It is often said that age is just a number. But in reality, that is not true. We all have two ages: chronological and biological. The biggest difference between chronological age vs biological age is that you can alter one of them. Your chronological age keeps track of how many years you’ve been alive, it cannot be changed. Your biological age on the other hand, refers to how old you are physiologically. It describes how your body acts and feels. It also varies from person to person and can be changed depending on lifestyle choices. With constant advances in science, reverse aging research has given us insight on how to live longer in better health and rewind the hands of time.
How Cells Age
The human body consists of an intricate and very interconnected system. It is made up of cells containing your DNA , which instructs your genes to make proteins. Proteins do the work inside of our cells to run our bodies. Most of our cells are continuously reproducing and dying. Their lifecycle is based on external and internal environmental factors. Everything that you do or ingest has an affect on your genes and how they influence physiologic performance and lifespan.
Can You Reverse Your Biological Age?
Changing your day to day habits can rejuvenate you from within. You know the basics: adequate sleep, a balanced diet, exercise, and reducing stress leads to a healthier you. But why? And how?
There are four basic characteristics that cause aging:
- DNA damage: Errors appear in your DNA that will negatively affect various physical and mental functions if not corrected. (Genomic instability)
- Shortened Telomeres: Telomeres are the caps at the end of each chromosome strand that protect your DNA and keep it intact. Chromosomes are double-stranded, thread-like structures at the end of DNA strands that keep all of your genetic information. Because you’re constantly gaining and losing cells, telomeres protect your chromosomes when cells divide. Everytime a cell divides, its telomeres become shorter, until the cell dies.
- Gene expression gets compromised: Genes that are harmful to your health get turned on. As you get older, the proteins attached to DNA become looser, and genes start becoming expressed when they shouldn’t be, or erroneously get silenced. In other words, necessary proteins do not get made (turned off.) Instead, some harmful and unnecessary proteins are produced (turned on.)Your environment plays a big role here. Cells are constantly exposed to toxins and other antagonists that cause changes to expressed genes. Over time, these changes accumulate, leading to dysfunction and decline. Most often, these changes happen via DNA methylation.Luckily, these changes are not permanent, so reversing the aging process in humans is scientifically proven possible.For example, smoking can result in changes to your cells. Multiple studies suggest that smokers tend to have less DNA methylation than non-smokers, especially with heavy and/or long term smokers. After quitting, former smokers start having increased DNA methylation in this gene. Eventually, they can reverse the damage and reach levels similar to those of non-smokers.
- Proteins become less stable and accurate: Proteins perform essential functions in cells. As we age, they tend to become compromised, making it harder for your cells to clean out toxic waste and repair themselves.
Your cells talk to one another using pathways. The messages come in the form of chemical signals sent from one cell to another. Once inside the targeted cell, the signaling molecules relay the message through a chain of chemical messengers, causing changes in the cell’s activity.
One prime messenger is known as the AMPK signaling Pathway. This pathway controls inflammation and glucose. AMPK (adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase) is a functional enzyme found in all of your cells. It is a master regulator of metabolism, restoring your energy balance amid cellular and physiological metabolic stress.
AMPK helps regulate your body and fight off deteriorating elements. It also assists in regulating glucose and burning fat stores. It eliminates cellular debris that accumulates in aging cells and generates new mitochondria, (energy packs of the cells). This self-cleaning mechanism is known as autophagy.
How to Induce Autophagy
There are a few ways that you can activate your body’s natural recycling system:
- Fasting Autophagy: One key component of the reverse aging breakthrough involves fasting, or caloric restriction. It is highly studied and activates AMPK. Intermittent fasting (IF) encourages autophagy, which helps clear out cellular waste, damaged cell particles, old mitochondria and pathogens. Think of it like spring cleaning on a cellular level.By eating less often, you regulate your longevity pathways. There are many human studies showing how fasting is beneficial for longevity. Effects of caloric restriction include lowered blood pressure, reduced BMI, improved glucose levels, and repaired DNA proteins. This can help you fight diseases such as cancer, diabetes, alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.
- Ketogenic Diet: Although the term “keto diet” may seem like a fad, there’s actual science behind how it keeps you biologically younger. Normally, your body uses glucose for energy when you consume carbohydrates or sugars. When you limit your intake of carbs for a few days, your body’s glycogen stores are depleted and the liver produces ketones to substitute glucose. This metabolic state is known as nutritional ketosis. Autophagy and ketosis are very complimentary of one another. Being in ketosis activates many of the same pathways in your body that fasting does. If you’re in ketosis before you fast, you’ve already laid the foundation for autophagy to happen faster. Once your liver glycogen becomes low, AMPK will boost autophagy in response to energy stress. Glycogen stores are somewhat depleted when you are on a low-carb diet, speeding up the ketosis and autophagy process.Certain foods and spices help stimulate your AMPK signaling pathways. Remember to keep track of your macros and stay within the allowed daily carb intake to stay in ketosis (30-50g/day.)
Examples of these foods include:
- Anthocyanin rich foods: Anthocyanins are flavonoids found in red, purple, and blue fruits and vegetables. They are naturally abundant in many foods and are considered novel AMPK activators. These include: blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, pomegranates, and purple cabbage.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Research shows that Omega-3 fatty acids also play a role in AMPK activation. Such foods include: flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, fatty fish (e.g mackerel, salmon), walnuts, seaweed, and kidney beans.
- Rooibos Tea: This popular African tea is full of health benefits from being a potent antioxidant to being one of the best known AMPK activators. Studies show that drinking Rooibos tea helps increase glucose uptake, mitochondrial activity, and reduces cholesterol. These metabolic improvements are the result of activated AMPK pathways.
- Organic Coffee: The antioxidant activity and total antioxidant content of roasted coffee are at the same level of values for tea, cocoa, and red wine. A daily cup of organic joe can not only increase your energy levels, but also provide the antioxidants needed to boost your longevity pathways and have less toxins and mold.
- Cacao: There are many benefits to a daily cacao intake. Not only is it a strong antioxidant that helps fight free radicals, but it also has shown to aid in boosting AMPK. Unsweetened cacao can be low in carbohydrates – 2 tablespoons contain about 6g.
- Turmeric: Curcumin is a polyphenol compound extracted from the spice, turmeric. It fights inflammation by promoting autophagy.
- Garlic: There has been a lot of research demonstrating the benefits of eating garlic. It not only induces apoptosis (death of bad cells) but also encourages autophagy in cancer cells. For centuries, many civilizations have regarded it as being one of the most powerful foods for both culinary and medicinal purposes.
- High Intensity Interval training (HIIT): Although any form of physical activity is beneficial.Compared to medium intensity exercise or steady state cardio, intervals of high intensity movements put your body into flight or flight mode. Your body needs to upregulate AMPK in order to physiologically adapt. In other words, your body thinks it’s under attack and needs to activate certain processes on a molecular level for the sake of survival.
- Exposure to Cold: Exposing your body to uncomfortable temperatures turns on your longevity pathways and helps burn adipose tissue (brown fat.) There are many ways to do this.
A few examples include:
- Contrast Showers
- Being out in the cold
- Wearing fewer layers
- Sleeping with a light blanket in a cool room
- Supplements: Some supplements promote autophagy and help keep your cells young.
Key players include:
- Nicotinamide Riboside (NR:) Nicotinamide riboside is another form of vitamin B3 and has few side effects. Your body converts it into NAD+, which is a coenzyme central to metabolism. While NAD+ levels naturally fall with age, boosting NAD+ with NR helps provide needed fuel for your cells. This is the one that I take and recommend to my patients.
- Resveratol: Reservatol is a powerful antioxidant found in the skin of grapes. Studies have shown that resveratrol can reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and neurodegeneration. It works synergistically with NR because it activates longevity pathways while NR fuels these processes. I recommend this one.
- Spermidine: Spermidine is a polyamine linked to many necessary biological functions that affect longevity. This promotes autophagy by aiding in recycling damaged mitochondria in your cells. It is especially beneficial to your heart health because it supports the structural integrity and sensitivity of cardiomyocytes which are the cells of the heart that make it contract. You can find it here.
- Fisetin: Fisetin is an antioxidant which is part of the polyphenol group of plants. Several studies have demonstrated the effects of Fisetin against numerous diseases. It is reported to have anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, neurotrophic, and other health benefits. I use this one.
Aging is not necessarily constrained by time. Your body is an incredible machine that has the power to renew itself from within. Making the right changes to your lifestyle today will reap huge benefits in your future. It is possible to feel like a 30 year old inside of a 70 year old body. You can turn back the clock and biologically be younger than your chronological age.
Supporting your body with anti aging supplements along with a healthy lifestyle will help influence the aging pathways and help you live longer, healthier. I encourage you to take these steps today!