As I mentioned in the last issue of this newsletter, Life Extension magazine (Volume nine/Number six) ran a cover story titled "The Most Significant Anti-Aging Discovery in Medical History." The essence of the article was that regular use of the prescription drug metformin (commonly sold as Glucophage), can mimic the life-extension effects of a calorie restricted diet with minimal side effects (unless you consider the occasional death from lactic acidosis as more than minimal). I also mentioned that while it was most likely true, it is less than it seems. Let's explore this issue in more detail.
As it turns out, there are actually many ways to turn back the clock on selected aspects of aging. For example:
- L-carnosine supplementation can slow down cell senescence and reverse protein glycation - both significant factors in the onset of aging.
- Human Growth Hormone (HGH) injections (and to a lesser extent, HGH secretagogues) can help "regrow" organs such as the heart, liver, and spleen that normally shrink with age. (See Lessons from the Miracle Doctors, Chapter 10)
- Raising DHEA and testosterone levels likewise can reverse many of the signs of aging - increasing muscle mass and improving skin, etc. (See Lessons from the Miracle Doctors, Chapter 10)
But of all the things one can do to increase longevity, only one has been proven to actually extend life across the board: caloric restriction (CR). Caloric restriction is the only means of retarding aging that is both well-researched and proven. (Note: CR is not the same as dieting or starvation. It entails the reduction of caloric intake while maintaining the optimal intake of essential nutrients, especially vitamins and minerals.)
Caloric Restriction (CR)
What effects does CR have on the body that extend life? It appears that its effects are threefold:
- Lowers body temperature
- Raises DHEA levels
- Lowers plasma insulin levels.
Interestingly enough, lowering plasma insulin levels also tends to lower body temperature and increase DHEA levels, indicating that insulin may be a prime factor in the aging process. And in fact, this was supported by studies that showed that the glucoregulatory agent, metformin, might be just as effect as CR in reversing aging and rejuvenating the elderly -- thereby resulting in Life Extension's article indicating that regular use of metformin might be the "Most Significant Anti-Aging Discovery in Medical History."
So what's the reality about aging?
- First, although, as far as drugs go, metformin is relatively benign, it is not totally without side effects. It occasionally causes death from lactic acidosis, for example, which is not insignificant for those who die.
- But more importantly, it is quite likely that some minor changes in lifestyle and the use of natural supplements can offer the same benefits with no negative side effects and at less cost.
Okay, so how do I extend life?
- Cut way back on your use of refined carbohydrates. In Lessons from the Miracle Doctors (Chpater 6), I call refined carbs the number two killer in the diet. It now seems they may rank as the number one controllable aging factor. If you find that you are actually addicted to grains and sugars and can't cut back, you might want to check out Dr. Joseph Mercola's new book, The No-Grain Diet, which will provide a pathway for cutting back on your grains and sugars.. Bottom line, move your diet away from refined grains and sugars to one that consists of complex carbohydrates found in most vegetables (but not potatoes), proteins, and natural fats (avoiding refined oils and hydrogenated oils). Fresh fruits are okay in moderation, but absolutely unacceptable in processed form (as found in pastries and jellies, etc.) and unacceptable as found in bottled juices.
- Do a fresh vegetable juice fast one or two days a week. I have always recommended doing just that for it's health benefits in cleaning out the body, but as it turns out, it also has significant longevity benefits. As Life Extension points out, "Studies have shown that rodents fed all they can eat, but fasted every two, three or four days, also have an increase in longevity, though the increase isn't quite as great as that of rodents on the standard kind of calorie restriction."
- Use natural glucoregulatory herbs with your meals. These include herbs such as:
- Nopal cactus
- Konjac mannan
- Gymnema sylvestre
- High galactomannan fenugreek extract
- Banaba leaf extract
- Bittermellon extract
- Blueberry leaf extract
The use of these herbal extracts will significantly reduce the amount of simple carbs your body absorbs, and minimize the insulin response from those that get through. In effect, they will mimic the effect of metformin, without the side effects.
One final note. It's never too late to start. Studies have shown that CR is just as effective in extending life span late in life as it is early in life. In fact, many of the major benefits can be received in as little as four weeks on the program.