Healthy longevity is no longer a science fiction idea; it’s already happening. Key areas that are hot right now are cellular senescence, telomere shortening and microbiome depletion. Here’s why.
There’s a conundrum we all face – nobody wants to grow “old, wrinkled and infirm,” but nobody wants the alternative to aging. If there is one thing that all your clients/patients can agree on, it is that they would like healthy aging.
A great example exists in celebrity mom Jackie Stallone, whose sons became entertainers. The younger, Frank, who is 67 and celebrating 53 years as a musician and actor said, “Mom is loving life at age 97. She’s still doing Pilates every day.”
But, what exactly “is” aging? Expert opinions—and yours—can go a long way to helping your clients and patients understand their unique physiologies, and to craft lifestyle protocols that best serve them as years fly by. First, the World Health Organization defines healthy aging as “the process of developing and maintaining functional ability that enables well-being in older age.”
“Aging is generally defined as a decline in physiological function and decrease in ability to reproduce,” said New York-based naturopathic physician Dr. Serena Goldstein. As one example, as sex hormones decline in humans, stereotypical features of both men and women tend to become more androgynous. Physiological aging, such as mutated DNA (which contributes to creating ailments like heart disease and cancer), is only one aspect, as psychological health (e.g. how happy/satisfied) can also influence our physiological age. Healthy aging, she explained, means that “people can meet their basic needs, continue to grow and make decisions, be mobile, build and maintain relationships and contribute to society.”
The Cellular Factor
Dr. Vincent Giampapa, MD, FACS, chief medical officer, Healthycell of New Jersey, believes that aging is the deterioration of cell health over time that affects all organ systems and behavior. “Aging is the most common cause of all diseases as we grow older,” he stated.
More precisely, according to Dr. Giampapa, cell deterioration and lack of cellular repair at a rate that can keep up with the damage contributes significantly to aging. Chronic cell deterioration is due to the 21st century lifestyle.
What can help slow down cellular deterioration, he said, is supplementing with the basic vitamins and minerals, employing healthy stress management, consuming a proper diet and key phytonutrients that impact specific aspects of cellular health and function, exercising, and positively altering gene expression to protect from cell damage and support the cellular pathways that are involved most directly with aging—such as maintaining DNA repair at its optimal rate while limiting DNA damage, and decreasing inflammation at both the cellular and total body level.
“Age reversal is improving cell health, reflecting a profile of younger cells,” Dr. Giampapa added. “This requires everything above and involves stem cell restoration, stem cell banking, and maintenance and extension of telomere length to allow for more cell copies.”
In the cellular health/stem cell sector, according to Dr. Giampapa, there are seven recent research findings he finds exciting:
• The ability to restore our stem cell number through collection and infusion of all three stem cell types.
• The ability to decrease the number of senescent cells in our body as we age.
• The ability to decrease the formation of senescent cells as we age by inhibiting Mtor, the gene responsible.
• The ability to extend and maintain telomere length.
• The ability to reprogram the genes in old stem cells that have been collected and stored to act like younger stem cells to increase our cellular repair mechanisms.
• The ability to augment ATP production in the mitiochondria of cells to produce more energy and maintain cell function at a more youthful level.
Healthycell Pro is a nutrition system formulated to optimize viability of cells. The morning and evening formulas are designed to infuse cells with more than 90 nutrients 24 hours a day, which helps improve energy, sleep, DNA repair, and other physiological functions. Specifically, Dr. Giampapa explained, Healthycell Pro contains plant-derived phytonutrients that target specific gene function that impact key aspects of cellular health, including telomere length, DNA repair, mitochondrial health, cell regulation and stem cell health.
“Our cells experience over one million DNA damage events a day,” he emphasized. “This means they are constantly deteriorating. Since the ingredients target cellular pathways and the genes that regulate them, Healthycell Pro can really be thought of as the first epigenetic formula for cell health. Healthier cells can prevent and repair damage more effectively in both our body cells and our stem cells, resulting in an experiential effect in how we function and actually feel on a daily basis.”
Robert Kachko, ND, LAc, of InnerSource Health (New York and Connecticut) who serves as board of director member and chair of the public education and media affairs for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), explained that based on a combination of genetics (found from a thorough family history, and also in part through genomic testing) and lifestyle choices, modern humans can become susceptible to a variety of disorders. “Telomere length and other surrogate markers, such as those for inflammation (serum CRP, ESR, fibrinogen, omega-3 index, etc.) and oxidative stress leading to DNA damage (one such test is the 8-OH dG test) can provide an assessment of potential longevity.”
He explained that the telomere is the part of DNA that protects it from damage, and each time cells divide, telomeres shorten. While this is necessary to protect from uncontrolled cell growth—eg, cancer—longer telomeres are associated with a longer life. “Anything we can do to lengthen them while maintaining normal cell cycle control will increase one’s chances for a long and healthy life,” he commented.
Telomere length is a factor your clients and patients may have heard of, and there’s good news in the sense, said Dr. Kachko, that telomere length is almost purely connected with diet. In fact, he cited, one part of the Nurses’ Health Study, which has been tracking the health of 121,000 nurses since 1976, investigated how consuming the Mediterranean diet affects telomere length. The researchers found that when they measured the telomere length of white blood cells in these nurses, those who ate a Mediterranean diet were more likely to have longer telomeres.
Ryan Sensenbrenner, director of marketing for Florida-based Enzyme Science agreed, opining, “One of the most significant research findings is in the field of telomeres, and the enzyme telomerase, which acts like a light switch, turning on and off and helping to lengthen telomeres.”
While telomerase is not available as a dietary supplement, he said, there are products on the market that help activate it – such as Enzyme Science’s Telomere Pro, which Sensenbrenner was studied at the Roskamp Institute, who published a paper on its results.
There’s another interpretation that Jamie Morea, co-founder of Hyperbiotics finds to be significant in the difference between healthy aging and poor aging. The microbiome and healthy aging, Morea believes, means maintaining a healthy bacterial diversity. During infancy, the microbiota contains high levels of health-promoting Bifidobacteria strains that naturally decline as we age. At around age 50, though, the microbiota composition “is meant to begin a shift back to that Bifidobacteria-rich, anti-aging environment that supports everything from improved bone and joint health and better memory recall, to healthy digestion and reduced bouts of temporary inflammation,” she said. The challenge with this accomplishment is years of poor diet typically heavy in processed, nutrient- and probiotic-stripped foods, plus stress, which deplete colonies of good bacteria that are not replenished.
The clarified link between a healthy gut microbiome and healthy aging has been one of the most significant findings in recent medical research, according to many, and Morea agrees. “In one of the largest human microbiome studies to date, researchers discovered that the gut microbiomes of ‘ridiculously healthy’ people aged 90 and up were remarkably similar in composition to those of healthy subjects in their early 30s,” she reported.
An elderly individual typically has a depleted and imbalanced microbiome characterized by a lack of microbial diversity (which is crucial for excellent health), so, said Morea, these findings have truly powerful implications: “The study results suggest that not only can microbial diversity be used as a biomarker of healthy aging, but that resetting an elderly person’s microbiome to that of a much younger person can be an important factor in promoting health through the years,” she commented. “Other studies corroborate the findings,” she emphasized, “proving that longevity is associated with gut health and the composition of the microbiome.
Hyperbiotics’ PRO-Bifido is a formula that provides targeted probiotic support, marketed for adults ages 50 and up. Using a proprietary blend of the top five Bifidobacteria strains and two strains of Lactobacillus, PRO-Bifido, Morea explained, supports bone and joint health, promotes emotional and mental well-being, helps regulate weight and metabolism, supports colon and digestive health, and fortifies the immune system.”
Hyperbiotics also offers companion organic Prebiotic Powder, made from three food-based sources of prebiotic fiber to nourish and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, thereby serving as “a powerful ally in supporting and maintaining the microbial diversity and balance that is so critical to healthy aging,” Morea described.
Sensenbrenner added that supporting healthy gut function also means supporting healthy digestion. “Supplementing with a digestive enzyme product, like Critical Digestion, can be a good step for bringing balance to occasional digestive distress,” he explained.
Certain populations are known for longevity and having very low rates of specific diseases that epidemiological studies have linked dietary habits. For example, Eskimo populations never had a word for “heart disease” because their omega-3 EFA consumption was so high; also, populations consuming a Mediterranean diet since childhood exhibited healthy cardiovascular and other factors.
In Dr. Goldstein’s practice, many older individuals want to lose weight and get off their medications to enjoy a good quality of life with grandkids, travel, and to overall enjoy life mentally and physically. Many inquire about the most suitable supplements for common concerns, ranging from reflux and cardiovascular disease, thyroid conditions, hormonal concerns and even a healthy sex life.
“I explain that what has been going on for decades is not going to be changed overnight,” she related. “Fortunately, many of these are lifestyle based, and with nutritional and lifestyle changes, with supplements to help (not replace an unhealthy lifestyle), there may not be need for medications.” She considers family and past medical history for certain risk factors and assesses if potential genetic testing needs to be done (e.g. heart disease and anxiety/depression are key points for cheek swabs for MTHFR), as well as tightening lab ranges for basic blood work, and suggesting the addition of several markers to make it more thorough (e.g. commonly TSH is only tested for thyroid, yet free T3 and free T4 give a clearer picture of thyroid health).
Aging is inevitable, and through lifestyle modifications, and the correct supplementation, plus encouraging your older clients and patients to work with you regularly, you may help them enjoy a relatively active, healthy and vibrant longevity.
Healthy Take Aways
• The World Health Organization defines healthy aging as “the process of developing and maintaining functional ability that enables well-being in older age.”
• Cell deterioration and lack of cellular repair at a rate that can keep up with the damage contributes significantly to aging.
• Our cells experience more than one million DNA damage events a day.
• The telomere is the part of DNA that protects it from damage, and each time cells divide, telomeres shorten.
• Researchers found that when they measured the telomere length of white blood cells in these nurses, those who ate a Mediterranean diet were more likely to have longer telomeres.
• An elderly individual typically has a depleted and imbalanced microbiome characterized by a lack of microbial diversity.
For More Information:
• Enzyme Science, www.enzymedica.com
• Healthy Cell, www.healthycell.com
• Hyperbiotics, www.hyperbiotics.com