Can we reverse aging?
We will continue our topic on aging but shift attention to prolonging healthspan and even reversing aging – is that something possible?
In our previous article, we explored the current scientific understanding about the biology of aging and how exposure to toxins, UV-radiation and unhealthy foods are speeding up the aging process – which can be measured to mapping out your biological age. Following an increased DNA damage, our biological age may be higher than our chronological age while the opposite holds true as well: with correct lifestyle choices, you might be biologically much younger than what your calendar year says.
Scientists have identified so-called “longevity genes” in the cells of our bodies. These longevity genes protect and reverse damage inside our cells continuously, but perhaps their most important function is to protect the sensitive epigenetic information, i.e. to make sure that each specific cell knows what kind of cell it is and what specific function it needs to perform. When we talk about longevity genes and related molecules we primarily refer to Sirtuins, AMPK and mTOR, which are the most studied at the moment. Researchers’ goals in studying them is to figure out what stimulates these genes to function properly and how they can be used to protect us from aging.
In experiments made on mice researchers have made several important discoveries related to increased healthspan. By decreasing the number of times the mice ate, i.e. intermittent fasting, by keeping them cold and by restricting their amino acid intake, they could show a prolongation in their healthspan. Similar factors have been studied in humans where physicians interested in increasing the healthspan of their patients´ usually agree on the following:
- Minimize DNA damage (limit sun exposure, avoid smoking, processed foods etc.)
- Practice time restricted feeding (e.g. intermittent fasting)
- Eat less meat protein, i.e. increase the amount of vegetables and fruits in your diet
- Daily moderate exercise coupled with weekly HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
- Be uncomfortably cold and uncomfortably hot at times (e.g. sauna and cold bathing)
Studies have also shown that there are molecules that act as Sirtuin activators and that help to protect the information in the cells. One of these molecules is NMN and in an experiment on mice, it was shown that old mice that were given NMN could outrun young mice on a treadmill. Researchers showed that this would be equivalent to a 75 year old outrunning a 20 year old at a Marathon! There are also recent studies and human trials as well as empirical evidence pointing towards the molecule NAD+ being connected to aging and that NMN boosts NAD+ levels, subsequently contributing to increased healthspan.
So far, we have talked about healthspan, but what about lifespan? Certainly, it is possible to reverse your biological age at any given moment by making good lifestyle choices and thus increasing the years you live on Earth, which is something that we encourage all our patients to do. Shinia Yamanaka, winner of the Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2012, has made groundbreaking scientific contributions on induced pluripotent stem cells, by demonstrating that fully grown adult cells can be reprogrammed to become embryonal cells. This sets the stage for radical new therapies in the future, where perhaps one day will be able to revitalise our cells and body organs to reverse aging on a cellular level.
N. Hall., (2008). mTOR-what does it do?, Pubmed, Available online: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19100909/
Veritasium, (2019). How to Slow Aging (and even reverse it), Veritasium, Available online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRt7LjqJ45k&t=2s&ab_channel=Veritasium [Accessed april 10 2021]
Diana Licalzi MS RD., (2021). NR and NMN: Do These Longevity Supplements Work in Humans?, InsideTracker, Available Online: https://blog.insidetracker.com/nr-nmn-longevity-supplements-work-humans
The Nobel Prize., (2012). Shinya Yamanaka, The Nobel Prize, Available online: https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/2012/yamanaka/facts/
EBioMedicine., (2015). Increasing Healthspan: Prosper and Live Long, NCBI, Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4740330/
BBCEarth., The Jellyfish that never dies, Available online: https://www.bbcearth.com/news/the-jellyfish-that-never-dies
Healthline., (2020). What to Know About Cold Water Therapy, Available online: https://www.healthline.com/health/cold-water-therapy#benefits