in a world where everyone has the chance to age healthy. We can get there by investing in the following two strategies and implementing them in this order:
(1) Personalized health tracking and advice. Stop using antioxidant supplements, stop plastering exotic fruit extracts on your face, and stop that crazy zero-carb diet. Unless, of course, you’re tracking and know that it’s benefiting you. There’s a Dutch saying ‘meten is weten’ which means ‘measuring is knowing’ and that sums it all up. You need to understand your own body to understand if the things you are trying are working for you. That means knowing your genome, microbiome, blood sugar responses to meals, activity levels, heart rate variability, and sleep patterns, to name a few.
Why? Let’s take the case of ‘calorie restriction,’ Continue reading →
Your blood glucose (BG) levels rise when you eat a meal. Your body naturally responds to this, regulating BG levels by releasing insulin, which signals to various tissues in your body to absorb this extra glucose and return your BG levels to normal. How well your body is able to do this is dependent in large part on how sensitive it is to the insulin. If it’s a bit ‘insulin resistant,’ then it will take longer for your BG levels to return to normal after a meal, or it can even remain always a bit high (such as with diabetes).
The main reason you wouldn’t want high BG levels in general is that fasted BG levels are associated to increased mortality rates – the higher they are, the worse off you are1,2. Unfortunately, aging makes your fasted BG levels slowly rise (see below)1, and it rises less fast in people who end up living longer2. Not only that, but for any given age you have, having BG levels higher than average is also associated to even looking older3! In a study with 602 adults looking at facial images, per 1 mmol/L increase of blood glucose levels, perceived age of an individual increased by 0.40 years on average, already accounting for the age differences that naturally occurs3. Continue reading →
What is the 617 million dollar question? The aged population is increasing faster than any other on earth and soon–if not already–there’ll be even more people aged 65+ than under the age of 5. The 617 million dollar question comes when everyone aged 65+ gives a dollar to answer ‘how can we age healthy?’
Yes, there are 617 million people aged 65+ on the planet, and that’s just current estimates. By 2050, it’s expected that this number will more than double, while the world population will go up by only about a third. Europe will have roughly a quarter of its population aged 65+. And while the top 4 ‘oldest countries’ now are Japan, Germany, Italy, and Greece, by 2050 it’ll be Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. We’re all getting older, fast, and if you keep reading the numbers in the report from the US Census Bureau, you’d give a dollar for healthy aging too, no matter your age. Continue reading →
The antidiabetic drug metformin has been gaining lots of attention. This fame is well deserved since it extends lifespan in worms, mice, and there’s a clinical trial going on for human aging1. If you feel you’re getting older you might ask yourself should I should take metformin too? There’s just one thing to consider. Continue reading →
It is well known that men die earlier than women. The sad part is that women live longer than men, but in worse health1, a trend that exists across many different countries2. If we can understand why, we can do something about it. Can we get women to live with the health benefits of men, and men to live as long as women?
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