Can We Extend Life?
“You can't help getting older, but you don't have to get old.”
Can we really extend life - "life extension" as the Americans say?
"It is not a question of adding years to life, but of life to years"
Answering this question requires putting it into perspective, making it explicit. If by extension of life one refers to living well beyond our genetic potential, the answer is no. No, we cannot increase the maximum length of life. Let me explain.
The aging process is inevitable. Indeed, starting at about 35 years the body disassembles (catabolism) more easily and it doesn’t repair (anabolism) as well. We're going to grow old whether we want to or not, it's a fact.
A new study published in October 2016 in the prestigious journal Nature stresses that the maximum age at which we can live seems to be 115 years, 125 in the most exceptional cases. No index entries were found. <<what is meant by this?>>
If, on the other hand, by life extension one refers to the fact that we can live much longer than we actually do and with an increased quality of life, the answer is yes. Indeed, most North Americans do not live as long as they could, regardless of their genetic potential. The vast majority of our fellow citizens die before their time.
Three factors affect this process called aging. The first is our genetics. Genes regulate various biochemical and physiological functions. Our genetics control how the body reacts to the various environmental factors we face. To paraphrase American biochemist Jeffrey Bland, "Research over the last ten years has shown us that our genes are very rarely programmed to produce a disease. Rather, genes contain information that dictate how the physiology of an individual will respond to specific environmental factors and then translate this information into illness or health."
Genetically, we have certain strengths and weaknesses. But apart from some rare purely genetic diseases, our genetics do not determine whether we are going to have a particular disease, only if we are more at risk of having it. A house made of paper-mache is more at risk of burning than a stone house. Nevertheless, if we remove from it anything that can cause a fire, it will not burn.
Our genetics work the same way, they are a "weakness" that will not necessarily be exploited. It goes without saying that if you know your genetics are fragile in certain ways, you must take this into account when managing your health.
Since our genetics do not change, what interests us here are the other two factors, anabolism and catabolism. Simplified to excess, growth as well as aging are the result of the imbalance between anabolism and catabolism. Anabolism is the production of new cells, whereas catabolism is the destruction that takes place with the aim of producing energy. In biochemistry, these two concepts, which form what is called metabolism, are much more complex. But, for the purpose of this article, let us keep to the simplest purified concept: anabolism is the formation of new tissues and catabolism is their destruction. Anabolism and catabolism are part of the process called metabolism.
In a normal child, more cells are being produced (anabolism) than destroyed (catabolism). Therefore, there is growth. By the age of 18 years, anabolism and catabolism balance and remain that way until about 35 years. There is no longer any general growth in stature, although muscular growth may continue. Starting at about 35 years, the process of cell destruction (catabolism) surpasses the production of new cells (anabolism), thus the body ages. This process is encoded in our genes and is irreversible.
So if it’s irreversible, what can we do about it?
The basic process is irreversible because it is regulated by our genes. On the other hand, in most cases our anabolism is slower than it could be and our catabolism is too fast. Let me give you two examples. Let us compare anabolism to building a house. To build a house, you need a plan (your genetics) and materials (nutrients). Despite the best plans, if the materials are of inferior quality, say, cardboard beams rather than metal and walls of papier-mache rather than brick, the house will not be solid and it will not be able to resist bad weather. No matter what our genetics, the quality of the building materials we give the body will have a major impact on the quality of its construction or repair.
Let us now take the analogy of a fire to show the concept of catabolism. When I make a fire, the materials I burn are used to produce energy. These are destroyed at a certain rate when they burn. If I add gasoline, they will burn more quickly. The same goes for catabolism. We can unknowingly accelerate the speed of the process, thus accelerating the speed of aging.
Quality of construction and repair.
In order to slow the aging process, it is necessary to provide the body with the elements it needs to repair itself. More and more studies are showing that as we age, we need more nutrients. This situation is true with regard to proteins as well as vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, as we get older we are more vulnerable to poor nutrition. Indeed, epidemiological studies point out that aging people eat less -and they generally eat less well.
Therefore, if we do not want to age prematurely, it is essential that we feed ourselves properly - both qualitatively and quantitatively.
Here are some simple tips.
|What to eat||Notes|
Eat foods high in protein at every meal (dairy, legumes, nuts, eggs, fish, meat, poultry). At least 25% of each meal should consist of protein foods.
Avoid milk. If you are not lactose-intolerant, opt for cheese and yogurt, but avoid milk.
Where possible, opt for organic plant proteins and animal proteins derived from organically-fed animals.
Quality protein powders can be used as a supplemental protein source when we are unable to consume enough protein-rich foods. They will often be needed during intensive training programs.
Eat orange, red and green vegetables for lunch and dinner. These can be eaten raw, cooked or juiced.
Opt for organic vegetables. Fresh vegetables are better, but frozen vegetables can be substituted when fresh vegetables are not available or when the situation makes the use of frozen vegetables more convenient.
Despite the fact that they should not replace vegetables in the diet, the various mixtures of green superfoods can compensate for inadequate vegetable consumption.
Whole grains (whole wheat, spelt, kamut, corn, millet, barley, buckwheat, brown rice and rye).
Never consume more grains than protein at one meal.
Snack on fresh or dried fruit. Avoid fruit juices, their sugar concentration is too high.
Always eat fruit with a concentrated protein such as dairy or nuts.
If you must sweeten your food, opt for natural sugars such as fruit compote, raw sugar, maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar or natural sweeteners such as stevia or xylitol.
Reduce your daily sugar intake. Reserve sweets for special occasions.
Drink at least 1 ½ to 2 liters of pure water daily.
Opt for filtered water
Take a daily multi-vitamin supplement or eat "superfoods".
See dosage suggestions below.
Guide to additional vitamins and minerals
The following table gives a general idea of the dosage of additional nutrients that would be useful to take as a preventive measure. It goes without saying that these doses are, in my opinion, the minimum we should take to counteract the effects of aging. Note that these are minimum doses for a person who is eating well.
Although certain formulas of multi-vitamins and minerals provide the majority of these nutrients, it will probably be necessary to improve the doses with a supplement of calcium and magnesium.
|Biotin||20 μg http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/glossary#AI|
|Folic acid||400 μg|
|Niacinamide (B3)||50 mg|
|Panteothenic acid (B5)||25 mg|
|Vitamin A||5,000 UI|
|Vitamin B6||15 mg|
|Vitamin B12||50 μg|
|Vitamin C||250 mg|
|Vitamin D||400 UI|
|Vitamin E||100 UI|
Mg = milligram
Ug = microgram
Some will rightly point out that the recommended amount of some antioxidants is low. This is true, but what I am suggesting here is the minimum. It would probably be wise to write a comprehensive article on free radicals and antioxidants. I have also noticed other supplements which are well documented for their "anti-aging" effect, such as probiotics, N-acetyl-cysteine, alpha-lipoic acid and aged garlic. This list is simple, offering suggestions for the minimum amount of vitamins and minerals needed.
If it is important to give the body what it needs to repair itself, it is also important to minimize the damage. Indeed, since our bodies are damaged more quickly as we age, it is all the more important to minimize the factors that can aggravate or accelerate this degeneration.
Since there are a large number of chemicals that we cannot control, we must minimize those that are controllable.
According to the World Health Organization, the decline in air quality in urban centers has increased the risk of cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and acute and chronic respiratory diseases, including asthma. And it is not only cities in developing countries which have this problem. Indeed, even though the air of cities such as Montreal is generally not as polluted as that of Beijing, it comes close. For example, in May 2016, the air in the city of Montreal was more polluted than that of Beijing.
In an environmental study including more than 200 pregnant women, tests detected the presence of perchlorate, a chemical derived from rocket fuel, in 100% of subjects. These substances are ubiquitous in the environment. Where do these perchlorates come from? They are present in low concentrations in nature, but their concentration has increased greatly in recent years as they are now being used in chemical fertilizers, inflatable airbags and solid fuels.
Tap water is no better! You may recall that the town of Flint, Michigan (USA) had very high levels of lead in their water. This situation made headlines for several weeks. According to Michèle Prévost, a professor at the Polytechnique de Montréal and holder of the chair for industrial potable water, "The levels of lead measured in certain post-war homes in Montreal are higher than those in the sector considered as having a high concentration of lead in Flint, Michigan." The problem is not limited to lead in the water. Indeed, analysis of tap water in several Canadian cities, including Montreal, shows traces of analgesics, hormones and other drugs.
We could also address the presence of xenoestrogens in water, foods and various types of food containers. These substances are known to disrupt the endocrine balance and have demonstrated carcinogenic effects, especially with regard to breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.
Given this increased presence of environmental chemicals, it is essential to minimize their presence in our environment. In the following table, I suggest some habits to develop to reduce this "chemical burden" on the body. It goes without saying that we can not necessarily adopt all these changes at the same time. But any reduction will have a positive effect.
|Habitudes à adopter|
|If you live in a large city or live close to polluting industries, use a HEPA air filter with ionizer in your bedroom. Since the majority of people spend almost a third of the day in this room, it is the ideal place to improve air quality by reducing the presence of particulate pollutants. It goes without saying that a filter can also be used in the office or in the workshop.|
|Eat organic foods as much as possible to minimize the intake of various chemicals used in fungicides, herbicides and insecticides. Do not forget that both animal and plant products are available from organic sources.|
|Drink pure, filtered or spring water. Avoid unfiltered tap water. When possible, avoid water in plastic bottles. The exception would be recycled 18-liter bottles used in chillers, etc. There are excellent filtering systems using reverse osmosis and distillation. We also have available various filters such as Santevia, Aquaovo, Brita, Pure, etc ...|
|Use natural body care products which are free from the various chemical additives often used in more "standard" products as much as possible.|
|Minimize the use of cleaning products with perfumes and dyes. Opt for homemade cleaning products and natural laundry soaps whenever possible.|
|Avoid cooking, heating or reheating beverages or foods in plastic containers. Opt for stainless steel, glass or enamel containers.|
Various detoxification "cures" can help reduce the accumulated chemical burden. Several articles published in Vitalité Québec have stressed the importance of this type of cure. I'll let you consult them.
A growing number of studies stress the importance of exercise, and especially resistance exercise, in maintaining optimum health in older people. However, even though these studies show that regular exercise reduces the risk of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, new studies point out that resistance exercise even improves the cognitive capacity of seniors. If you decide to start a resistance exercise program, consider the following:
Ideally, you should consult a health professional if you are just starting your fitness program.
Since the body is damaged more quickly and is repaired more slowly as we age, it is best to do two or three sessions of exercise a week to allow the body time to "rest" on days we don’t exercise. Studies have shown that resistance training, whether it be with weights, bodyweight, machines, or elastic bands, once or twice a week can benefit older people as much as training three times per week.
Since they are more prone to damage the body, avoid exercises that significantly affect the joints.
If you are just starting out with resistance exercise, do not train with a trainer and are just getting back into shape, use elastic bands as a source of resistance. They offer several advantages for beginners. The investment is minimal - a set of elastic bands with handles can cost from $30 to $60. With this, it is possible to do dozens of exercises. They are extremely safe and take up very little space. I have three elastic bands at my desk that provide from 20 to 80 pounds of resistance and they don’t take up any more space than my laptop. They have been proven to be as effective as weights or machines during the first few months of training in people with little or no resistance exercise experience.
Whatever form of resistance exercise you are comfortable with, just do it!
We cannot stop the aging process, but in the vast majority of cases, we can slow it down. In addition, we can increase our chances of "dying healthy" rather than going through years as an invalid. To achieve this, we must ensure an optimal supply of materials to repair the body such as proteins, vitamins and minerals. It is also necessary to reduce, as much as possible, the absorption of chemicals that can accelerate aging. I hope this short reflection will help you in your approach towards optimal health.