What causes us to age? Scientist who study Gerontology are not exactly sure. Some believe it is due to genetics, exposure to the sun, breathing, eating, or some kind of predetermined biological clock. One thing gerontologists all agree on is that that chronological age has little bearing on biological age. In other words, the number of years you have walked on this planet is not necessarily an indicator of how old you will look and feel. These scientists who study longevity say that what has the greatest impact on your biological age is diet and lifestyle.
According to geneticist Richard Cawthon and his colleagues at the University of Utah the causes of aging in persons over the age of 60 can be narrowed down to these four factors:
- Telomere shortening 4%
- Oxidative stress 44%
- Glycation 46%
- Chronological age 6%
Telomere Shortening (4%)
Telomeres are sequences of nucleic acids extending from the ends of chromosomes and acting to maintain their integrity. Think of it as the little plastic tip on the end of your shoelaces. Every time a cell replicates itself the plastic tip gets a little shorter. The telomeres that translate the information required to replicate an identical youthful cell are shortened–creating a “lost in translation” scenario that leads to the cellular damage and ultimate cellular death and is we call “aging.”
The rate of telomere shortening in humans varies from person to person. Therefore, you might consider this factor as genetic or something we inherit from our parents. But, is the rate of telomere decay something we can change? Scientists have recently discovered an enzyme called “telomerase” that can not only slow down telomere shortening but, actually reverse it. This enzyme is found in humans and also in certain plants.
Dr. Dean Ornish found in his research that just three months on a whole-food, plant-based diet, coupled with exercise, could significantly boost telomerase activity. This is the only intervention that had been shown to do so. In a five year follow up study he found that those who changed their diet and lifestyle to healthier options actually grew their telomeres while those who did not in a control group predictably saw their telomeres shrink with age.
Oxidative Stress (44%)
Oxidants are highly reactive substances containing oxygen which cause free radical damage to DNA, proteins, and lipids (fats.) Free radicals steal electrons/energy and are called acidic or oxidizing (which means to burn up, break down, rust, decay.) A free radical is an unstable molecule that is missing an electron making it unstable and deficient in energy. Free radicals cause cellular damage which can lead to wrinkles and dry, sagging skin and they pre-maturely age you. While smoking is a primary source of free radicals they also come from drinking alcohol, air pollution, radiation, stress, coffee, processed food and food cooked above certain temperatures
Free radicals are like energy vampires which attack and snatch energy (electrons) from other cells to satisfy themselves thereby making new free radicals. This chain reaction process continues until these free radical energy vampires encounter an antioxidant which has extra energy in the form of spare electrons. The antioxidant will happily give up its spare electrons in order to neutralize the free radical. Things that are healthy contribute electrons/energy and are called alkalizing or reducing.
The “total antioxidant capacity” in foods is called the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC.) Foods that are high in phytonutrients such as chlorophyll, lycopene, and beta-carotene have the highest ORAC value. Foods that have the most phytonutrients are whole, raw sprouts, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices. These are the anti-aging foods. Here are the foods with the highest ORAC value:
Food & ORAC
Spices (Cloves) 314,446
Herbs (Oregano dried) 200,129
Chaga mushrooms 110,400
Acai berry 102,700
Goji berries 25,300
Pistachio nuts 7,983
Garlic, raw 5,346
Apples, red delicious 4,275
Cabbage, red 3,145
Lettuce, red leaf 2,380
Alfalfa sprouts 1,510
There are no antioxidants found in beef, chicken, fish, cheese, eggs, milk or any animal products.
Chemical changes occurs when we apply heat to food. This creates acidic toxins including carcinogens, mutagens, and twisted proteins, twisted carbohydrates, and twisted fats. This results in Advanced Glycation End Products (AGE’s.)
Glycation happens when glucose, the main sugar we use as energy, binds to some of our DNA, proteins, and lipids, leaving them unable to do their jobs. The problem becomes worse as we get older, causing body tissues to malfunction, resulting in disease and accelerated aging. AGEs are also formed by high sugar consumption. The best way to avoid glycation is to eat a whole food plant-based minimally processed diet.
Chronological Age (6%)
There are certain risk factors that increase over time such as the accidental exposure to infectious diseases. These risk factors can be mitigated by doing things that will boost your immune system.
Every single research study that has ever been conducted on longevity shows that calorie restriction increases lifespan. In fact, when the calorie intake is cut in half the lifespan of certain test animals doubles. And, when you cut the calories in half and fast one day a week the lifespan triples. Every time you eat food, even the most nutritious food, the digestive process causes some degree of oxidative stress on the body. Simple foods are easier to digest than complex foods. The simplest foods are plant-based. The higher you eat up the food chain the more difficult it is for the body to digest.
However, it is important to insure that you are getting enough vitamins, minerals, protein and essential fatty acids. If you are going to cut your calorie intake in half you must make sure you are eating a very nutrient rich diet. This type of diet is called the Calorie Restricted Optimal Nutrition (CRON) diet. The most nutritious food on land are sprouts. The most nutritious food in fresh water is blue-green algae, spirulina and chlorella. The most nutritious food in the ocean are sea vegetables.
When carefully examining all the factors that cause us to age it turns out that genetics play a very small role. We tend to inherit our parents habits more than we inherit their genes. The things that have the greatest impact on your biological age is diet and lifestyle. Foods with the most antioxidants have the greatest effect on reversing pre-mature aging in humans. Other lifestyle factors play an important role in longevity as well. In summary, here are the top ten natural anti-aging strategies:
- Eat a whole food plant based minimally processed diet
- Regular Fasting
- Blue-green algae, spirulina and/or chlorella
- Reduced stress
- Pure Water
- Fresh Air
- Adequate Rest
- Positive Thinking
By Brian Hetrich