Aging Gracefully: Want to Postpone Your Expiration Date?

It has been said that, “Aging is like  pornography—we know it when we see it.” True enough, but the question remains, how can we measure it in the doctor’s office or the medical laboratory? And, if we can measure aging, what can we do about it? In this paper some of the most current data on aging will be presented, followed by a discussion of modern theories and facts which are leading to our understanding the process of aging, and concluding with suggestions on how to slow aging (this is doable), and perhaps how to reverse it.

Is life expectancy lengthening? Yes, it is rising world-wide at the rate of about three
months per year. This is primarily because of progress against premature mortality.
However, since 1980 this has no longer been true for already-old people in rich countries
like the U.S. In fact, U.S. official estimates of remaining years of life for a woman aged 65
may soon be revised downward. Also, remember that life-expectancy, i.e. how many
more years will the average person of (place your own age here) expect to live, is not the
same thing as human lifespan.

The human lifespan record is 122 years. Currently, the oldest woman in the world, Besse Cooper, a retired schoolteacher in Georgia, is 116 years old. The record is 122 years and 164 days, set by Jeanne Calment of France in 1997. There are fewer women over 115 today (two) than there were in 2006 (four) or even 1997 (three). Thus, it is apparent that while life expectancy in most parts of the world is lengthening, as we approach ages beyond 100 years, no lengthening of life is found. (Wall Street Journal, June 9 – 10, 2012).

Perhaps, if we could identify markers of aging we might be able to figure out the causes of aging, thereby developing ways to slow, stop or reverse aging. If we don’t want to live
as long as Biblical characters, maybe living a long, healthy life would be an achievable goal. After all, well-cared for domestic animals often live in nearly perfect health until near their time of death. In the following paragraphs you will find four highly significant factors in aging, the glycation phenomenon, telomere shortening, cell membrane disruptions and decreased adult stem cells. There is some overlapping or commonality in all of these, and treatments targeted at each may also be helpful in the others.

The glycation phenomenon has a very descriptive identifying acronym, AGE (Advanced Glycation Endproducts). The reference here is to the end products of metabolism. These consist of useless residue that cannot be eliminated or reused. An example would be the beta amyloid that is readily identifiable under the microscope in the brain of Alzheimer patients. AGE is like the ashes in your fireplace, except that AGE can’t be removed. How does this happen, and how can we prevent it?

Truthfully, there is no way to completely prevent the
formation of AGE, but there is a way to slow it down. AGE results mainly from the reaction of blood glucose with proteins, a constant, on-going event essential for life. The higher your blood glucose levels, the more AGE is produced. Since AGE accumulates in every organ and tissue of the body, and since AGE creates organ malfunction and tissue decay, we need to slow down this process. We can slow it down by maintaining a normal level of blood glucose.

This is best achieved by limiting the consumption of carbohydrates and maintaining a
normal body weight. A simple approach is the Paleolithic Diet which eliminates grains,
sweeteners and dairy products, allowing only meats, eggs, nuts, vegetables and fruits.
Average blood glucose levels can be monitored by determinations of HbA1c (Glycated
Hemoglobin) at regular intervals; normal levels are 4.0 to 4.9, 70% of Americans have
levels of 5.0 to 6.4, and diabetics register levels from 6.5 to 15. Persistent, and even
recurring high levels of blood glucose after meals leads to Metabolic Syndrome and
Diabetes with premature aging and such abnormalities as cataracts, high blood
pressure, high cholesterol, strokes, kidney disease, arthritis and dementia. Not good.
Other laboratory studies useful in the evaluation of AGE (aging) include the erythrocyte
sedimentation rate, high sensitivity CRP and inflammatory cytokines. These are all
markers of inflammation.

The word telomere is derived from two Greek words, telos meaning “end”, and meros
meaning “part”. Thus, telomere is used to denote the “end cap” on every chromosome. These end caps prevent deterioration of chromosomes during cell division and repair, and also prevent fusion to neighboring telomeres. However, after each cell division our telomeres shorten, slightly. Human cells are programmed for 60 to 100 cell divisions. This is known as the “Hayflick Limit,” after its discoverer Dr. Leonard Hayflick in the early
1960’s. This is programmed senescence—a time to live and a time to die. Technically, both somatic and reproductive cells age by the same rules, and aging correlates with shortening of telomeres. If only we could figure out how to prevent shortening of telomeres we might have a way to prevent aging. As it turns out, the telomeres on reproductive cells do not shorten, but are repaired after each cell division under stimulus from an enzyme called, naturally, telomerase; each forward tick of the aging clock is met by an addition to the telomeres, setting the aging clock back one tick. Both reproductive and somatic cells have the same gene that causes production of telomerase. However, the telomerase gene in somatic cells is blocked, preventing production of telomerase. In 1998 a team at Geron Corporation, through genetic engineering, produced somatic cells that produced telomerase, just like reproductive cells. Two cell lines were moved from mortal cells to immortal cells!

The search for substances that can turn on the telomerase gene is on, hot and heavy. Of great promise is an extract from a select variety of astragalus plants found in a specific region in China. This extract, protected by 270 filed patents, has been used in humans since 2005, without any adverse side effects, and with apparent extension of the “Hayflick Limit”. The product, TA-65 (Telomerase Activator), may extend lifespans by decades, some believe to 150 years. The cost, as near as I can determine, is about $1,000 per month.

Fortunately, there are ways to naturally decrease shortening of telomeres. Studies now
in progress show that increasing glutathione (GSH) will actually provide results similar
to TA-65. Special nano-preparations of glutathione are now available and effective.
Glutathione is manufactured inside your cells from the amino acids glycine, glutamate
and cystine. A convenient source of these sulfur amino acids is whey. Studies also show
decreased shortening of telomeres results from high intensity exercises, a form of
interval training, and from intermittent fasting. This form of fasting has been shown to
increase cognitive function, raise levels of growth hormone and testosterone, improve
body composition and prevent depression.

Cell membranes are like flies at a picnic, they are everywhere. They form the outer
covering for every cell in the body, and also form a cover for organelles inside each cell, including the nucleus, mitochondria and the Golgi apparatus. In the deepest sense, the
cell membrane is where the action is. The cell membrane is where the cell defines itself from other cells, and from the outside environment. Information is exchanged and the chemistry of life, the synthesis of molecules, the transfer of electrons occurs in the cell membrane. It contains channels and pumps, and information receptors. This complex structure, now referred to as a fluid mosaic membrane, was first proposed in 1972 by Americans S.J. Singer and Garth Nicolson. It consists of a double, bilayer of lipids, glycolipids, proteins, and glycoproteins, forming an amphipathic structure that is water
loving (hydrophilic) on the outside and water hating (hydrophobic) on the inside. Injuries to the cell membrane occur, frequently through oxidation. This results in an increasingly “leaky” membrane that allows protons and ions to move across the membrane. When, for example, the mitochondria are damaged, we perceive this as fatigue. This decreased ATP production by the mitochondria has recently been reported as a test for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (Mikirova, Riordan Clinic, 2012). It is easy to see that damage to cell membranes can result in aging. Fortunately, there is an effective approach to assist the healing of damaged cell membranes through Lipid Replacement Therapy (LRT). This LRT id is available in the form of a stable oral supplement that emulates the amount and composition of the mitochondrial lipids. It is available from Allergy Research Group, 800-545-9960.

Finally, it has been found that adult stem cells diminish in number with age, that old biologic clock in action. These cells, produced in the bone marrow and released into the general circulation are programmed to search for damaged or dead cells, and to replace them in the organ involved, as identical replicates, with no loss of function as long as enough stem cells are available. This sounds like another path to advanced, healthy old age, a veritable Shangri La. Earl Mindell, PhD, R.Ph. noted authority on nutrition, is now marketing a product “backed by Nobel prize winning science,” that is composed of “Ten Super Nutrients” that will boost the release of adult stem cells into the blood. Stem Trol may rewind your biologic clock resulting in firmer skin, more energy, a healthier heart, sharper mind and memory, and greater resistance to colds, flu, etc. This product is not sold in stores: Call 1-800-791-5412.

As Ethel Mermen so famously said, “Growing old is not for sissies.” Considering the
foregoing nutrient and life-style recommendations for the postponement of my expiration date, I would say that she was dead right (couldn’t resist the pun). From my perspective, lifestyle changes make a lot of sense. Of the supplements described above, I hate to use the
term nutrients because they sound like medications rather than nutrients, I believe all are safe to try, but their efficacy remains to be seen. Glutathione certainly is worth a try. I would defer taking TA-65 because of cost. All things considered, and considering the alternative, I still think growing old is the better choice. Be well.