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Examining Anti-Aging

Longevity By Nature

Americans are living longer than ever before and the number of older adults in the U.S. is growing. Many seniors live active, healthy lives, but there’s no getting around one thing: as we age, our bodies and minds change. A challenge for practitioners in the coming years will be maintaining the health of this increasing number of older adults.

“In healthy aging we must emphasize the healthy,” said Eudene Harry, MD, medical director of Florida-based Oasis for Optimal Health. “Nothing ages well if it is not well taken care of, and the body is no exception. It is simple—we must eat well because nutrition is the foundation to health; exercise because it is the best anti-aging tool we have; connect and support each other because, in doing so, the body thrives; take time each day to balance stress with joy and peace because stress deteriorates the body faster than anything else you can do; and, finally, sleep because if you don’t, all your efforts will seem fruitless.” 

“I think the natural approaches for healthy aging lie in the arena of prevention,” said Holly Lucille, ND, RN. “If you think about it, aging is natural and health is natural … but I think it is about quelling the damage to our cells from oxidative stress, having appropriate food (nutrients) for our biochemistry and understanding the aging process as to support individuals the best possible way.” 

Mental Sharpness 

The brain has the ability to adapt, change, and recent studies tell us that it can even grow new brain cells. “The brain is one of the most fascinating organs in the body,” said Dr. Harry. “There was a time we thought that when we achieved adulthood our brain became static, incapable of change and growth.We now know that is not the case.” 

She explained that the substance brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) nurtures and protects brain cells. “Under the protection of this chemical, the brain acts younger; it adapts to new situations more easily, internal communication is improved, learning is facilitated and moods improve. How do we get more of this amazing substance? Exercise! Exercise, along with improving other feel-good chemicals in the body, has been shown to have a positive impact on this substance. Another way to keep the brain sharp is to use it.” 

Dr. Lucille agreed, and added that her No. 1 motto is, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” “As people age they need to stay mentally and emotionally active. Continuing to engage in community and participating in conversation and mental activities, such as puzzles and brainteasers, is essential.” 

Another anti-aging strategy is to eat “brain healthy.” “The brain is more than 60 percent fat and it depends on good circulation for nourishment. Anything that adversely affects any of these factors will negatively impact the brain,” noted Dr. Harry, suggesting that people skip the low fat diets and, instead, focus on the types of fats—and foods—they’re eating. “You need healthy essential fats, such as omega-3 fats, to feed the brain. Omega-3s are not just heart healthy, they are brain healthy. Studies have linked them with an improvement in mood and anxiety levels. Avoid trans fats as they are like putting used, rancid oil into cell membranes. Lean proteins supply amino acids that help in the formation of neurotransmitters, which help you feel good and contribute to appetite control. Also, eat small, frequent, balanced meals to provide the brain with continuous fuel (primarily glucose), and eat lots of brightly colored vegetables and berries, which have been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as inflammation has been linked to many neurodegenerative conditions.” 

In addition, lack of sleep decreases productivity and focus, Dr. Harry said. It can lead to poor dietary choices, increase inflammation in the body and brain, and increase the risk of chronic conditions that prematurely ages the body and brain.

Activity Begets Activity 

Another important anti-aging consideration is the growing knowledge of maintaining or even enhancing lean body mass for health and longevity, said Vladimir Badmaev,MD, PhD, head of R&D with NattoPharma ASA in Oslo, Norway. “While the impact of lean body mass on health has yet to be fully understood, the health-promoting value of increasing lean body mass can be appreciated indirectly due to the known benefits derived from physical exercise in building lean body mass and stamina,” he said. “Consider that lean body mass correlates positively with the performance of an incremental treadmill exercise test and that the fat percentage in the abdomen is significantly less in elite athletes in comparison with nonexercising controls. Because abdominal fatty tissue is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which increases with aging, exercise that results in increased lean body mass may have a positive impact on longterm cardiovascular risk and life span.” 

A person can stay active longer by staying active, said Michael Smith, MD, senior health science specialist with Florida-based Life Extension, who suggested that people get outside every day and walk, swim and stretch. “Older Americans will often say, ‘I can’t exercise because I have no energy.’ The truth is they have no energy because they don’t exercise,” he said. “Joining a hiking group helps because everyone is accountable to someone else for staying active. Also, carnitine and CoQ10 can help in giving your muscles that extra boost you might need to stay active longer.” 

For muscle health, Dr. Badmaev noted a recent pilot study that points to a potentially important role of vitamin K2, menaquinone- 7 (MK-7). “Aging causes muscle mass to diminish in a similar process that occurs in bones (i.e. osteoporosis)—the diminishing muscle mass results in sarcopenia, which is characterized by age-related quantitative and qualitative diminishing of muscles and impaired functions. The oftenoverlooked symptom of degenerating muscle health is muscle cramping. Cramps without a specific underlying condition or disease usually occur with progression of aging; for example, epidemiological studies indicate that 30 percent of the population over 60 years of age and 50 percent over the age of 80 years have been experiencing cramps.” 

An open field study published in The Indian Practitioner in 2010 evaluated vitamin MK-7 at a dose of 100 mcg/day for three months in a group of 19 elderly men and women experiencing leg cramps on a daily or weekly basis, with cramps lasting from less than one minute to up to 10 minutes. The treatment resulted in dramatic improvement of frequency, duration and severity of pain during cramping. The blood levels of vitamin MK-7 corresponded well with the improvement of cramping. Of note, when supplementation with vitamin MK-7 stopped, the cramping tended to reoccur in a matter of days and weeks. “Although we find this intriguing, more studies are necessary to draw a conclusion about MK-7’s effects on muscle health,” explained Badmaev, whose company is a supplier of the branded MK-7 ingredient, MenaQ7.

To be sustainable, Dr. Harry added that activity should be enjoyable as well as effective. “As we get older, it becomes more imperative that we maintain not just muscle strength but balance and flexibility as it helps us to avoid injuries,” she said. “There is a natural tendency toward muscle loss as we get older. In fact, it is estimated that we lose about one percent of muscle mass per year after reaching 35 to 40 years. This loss makes us weaker, less coordinated and can even place undue stress on the weight-bearing joints, making us more prone to injuries from falls. Prolonged inactivity at any age is discouraged, but it becomes even more hazardous as we get older as deconditioning of the body and muscles are significantly accelerated.” 

Dr. Harry suggested that older adults stay active, include weight resistance in their routines and maintain flexibility. “Exercise improves moods, energy and is a great stress management tool,” she added. “Sometimes we sit around waiting for the energy to exercise when maybe we need to exercise for energy.”

Social Life Studies 

There are many studies showing that individuals with a large group of friends and social connections tend to live longer, happier lives, noted Dr. Harry. She pointed to a study performed by the Australian Longitudinal Study of Aging that followed 1,500 people over 10 years to assess social factors that affect longevity. Researchers found that individuals with a large group of friends lived 22 percent longer and fared better than their counterparts. The study authors speculated that there could be several contributing factors, such as offering help and support to implement better lifestyle habits, encouraging each other to seek medical attention, having a support mechanism in challenging times and helping to improve self-esteem and moods.

Another study, published in Aging Journal in 2012, identified the following traits as having a positive impact on longevity: having a positive outlook on life, being outgoing, frequent laughter and low levels of paranoia. “For women, it has also been shown that those who have close friendships managed stress better and lived longer,” said Dr. Harry. “It has been theorized that the bonding hormone oxytocin plays a significant role in managing stress.” 

A landmark study conducted at UCLA by Drs. Laura Cousin Klein and Shelley Taylor, published in 2000 in Psychological Review, discovered that women have a different response to stress than men and that this may be part of the reason that they tend to outlive their male counterparts. “They coined it the ‘tend and befriend response’ and theorize that it modulates the classic ‘fight or flight’ response,” said Dr. Harry. “They found that during stressful events, women release a hormone called oxytocin, which then encourages women to tend to her children and gather with other women. This act of befriending actually enhances the production of more oxytocin and through oxytocin’s effects on the brain, creates a calming response.

“While oxytocin is secreted in the male brain as well, it seems that the high testosterone levels secreted by males during stress may actually negate oxytocin’s effects,” she added. “This does not mean that males do not benefit from friendship as well. In fact, social interaction and friendships have been shown to improve blood pressure, decrease binge eating and even decrease risk of occurrence of heart disease as well as decrease risk form dying of heart disease. So when it comes to friendship, it does seem the more the merrier.”

Adjusting Diets 

As one ages, nutritional needs and requirements start changing. “We may no longer have the reserves of our youth, so dietary and lifestyle indiscretions may take their toll on us at a faster rate,” explained Dr. Harry. “Our ability to digest and absorb may begin to decrease thus compromising our absorption of important nutrients, such as vitamin B12, zinc and magnesium. This may also compromise our ability to efficiently digest proteins thus decreasing the availability of the essential amino acids needed to support healthy moods, immunity and muscle tone. As we get older, we have the potential to form more free radicals and increase the oxidative stress on our bodies perhaps contributing further to premature aging. It is at this point of our lives where food really takes on the significance of food as medicine.” 

Al Sanchez, Jr., president and CEO of California-based AMARC Enterprises, said when the company’s Covalen and Poly- MVA nutritional supplements are utilized together as part of a whole-body platform, a unique integrative approach is developed that naturally addresses anti-aging mechanisms as well as improves daily health and well-being. These two nutritional aids are important pieces to an overall approach that also includes a proper diet, adequate exercise, healthy mental and spiritual states, and other beneficial supplements, such as CoQ10, fish oils, vitamin D and more, he said.

Corvalen and Poly-MVA work together to target cellular energy production by providing cells the proper and stable fuel they require to perform their functions as they were designed to. “In each one of our bodies, trillions of cells must first start with energy to do their job, whether they’re skin cells or essential organ cells like the liver, kidney, heart—or even the billions of neurons in our brain and nervous system,” said Sanchez. “To accomplish this, and to stay healthy and functioning properly throughout our lifetime, the cells’ processes must begin with energy and proper metabolism,” he explained. “This is where Corvalen and Poly-MVA are unrivaled in this arena. They specifically target, support and increase proper and highly efficient energy metabolism, which keeps our cells healthy and young.” 

Avoiding Bad Habits 

Although there is a high prevalence of obesity in elderly people, another concern is a decline in food intake and the loss of the motivation to eat. “Poor nutrition could lead, in the long run, to a chain reaction, i.e. malnutrition, compensated by overeating, obesity, deteriorating metabolism and related diseases such as adult onset diabetes,” noted NattoPharma ASA’s Dr. Badmaev, who added that his company created its MenaQ7 brand of vitamin K2—and specifically its derivative menaqinone-7—in direct response to the growing importance placed by the medical community of this vitamin supplementation for bone, cardiovascular and metabolic health.

“Unfortunately, food processing, widespread use of chemical preservatives and food refrigeration all deplete sources of friendly bacteria that manufacture vitamin K2,” Badmaev said. Furthermore, he offered three factors that may limit food-provided vitamin K2:

• Hectic nutrition (e.g. imposed diet regimens), overeating, drugs (e.g. antibiotics) and deteriorating gut flora inefficient in production and processing of K2.

• Poor absorption of vitamin K2 from the gut, especially with aging.

• Age-related compromised bioavailability of vitamin K2 to the target tissues (i.e. delivery to site of action like bone and arteries).

In addition, poor nutritional habits can face older adults—quite literally. “Anti-glycation agents, like carnosine and special forms of vitamin B6, are what’s new in anti-aging medicine,” said Life Extension’s Dr. Smith. “Any amount of sugar in your body can react with essential proteins causing them to dysfunction. As a matter of fact, aging specialists now believe that this reaction, called glycation, is one of the leading theories of aging. Glycation also destroys collagen in the skin leading to wrinkles. So imagine the implications—living longer with smooth skin.” 

Age Acceptance 

In a 1983 paper titled “Aspects of the Aging Stigma,” author Paul C. Luken wrote, “Elderly individuals must face their chronological age and refine the meaning of old age for themselves.” That may be an idea for practitioners to keep in mind when working with older adults.

“I think that one essential thing is that we help take the stigma off of aging,” said Dr. Lucille. “We live in this culture that glorifies youth and it is just crazy to me.Whatever happened to the wise elders who shared stories and passed them down? I think we have to turn this around.”

Healthy Take Aways

Engaging in community and participating in conversation and mental activities is essential to healthy aging.

The ability to digest and absorb may begin to decrease as we age, thus compromising absorption of important nutrients, such as vitamin B12, zinc and magnesium.

A UCLA study discovered that women have a different response to stress than men, which may be part of the reason why women tend to outlive their male counterparts.

Caloric restriction has been shown in studies to be a definitive way to decrease mortality and delay onset on chronic illness.

The rate of telomere attrition can be slowed, but exercise is one of the few things that can actually lengthen teleomeres.


AMARC Enterprises, (714) 920-6869, www.polymva.com 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/aging 

Healthy Aging, www.healthyaging.net 

Life Extension, (800) 544-4440, www.lef.org 

NattoPharma, (+47) 40 00 90 08, www.nattopharma.com 

Oasis for Optimal Health, (407) 354-0500, www.livinghealthylookingyounger.com 

SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc., (800) 227-5227, www.spectracell.com

Anti-Aging Tests

Atelomere is a region of repetitive nucleotide sequences at each end of a chromatid, which protects the end of the chromosome from deterioration or from fusion with neighboring chromosomes. Evaluation of patients’ telomere length is an indicator of how rapidly they are aging relative to a normal population. Increases in telomere loss may point to an increase in immunoproliferation, inability to handle oxidative stresses or progression of chronic disease and metabolic abnormalities.

Nichole Herms, marketing/technical researcher with Texas-based SpectraCell Laboratories, said the company was the first to commercialize the testing of telomeres, which, she said, is a great test for overall aging and a good measure of the overall aging process.

“This is an exciting test, but it’s for the population willing to take the extra step,” she explained.With a cost of $290 that isn’t covered by insurance, it can be prohibitive.

While cardiologists and general practitioners have ordered the test for their patients, it is mostly used by anti-aging and geriatric practices.

Herms noted that the test is not a preventative one, but is proactive. The first time the test is done, it measures the person compared to others in their age group, she explained. The first test can be considered a baseline where patients are compared to others, and later, the test compares them against themselves. “There are cases where there are major changes in telomeres. If telomeres shorten rapidly, it raises the question why,” she added.

According to Herms, there are three responses to the information provided by testing:

• First Group: High telomere attrition rate may be attributed to smoking, overweight, not exercising or lifestyle change.

• Second Group: Patients are doing everything right and telomeres are good.

• Third Group: Patients are doing the right things, but their telomeres are shorter than expected. The patient may be living a healthy lifestyle, but may have a micronutrient deficiency.

SpectraCell’s micronutrient testing is even more exciting for anti-aging, said Herms. “This test is much more mainstream. A doctor will see a patient, correct a deficiency and see results.” 

Traditional serum tests, done by companies such as Lab Corp or Quest Diagnostics, don’t check absorption by cells, Herms noted. Rather, they check the static level of certain nutrients in blood, and assume everyone needs the same amount of the nutrient.

Spectra Cell’s long-term nutritional test is done on white blood cells and is cumulative. Started in the early 1990s, the micronutrient test is SpectraCell’s flagship test. “It’s a great diagnostic tool. It’s very curative as opposed to palliative,”Herms added.

So can telomere length be repaired? Yes, said Herms, who explained that the rate of telomere attrition can be slowed by a healthier lifestyle, but there are only few things that can actually lengthen telomeres. The main one, she said, is exercise.

Eating Well

Dr. Eudene Harry, MD, offers these suggestions for turning food into an ally:

• Ensure that the diet contains the deep colored vegetables, fruits and berries. This can confer benefits from helping to lower cholesterol, improve blood pressure, decrease risk of heart disease and cancer, and increase the body’s ability to detoxify to helping to maintain healthy joints and fight infection.

• Include protein with each meal. It leads to early satiety and more steady glucose absorption. The Institute of Medicine recommends protein comprises about 10 to 35 percent of the diet. Protein sources, such as beans and nuts, have the added benefit of providing high fiber content, which is also useful in helping to maintain healthier cholesterol and glucose levels.

• Eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish such as salmon and sardines) and isoflavanoids (found in soy and flaxseed) can decrease inflammation and risk of cancer, and improve cardiac risk factors.

• Caloric restriction has been shown in studies to be a definitive way to decrease mortality and delay onset on chronic illness.