Apr 06 2012
Well, I just had a birthday so it would seem that’s the reason I’ve been doing some reading on anti-aging strategies. But the truth is, I’m giving the keynote talk in Toronto at the Canadian Holistic Nutrition conference on May 24th. The theme of this year’s conference is what they are calling, “restorative nutrition” and focuses on the ability of foods to increase longevity. I’m looking forward to addressing the practitioners at this conference, as using food to enhance health is something I do every day in practice. The principles I follow are summarized here on Dr. D’Adamo’s website: Genotype Diet
It’s important to consider a number of factors when it comes to aging. First off, how much oxidative stress are a person’s cells experiencing? What is the health of the cell membranes? (Please see my previous post for more information on phase angle and bio-impedence testing. 1) What is the likelihood that advanced glycation endproducts are accumulating on the outside of the cells? How can we influence, if at all, the issue of telomere length?
Much attention has been given over the past 20 years or more to the role of anti-oxidants and health. Vitamin C, Vitamin E, glutathione, carotenoids, CoQ10, flavonoids of all types, and alpha-lipoic acid are probably the most important and the most investigated by medical science. Very simply put, anti-oxidants in foods and dietary supplements help protect the cell from “oxidative stress”. Oxidative stress means that highly reactive substances containing oxygen (often referred to as free radicals) are setting off a chain of reactions that can end in cell damage or death. Anti-oxidants have been touted for their benefit in cardiovascular disease and prevention of cancer, but many other diseases related to inflammation can be helped but greater intake of foods that contain anti-oxidants.
Related to oxidative stress is another set of reactions that fuse simple sugars with proteins creating what are called “advanced glycation endproducts” or AGES. What an appropriate name since AGES are a major part of the aging process! They are associated with degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease and also with many problems of blood sugar regulation. When a physician measures your hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) they are measuring the amount of glycation on your red blood cells which reflects how much “extra sugar” is in the blood due to diabetes or metabolic syndrome.
Another factor in the aging process may have to do with the length of your telomeres. Did you know you had telomeres in your body? They are the capping proteins at the end of your DNA strands and they get shorter with each cell replication. Many scientists have likened them to those little plastic bits on the ends of your shoelaces that prevent the thread from fraying. And indeed, telomeres do prevent chromosomes from “fraying” and sticking to one another. So they prevent a scrambling of essential information during cell replication. Cells that turn over at a much higher rate in the body will lose the length of their telomeres faster and can be more susceptible to cancerous mutations and causing “cellular senescence”, also known as aging.
The research around telomeres is interesting but ultimately unclear as to whether the shortening of the telomeres is just a sign of aging, like graying hair, or the shortened telomere are actually contributing to the aging process.
Nutritional supplements and foods provide us some wonderful ways of addressing these issues. As many of you know, I am not a proponent of describing the ideal diet that is good for everyone! Depending on one’s biochemical individuality different foods can function like medicine or poison in the body. But there are some foods that have a universally beneficial effect. For example, broccoli, broccoli rabe and sprouts from all the Brassicas family of foods. These constituents have made the news again recently, even though it’s been known for years that the sulforaphanes can help cells stay healthy.2
Green tea has also been shown to reduce the amount of AGES on cells, along with many of the berries, cherries and foods high in beneficial flavonoid content. Here’s a tidy little list of foods high in flavonoid content, foods that are less famous than berries. This list is adapted from Medical Herbalism, by David Hoffmann (Inner Traditions, 2003).
Everyday Foods Rich in Flavonoids
Lettuce (whole plant)
Brussels sprouts (axillary bud)
Scarlet runner bean (whole plant)
Lima bean (leaf)
Kidney bean (fruit)
Garden pea (shoot)
Adzuki bean (seed)
Everyday Herbs Rich in Flavonoids
Tea (whole plant)
Thyme (whole plant)
Peppermint (whole plant)
Chamomile (whole plant)
Cooking foods a certain way, especially foods you want to brown, will produce more AGES and it is estimated that 30% of the AGES consumed will be absorbed by the body. I found this webpage very helpful in terms of learning how to cook with this in mind: http://www.organiclifestylemagazine.com/issue-15/advanced-glycated-end-products.php
In conclusion, there are many ways to skin a cat. I prefer the 19th century “gentlemanly” version: There are more ways of killing a cat than choking it with cream. And that is more apropos for our discussion. You can prevent aging by avoiding activities and consuming foods that increase oxidative damage, you can prepare foods properly and consume above-mentioned foods regularly that help remove AGE, and you can ensure cellular health by reducing chronic stress and getting enough sleep when cells do most of their repair work. The sum total of a healthy diet and lifestyle, that includes regular exercise, cannot be overestimated. But I believe there are some specific nutrients and foods that one can supplement with to increase longevity and quality of life even if one is pretty healthy to start with.
Oh, did I mention the worst thing of all in terms of oxidative stress, risks of cancer and speeding up the aging process? Smoking cigarettes! I didn’t mention it because I should hope it goes without saying: don’t smoke!
1. Why do a Bio-impedence Test? http://genotypediet.com/nash/?p=23
2. Eat Your Broccoli: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120228140555.htm