"The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease."
- Thomas Edison
The Nature of Aging, Part 1
Before We Begin
Two amazing surveys were published in December -- surveys that absolutely seem to contradict each other and that demonstrate an astounding disconnect concerning the safety of pharmaceutical drugs.
- The first was a survey of FDA scientists conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services. According to the survey (which was released only as a result of the Freedom of Information Act) two-thirds of Food and Drug Administration scientists surveyed two years ago lacked confidence that the FDA adequately monitors the safety of prescription drugs. And 18% of the almost 400 respondents said they had been pressured to approve or recommend a drug despite reservations about its safety, effectiveness or quality.
- Now contrast that with the AP poll results released just one week later that concluded that 8 in 10 Americans are confident about the safety of prescription drugs sold in the United States.
Whee! Considering the horrible last quarter the pharmaceutical industry had in 2004, what with Vioxx, Celebrex, and most recently Aleve (indications are that Aleve can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke by some 50%), you would have thought the results would be totally opposite. Go figure. But then again, we saw evidence of that same disconnect in some of the letters we received at the Foundation in the last couple of weeks.
We had several people write in after our last issue concerning Celebrex and the increased risk of heart attacks and ask, "What's the big deal? If the risk without the drug is 1 in 10 million, and the risk with the drug is 3 in 10 million, the increase is 300%, but why worry about it?"
The problem is that we're not talking about 1 in 10 million. We're talking about the single leading cause of death in the industrialized world -- heart disease -- responsible for over 3/4 of a million deaths every year in the US alone. Increasing your chances of dying from a heart attack by 300% is actually a very, very big deal. For the public to lag behind FDA scientists in questioning the safety of prescription drugs is astounding.
Now please don't misunderstand me. There is indeed a role for drugs in health care -- but it is far more limited than what we've seen over the last quarter century. And certainly far, far more limited than we've seen since prescription drugs were allowed to advertise on TV.
And the really frightening thing is that even as drug after drug after drug is being pulled from the market, or being forced to change its warning label to address new safety concerns, and even as many scientists whose job it is to regulate these drugs are losing confidence in the very system they work under, the bureaucrats of the world (with the financial encouragement of the pharmaceutical industry), are pushing ahead with plans (Codex Alimentarius, the EU Supplement Law Prohibition Clause, etc.) to further limit access to far safer and more effective alternative health programs and increase our dependence on those very drugs that now appear with increasing frequency in the news. And the general public is enthusiastic about it.
As the Wicked Witch of the West said so eloquently, "What a world! What a world!"
The Nature of Aging
Probably no other area in alternative health is more subject to over-promising and under-delivering than anti-aging. We're talking about every magic bullet under the sun from face cremes to human growth hormone supplements. And what with the baby boomer generation now approaching the age where immortality no longer looks like a birthright, the market is exploding exponentially.
Ah, if only it were that simple! But alas, it isn't. Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet.
The simple fact is that aging is not the result of any one single factor, but is the cumulative result of a number of factors, including:
- Cell senescence, or the aging of cells
- Diminished telomerase activity
- Protein degradation
- Advanced Glycation End Products
- Excess sugar activity
- Progressive systemic inflammation
- Progressive dehydration
- Accumulated toxic build-up in organ tissue
- Reduced circulation
- Reduced cellular energy production
- Changes in hormone levels and hormone balance
- Impeded energy flows in the body
- Excessive body weight
- And, of course, good old wear and tear
The above list is hardly complete. We could add stress or the accumulation of free radicals in the body or the results of cumulative poor nutrition, etc. The key here is not to identify every single factor (an impossible task), but to understand that if you want to slow the aging process, you have to look at more than a magic bullet approach involving one or two supplements. The only way to maximize health and lifespan is to use a Baseline of Health type whole-body systemic approach. In other words, you need to do everything all at once.
And that's actually good news. While there may not be a single magic bullet you can take, there are definitely a series of steps that you can implement that will help retard the aging process and keep you more youthful and more energized for longer than you ever thought possible.
Over the next several issues, we are going to discuss some of the key aging factors in detail and talk about what you can do to slow them down, or in some cases, even reverse them. In the meantime, for those of you joining us in the Liver Detox, it's probably worth mentioning that you're going to be addressing a number of aging factors over the next week.
- Rebuilding liver function
- Losing weight
- Flushing toxins
- Reducing caloric intake
- Improving circulation
- Improving blood quality
Incidentally, some 240 participants from 26 different countries are joining in. This really is starting to become quite the little event.
And for those of you not joining us in the detox, I really recommend that you do a 1-3 day juice fast sometime in the next week or two. Do something to break some of the bad eating habits that you may have acquired over the holiday season. It's almost as if you get on a roll with bad eating in November and December. And even though the holidays are now over, it's hard to stop. A short juice fast can be just the ticket to break that momentum and stop some of those bad eating habits long enough for you to reassert your self-control -- at least until the next holiday, vacation, period of stress....or whatever.
The Nature of Aging, Part 2
The Categories of Aging
In our last issue, we stated our premise that aging is not the result of any one single factor, but is the cumulative result of a number of factors. The upshot was that if that were true, looking for a magic bullet to make us "eternally young" was pretty much a non-starter. With this issue, we're going to begin taking on some of those aging factors we touched on last issue and talk a little about what we can do to slow down and, in some cases, even reverse them.
But first, we need to separate the aging factors into three distinct categories. This is important because the three categories give us clues as to how to handle the factors contained within them. The three "primary" categories that affect how we age are:
- The things we do to ourselves and which are easily correctable (relatively speaking)
- The micro level factors programmed into our very cells, which until a few years ago seemed impossible to change
- The macro level factors programmed into our body as we age such as hormonal changes, many of which can indeed be modified
In a moment we're going to begin discussing these categories in a little more detail. But before we begin, there's one more important concept that must be understood. Biologically speaking (genetically speaking, that is), aging and death have a purpose.
The Purpose of Aging and Death
Although it may not seem so from an egocentric point of view, aging and death are good things for the species. The concept is simple -- adaptation and evolution. It's the reason that so many people who live in Sweden, for example, are blond and fair skinned and so many people who live in Africa are dark skinned.
In order to ensure the survival of the species, nature selects those traits most useful for the survival of a species in a particular environment and passes them on to the next generation -- evolving over time so that the species becomes more and more capable of surviving in its environment. Light complexions in areas where sun is in short supply and dark complexions where the sun is overabundant is just one example.
Okay, that part makes sense, but why do "we" have to die after passing on our genetic information? How does that advance the genetic cause? Would it spoil some vast eternal plan if we could hang around and watch the genetic parade march on by? And the answer, from a genetic point of view, is quite simple. If the older generation didn't die off, it wouldn't allow the species to advance because the older generations would continue to procreate and advance the "older" gene pool generation after generation. It's only by eliminating the older gene pool that the species advances.
How Nature Ages Us and Kills Us Off
In order to accomplish its purpose, nature has programmed our bodies with certain time bombs.
- For example, at the micro level nature allows our cells to replicate only so many times before the cells become non-functional and die off.
- Nature programs certain macro level changes into our bodies so that once our "biological" usefulness has been fulfilled, aging is accelerated. Menopause is a prime example.
The benefits of this process of the old dying off and being replaced by the new is not just reserved for the next generation. Although it may not seem so, it provides immediate benefits for us too. We can see it at work in our bones for example. Our bones grow when older generations of bone cells die off and are replaced by new cells. Without this mechanism, we wouldn't be able to repair broken bones. If all we had were one set of immortal cells, we wouldn't be able to repair breaks.
Actually, there was a cute movie based on this premise called Death Becomes Her in which Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep are immortal. They cannot die, and the cells in their bodies cannot die. But without death and replacement, there is no mechanism for repairing damage. So, by the end of the film, although they are both alive, their bodies have suffered ghoulish comic damage. The bottom line is that this whole mechanism of death and replacement works. And if it weren't such a personal issue when we ourselves die, we'd all be pleased with the process.
It's worth noting that the only "immortal" cells in our bodies are aberrant cancer cells.
Isn't It Tampering with Nature?
A number of people have suggested to me that trying to change this process is contrary to the laws of nature and shouldn't be attempted. I don't think so.
I would like to submit to you an opposing "genetic" point of view. If the purpose of the whole process is to advance the species, then with man we have a new element. No other species relies on its brain, on "thinking" if you will, for its edge in the world. That means that other species advance strictly by improving their gene pool in terms of physical adaptation. But humans advance not just according to physical traits, but according to what they know and how they think. (If that were not true, then why are so many computer nerds now moving to the top of the gene pool?) That means that knowledge and experience are becoming far more important for the survival of mankind than for any other species. Books and computers can capture the knowledge of an individual, but not their experience. The longer we can hold onto that experience, the greater our species' chances of survival.
And I believe that nature supports this premise. As our knowledge grows, we are now learning that we can indeed manipulate and alter some of the limiting factors that nature built into the "early prototypes" of our bodies. In a sense, at the point knowledge has become fundamental to our survival, nature is allowing us to view and alter some of her previously hidden secrets.
And with that in mind, let's start talking about some of those things we've learned.
The Things We Do to Ourselves
These, of course, are the easiest things to modify.
The Immune System
One of the major causes of death in the elderly is the collapse of the immune system as we age. This makes us susceptible to everything from pneumonia to cancer. Some of this is inevitable, of course, but it is amazing how much of it can be prevented and even reversed. This has been covered in detail in previous newsletters so I don't need to cover the details here.
Chronic inflammation is a major aging factor and a primary contributor to premature death. It is implicated in everything from lung problems to chronic heart disease, and even cancer. There are a number of things we can do that help reduce inflammation far better and more safely than taking an aspirin every day. Probably the two most important are:
Every day we are exposed to over 100,000 "new" chemicals that have been released into the environment over the last 100 years. Many of them are chemical estrogens potent in amounts as small as a billionth of a gram. Cleansing those toxins out of our bodies with colon and liver detoxes and neutralizing estrogen imbalances in the body are essential for maximizing health and life span.
Circulation and energy flows
Proper circulation in the broad sense (blood, lymph, and energy) is essential for maximized life span.
Scientists now know that free radicals play a major role in the aging process as well as in the onset of cancer, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and possibly allergies and a host of other ailments. The link between free radicals and the "aging diseases" is one of the most important discoveries since doctors learned that some illnesses are caused by germs. The use of a full-spectrum antioxidant supplement at a maintenance level may provide the ultimate defense against the premature aging effects of free radicals. At therapeutic levels, antioxidants may actually play a significant role in reversing many of the effects of aging and disease.
Exercise and Wear and Tear
No one likes to hear this, but it's true. If you don't move, you die. Exercise fundamentally changes every system and function in your body. And the older you get, the more important it is -- and the more pronounced the benefits are.
- As reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, two 45-minute weight (strength) training sessions a week can improve bone density, muscle mass, strength, balance, and physical activity in older women (ages 50-70). After one year of strength training, women emerged physiologically younger by 15-20 years than when they began. Other studies have demonstrated the same results for men who weight train.
- People in their 70s and 80s can experience strength gains of as much as 180% in a matter of just a few weeks.
Understand, exercise includes weight bearing exercise, aerobic exercise, and the almost universally forgotten stretching exercise.
The operative words when it comes to exercise are balance and common sense. If you overdo it, the benefits start to reverse, and you're looking at long term disability from ligament and cartilage damage.
Diet and Nutrition
This is a big topic -- bigger than we can cover in this report. If you haven't already done so, you can download your free copy of Lessons from the Miracle Doctors at
www.jonbarron.org and read Chapters 6 and 7. The key thought to remember is that you can't build the same life expectancy into your body with pepperoni pizza, beer, and ding dongs that you can with healthy living food.
What You Think
And speaking of Miracle Doctors, one of the most important chapters in the book is also one of the most ignored. Everyone loves to read about detoxes and supplements, but most people skim right over Chapter 15, The Thought That Kills. What you think absolutely matters -- not just mentally, but physically. Stress and depression are major aging factors.
I don't really have to talk about this, do I? Smoking not only shortens your life, it makes you look older in the process.
Calories and Sugar
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.)
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 effective 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?
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.
- Cut way back on your intake of high glycemic foods. (This is the positive side of the low carb craze.)
- 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.
And with that, let's take a deep breath and call it quits for now. In the next issue, we'll talk about those things you can do at the cellular level to actually change some of those things that nature has programmed into your body to limit your lifespan and promote aging.
The Nature of Aging, Part 3
Before We Begin
Why we don't answer medical questions
Here at the Foundation, we regularly get questions from people asking for advice on how to handle specific medical conditions. As a rule, we cannot answer these questions for three reasons.
- First, we don't have the resources. We are now averaging 2,000 questions a month and climbing. (Our subscription list is growing daily with readers in over 80 countries including China, Iran, and Zimbabwe.)
- And then, of course, there are the obvious legal problems with diagnosing and prescribing over the internet.
But perhaps the most important reason of all is that it's impossible (remotely and based on email) to be sure we're getting all the necessary facts to be able to make an informed suggestion. I was reminded of this a couple of weeks ago when reading the story of Patrick Lawler who went to his dentist complaining of a toothache that he was unable to relieve (not unlike the kinds of things we frequently get queried on), only to discover that unbeknownst to him, while he was working on a construction project, a nail gun he had been using had backfired and driven a 4" nail through the roof of his mouth and into his brain.
If he had merely sent his dentist an email explaining his symptoms and asked him what to do for a toothache, I would guess that the odds were less than 50/50 that his dentist would have suggested getting an X-ray to see if he had a nail in his head.
As a side note, after surgery, Mr. Lawler is recovering nicely.
It's also probably worth noting that in this case, we would all have to agree that Mr. Lawler was indeed better off with a surgeon than an herbalist. Yes, I know this is hard for many in the alternative health community to admit but many times doctors are a better choice than alternative health practitioners. But then again, many times, particularly when it comes to catastrophic illness, they are not.
And that's why we don't advise for specific conditions over the phone or internet. But enough of that. Let's go to the topic at hand.
In our last issue, we discussed the things we do to ourselves that accelerate aging and which are easily correctable (relatively speaking). In this issue, we're going to discuss the micro level factors programmed into our very cells that promote aging -- those factors that until a few years ago seemed impossible to change. And to make life easy for myself, I'm going to borrow from a 1991 Barron Report that I revised recently titled The End of Old Age. (Yes, there's a bit of hyperbole in the title, but it doesn't diminish the importance of the content.)
Turning Back the Clock
I'm not a big believer in magic bullets. Everything I've ever learned says that you're only as strong as your weakest link. That's why I've always preached that the key to health is raising your entire Baseline of Health. But that said, I have to admit that what we're talking about here today is a uniquely important anti-aging discovery.
What Is Aging?
As we have already discussed in the first two parts of this series, there are actually many factors that contribute to old age (free radical damage, hormonal changes, environmental factors, etc.), but of all of the things that make us "old," two things stand out because until now, they have been so untouchable:
- The Hayflick Limit
The glycation of proteins
The Hayflick Limit
The Hayflick Limit is named after the person who discovered it almost 40 years ago. A quick description is that all cells have only a limited capacity to continue to divide through the course of our lives.
Those numbers are different for each type of cell in our body, and by early adulthood, half of those divisions have been used up. By mid-life, maybe only 20-39% of those divisions are left. At that point, old age starts taking over - then death.
This limited capacity of a cell to perpetuate itself is called the Hayflick Limit. In effect, the Hayflick Limit determines life span at the cellular level. With each division, a cell becomes less likely to divide again, until finally it stops dividing altogether and becomes what we call senescent.
Cell senescence is the final step before cell death. Senescent cells are still alive and metabolically active, but they're no longer capable of dividing. More importantly, though, senescent cells exhibit all of the characteristics that so bother us about old age, such as the difference between the supple skin of a child and the wrinkled skin of the elderly.
How does that happen?
As cells approach the Hayflick Limit, they divide less frequently and become aberrant. They take on wildly irregular forms. They no longer line up in parallel arrays; they assume a granular appearance, and deviate from their normal size and shape. This distorted appearance, called the senescent phenotype, is accompanied by a state of declining functionality that, UNTIL RECENTLY, was thought to be irreversible.
As it turns out, not only can we reverse the aging process at the cellular level now, and actually do it quite simply AND QUICKLY - but we can also reverse aging at the system level and the organ level. And for that matter, we can reverse it in terms of how we look and feel - and by that I mean our skin and hair and energy levels. And then, of course, we can even reverse it in terms of lifespan.
What's the Secret?
The substance I'm talking about is L-carnosine. It's a naturally occurring combination of two amino acids, alanine and histadine, that was discovered in Russia in the early 1900s. Because much of the research was done in Russia, it has been largely unavailable in the United States until recently. Now, though, there have been a number of studies and experiments in other parts of the world verifying everything done in Russia - and more.
Most notably, there were a series of astonishing experiments done in Australia that proved that carnosine rejuvenates cells as they approach senescence. Cells cultured with carnosine lived longer and retained their youthful appearance and growth patterns.
What's probably the most exciting result of the studies is that it was discovered that carnosine can actually REVERSE the signs of aging in senescent cells.
The Reversal of Aging
When the scientists transferred senescent cells to a culture medium containing carnosine, those cells exhibited a rejuvenated appearance and often an enhanced capacity to divide. When they transferred the cells back to a medium lacking carnosine, the signs of senescence quickly reappeared.
As they switched the cells back and forth several times between the culture media, they consistently observed that the carnosine medium restored the juvenile cell phenotype WITHIN DAYS, whereas the standard culture medium brought back the senescent cell phenotype.
Increased Cell Life
In addition, the carnosine medium increased cell life span -- even for old cells. When the researchers took old cells that had already gone through 55 divisions and transferred them to the carnosine medium, they survived up to 70 divisions, compared to only 57 to 61 divisions for the cells that were not transferred.
This represents an increase in the number of cell divisions for each cell of almost 25%.
But in terms of cell life, the increase was an astounding 300%. The cells transferred to the carnosine medium attained a life span of 413 days, compared to just 126 to 139 days for the control cells.
Increased Life Expectancy
This is mind-boggling. But so far, all we've talked about are cells. What does carnosine mean for actual life expectancy?
A new Russian study on mice has shown that mice given carnosine are twice as likely to reach their maximum lifespan as untreated mice. The carnosine also significantly reduced the outward "signs of old age."
In effect, it made the mice look younger. 44% of the carnosine treated mice had young, glossy coats in old age as opposed to only 5% in the untreated mice. This represents 900% better odds of looking young in old age.
Another important difference between the treated and the untreated mice was in their behavior. Only 9% of the untreated mice behaved youthfully in old age, versus 58% of the carnosine treated mice. That's a 600% improvement in how they felt.
Quite simply, carnosine is one of the most powerful antioxidants known. It's a great heavy-metal scavenger. It's a powerful auto-regulator. And it stands alone when it comes to preventing and reversing protein glycation or cross-linking.
Carnosine has the remarkable ability to throttle down bodily processes that are in a state of excess, and to ramp up those that are under expressed.
For example, carnosine thins the blood of people whose blood tends to clot too much and increases the clotting tendency in those with a low clotting index.
Another example is that carnosine suppresses excess immune responses in those who have "hyper" immune systems, whereas it stimulates the immune response in those with weakened immune systems - such as the aged.
And carnosine even seems to have the ability to normalize brain wave functions.
Glycation is the uncontrolled reaction of sugars with proteins. It's kind of like what happens to sugars when you heat them and they caramelize. In effect, glycation is what happens when excess sugars caramelize the proteins in your body. It's a major factor in the aging process - and it's particularly devastating to diabetics.
Your body is mostly made up of proteins. In fact, proteins are the substances most responsible for the daily functioning of your body. That's why anything that causes protein deterioration has such a dramatic impact on the body's function and appearance.
Thanks largely to the destructive effect of sugar and aldehydes, the protein in our bodies tends to undergo destructive changes as we age. This destruction is a prime factor, not only in the aging process itself, but also in the familiar signs of aging such as wrinkling skin, cataracts, and the destruction of our nervous system - particularly our brains. Studies show that carnosine is effective against all these forms of protein modification.
As I said, aging is associated with damage to cellular proteins. But carnosine protects cellular proteins from damage in at least two ways.
- First, it bonds with the carbonyl (or aldehyde) groups that if left alone will attack and bind with proteins.
- Second, it works as an antioxidant to prevent the formation of oxidized sugars, also called Advanced Glycosylation End-products or AGEs for short. That's really the caramelization thing that I mentioned earlier. The bottom line here is that the less AGEs, in your body, the younger you are.
Both of these processes have important implications for anti-aging therapy. The key is that carnosine not only prevents damaging cross-links from forming, it eliminates cross-links that have previously formed in proteins, thus restoring normal membrane function.
Carnosine has been proven to reduce or completely prevent cell damage caused by beta amyloid, one of the prime protein risk factors for Alzheimer's. The presence of beta amyloid leads to damage of the nerves and arteries of the brain. Carnosine blocks and inactivates beta amyloid. In effect, it protects neural tissues against dementia. The key is that carnosine not only prevents damaging cross-links from forming in proteins, it eliminates cross-links that have previously formed in those proteins, thus restoring normal membrane function in cells. This is true not only in the brain, but in all the organs of our body - our skin included. Keep in mind that the damage you see in the skin is not just a cosmetic question. That damage is absolutely an indicator of the kinds of damage happening to every other organ in your body - including your eyes and your brain.
The Reversal of Age
Carnosine levels in our body directly correlate with both the length and quality of our lives. And since carnosine levels decline with age, supplementation with carnosine represents one of the most powerful things you can do to hold back the ravages of old age.
While it is true that many people who supplement with carnosine are going to notice everything from younger looking skin to more energy, the bottom line is that you really shouldn't look for any short term benefits from carnosine supplementation. If any short-term benefits are noticed, you should consider them an added bonus.
The reason you want to supplement with carnosine is for the long term, not for the short-term benefits that you may or may not notice. You supplement with carnosine to protect against the long-term ravages of aging.
Some experts recommend using only 50-100 mg of carnosine a day. Others say that if you don't take 1,000-1,500 mg a day it won't work because your body metabolizes the first 500 mg or so.
The key here is that all of these experts are ignoring the simple fact, that different people need different amounts. For example:
- The older you get, the more you need.
- If you eat a mostly vegetarian diet, you need more.
- If you're diabetic, or just have trouble with blood sugar, you need more.
I think most people will do best on 500-750 mg a day.
If you're young and healthy and include meat in your diet, then 250 mg a day makes sense. As you get older, and if you're starting to show signs of aging or glycation (such as cataracts), then you'd want to think of increasing the dosage up to 1,000 mg a day - maybe even as high as 1,500 mg a day.
In studies, carnosine has been proven safe in amounts as high as 70, 80, or even 100 grams a day, although a small number of people have noticed some minor muscle twitching at doses as small as 1,000 mg. The bottom line is use what you need, and you won't have any problems - only benefits.
As I mentioned earlier, I don't believe in magic bullets. Everything I've ever learned says that you're only as strong as your weakest link. I still believe that improving your entire Baseline of Health is the key to good health and long life.
But that said, I think that once you actually understand what carnosine does - once you understand the role it plays in preventing and potentially reversing all of the signs of old age in the body (and we're talking about everything from wrinkled skin to cataracts to Alzheimer's) - heck, once you understand the role it plays in extending life itself - then you're left with the unmistakable conclusion that supplementing with carnosine may represent one of the single best things you can do to help "turn back your biological clock."
A Missing Link
As important as carnosine is, there is a "gap" in its usefulness. It's called lipofuscin.
Lipofuscin is the age pigment commonly found in aging brains and in other tissue such as the skin. By itself, it is not dangerous. It is merely a byproduct of harmful reactions that have already taken place. For example, one of the byproducts of free radical damage and protein/aldehyde damage (both conditions that carnosine addresses) is lipofuscin.
Lipofuscin deposits as seen in heart muscle
When you supplement with carnosine, however, something different happens. The carnosine quickly binds with the aldehydes, preventing them from damaging the proteins. The byproduct of this reaction is lipofuscin. So once again you have inactive lipofuscin compounds, but this time as the result of PREVENTING protein damage. In a sense, with carnosine you trade protein damage for lipofuscin.
As I said before, by itself, lipofuscin is not harmful. However, if enough of it accumulates over time (and this process is accelerated when you supplement with carnosine), it can interfere with proper cellular and organ functions. So the bottom line is that however it is produced (as a result of protein damage, or as the result of taking sacrificial carnosine to prevent protein damage), you want to get rid of it.
By any definition, DMAE is the perfect companion to carnosine in an anti-aging formulation. First, it reinforces carnosine's own anti-aging properties. Then, it provides a whole series of complementary benefits of its own.
What Is DMAE?
DMAE is short for (dimethylaminoethanol), a naturally-occurring nutrient that enhances acetylcholine (ACh) synthesis. Adequate levels of ACh are important for proper memory function. Normally found in small amounts in our brains, DMAE has been shown to remarkably enhance brain function when used as a supplement in clinical studies.
It Reinforces Carnosine
One of the prime actions of DMAE is that it flushes accumulated lipofuscin from your body - from the neurons in your brain, from your skin, and from all other organs. It also complements carnosine in that DMAE on its own has been shown to inhibit and reverse the Cross-Linking of proteins and extend lifespan.
Many people have heard of the anti-aging results that Romanian scientist, Ana Aslan, achieved using something called GH3, or procaine. What most people do not know is that GH3 breaks down in the body to form DMAE (after first metabolizing into DEAE) and PABA. In other words, DMAE is the key active component in Ana Aslan's anti-aging formula.
Numerous scientific studies now show that DMAE can help:-
- Increase Acetylcholine levels and RNA levels in the brain
- Stimulate mental activity
- Increase attention span
- Increase alertness
- Increase intelligence (especially in children)
- Improve learning and memory
- Increase energy levels
- Provide a mild, safe tonic effect
- Stimulate the central nervous system
- Relieve anxiety
- Elevate mood in general
- Alleviate behavioral problems and hyperactivity associated with Attention Deficit Disorder
- Increase motivation and reduce apathy in persons suffering from depression
- Induce sounder sleep
- Over time reduce the amount of sleep required by about 1 hour per night
- Intensify dreams tremendously. (Even more so when you take it along with a large dose of phosphatidyl choline -- a key component of lecithin)
- Cause dreams to become more lucid
- Increase willpower
- Decrease the incidence and severity of hangovers in people who consume excessive amounts of Alcohol
And It's Safe
Clinical studies of DMAE have used up to 1,600 mg per day with no reports of side effects. In some cases, some people may experience slight headaches, muscle tension, or insomnia if they take too much too soon.
These effects are easily eliminated if intake is reduced and then gradually increased. Although there is no direct connection, many manufacturers recommend that women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, anyone who suffers from convulsions, epilepsy, or seizure disorders, and people with manic-depressive illness should avoid using DMAE.
This is probably more of a legal issue than a medical issue.
Like DMAE, acetyl-L-carnitine is a perfect complement to L-carnosine.
Although your body can synthesize L-carnitine in the liver, it depends on outside sources (meat being a primary source) to fulfill its requirements. This can present a problem for vegetarians since L-carnitine performs several key functions in the human body. For one, it can improve the functioning of the immune system by enhancing the ability of macrophages to function as phagocytes. And it can improve the functioning of muscle tissue. In fact, it has been shown to increase running speed when given prior to exercise. It also plays a major factor in cellular energy production by shuttling fatty acids from the main cell body into the mitochondria (the cell's energy factories) so that the fats can be oxidized for energy. Without carnitine, fatty acids cannot easily enter the mitochondria.
There is, however, a specialized form of L-carnitine known as acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) that is often deficient even in meat eaters and that performs virtually all of the same functions - but better. For example, in terms of cellular energy production, in addition to shuttling fatty acids into cell mitochondria, ALC provides acetyl groups from which Acetyl-Coenzyme A (a key metabolic intermediate) can be regenerated, thereby facilitating the transport of metabolic energy and boosting mitochondrial activity. But beyond that, the addition of the acetyl group makes ALC water soluble, which enables it not only to diffuse easily across the inner wall of the mitochondria but also to cross all cell membranes more easily. In other words, ALC reaches parts of the body where L-carnitine cannot go. In particular, ALC readily crosses the blood/brain barrier, where it provides a number of specialized neurological functions. For example, it can:
- Facilitate both the release and synthesis of acetylcholine, a key brain biochemical.
- Increase the brain's levels of choline acetylase.
- Enhance the release of dopamine and improve the binding of dopamine to dopamine receptors.
- Protect the neurons of the optic nerve and the occipital cortex of the brain.
In addition, studies have shown that acetyl-L-carnitine can inhibit the deterioration in mental function associated with Alzheimer's disease and slow its progression. Part of this is a result of its ability to shield neurons from the toxicity of beta amyloid protein. As a result:
- ALC improves alertness in Alzheimer's patients.
- Improves attention span.
- And it increases short term memory.
Through its action on dopamine (a chemical messenger used between nerve cells) and dopamine receptors, ALC seems to play a major role in preventing and/or minimizing the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
- ALC enhances the release of dopamine from dopaminergic neurons and improves the binding of dopamine to dopamine Receptors.
- ALC retards the decline in the number of dopamine receptors that occurs as part of the normal aging process and (more rapidly) with the onset of Parkinson's disease. In fact, many researchers believe that Parkinson's may be caused by a deficiency of dopamine.
- And ALC inhibits tremors.
And acetyl-L-carnitine may even play a role in helping with MS.
- ALC inhibits (and possibly reverses) the degeneration of myelin sheaths
But most of all, ALC just helps slow down the aging process of the brain.
- ALC retards the inevitable decline in the number of glucocorticoid receptors that occurs with aging.
- It retards the age-related deterioration of the hippocampus.
- It retards the inevitable decline in the number of nerve growth factor receptors that occurs as we age.
- It stimulates and maintains the growth of new neurons within the brain (both independently of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) and as a result of preserving NGF) and helps to prevent the death of existing neurons.
- ALC protects the NMDA receptors in the brain from age-related decline.
- ALC inhibits the excessive release of adrenalin in response to stress and inhibits the depletion of luteinising hormone releasing hormone and testosterone that occurs as a result of excessive stress.
- And ALC enhances the function of cytochrome oxidase, an essential enzyme of the Electron Transport System.
The mind boosting effect of acetyl-L-carnitine is often noticed within a few hours -- or even within an hour -- of supplementing. Most people report feeling mentally sharper, having more focus, and being more alert. Some find a mild mood enhancement. More specifically:
- ALC improves learning ability along with both short term and long term memory
It improves mood by 53%.
- It both improves the quality of and reduces the need for sleep.
- It improves verbal fluency.
- And ALC improves hand eye coordination by some 300-400%.
And yes, acetyl-L-carnitine helps flush lipofuscin from the body -- especially from the brain.
Based on everything we know, supplementing with a combination of L-carnosine, DMAE, and Acetyl-L-carnitine is one of the simplest, most effective, and safest steps we can take to help turn back the clock and optimize our health.
Concluding the Series
In the next issue, we'll conclude this series on the nature of aging by discussing the macro level factors programmed into our bodies as we age (such as hormonal changes) that promote aging -- many of which can indeed be modified.
The Nature of Aging, Part 4
Programmed into Our Bodies as We Age
Testosterone is a key aging hormone. It is responsible for maintaining, among other things:
- Zest for life
- Muscle mass
The problem is that as we age, free testosterone tends to bind to globulins in the blood instead of stimulating cell receptor sites throughout the body. This is a problem not only for men but also for women -- in fact, especially for women. Yes, in larger amounts, it's what causes men to beat each other up at English soccer matches. But in smaller amounts, it's what gives you that zest for life. And women have so little of it to begin with that when that small amount "binds" and becomes unavailable, women find they've lost their zest for life (and for sex, for that matter)
Taking supplemental testosterone is not necessarily the best way to raise testosterone levels. Certain plant extracts, most notably wild oats, nettles, saw palmetto, muira puama, and maca can unbind testosterone and safely raise the levels of free testosterone in the body.
Human Growth Hormone
Who doesn't know about HGH? It's probably the 4th highest spam subject on the worldwide Internet after discount pharmaceuticals, bogus loan rates, and pornography.
The rejuvenating powers of Growth Hormone are no secret to the wealthy. Unfortunately, for the last 30 years, GH has been available only from doctors, required two injections a day, and cost approximately a thousand dollars a month. Recently, however, several alternatives for the rest of us have become available. And while I could never recommend the injections (for a variety of reasons), I can endorse the alternatives.
Many claims are made for the effects of Growth Hormone - some bordering on claims of "almost" immortality and "almost" eternal youth. Would that it were so! Although the effects are more subtle, for most people, than pronounced, they are nevertheless wide ranging, and include things such as:
- 14.4% loss of fat on average after six months without dieting
- Elimination of cellulite
- Higher energy levels
- Enhanced sexual performance
- Regrowth of heart, liver, spleen, kidneys, and other organs that shrink with age
- Greater cardiac output
- Superior immune function
- Increased exercise performance
- Better kidney function
- Lowered blood pressure
- Improved cholesterol profile, with higher HDL, and lower LDL
- Stronger bones
- Faster wound healing
- Younger, tighter, thicker skin
- Hair regrowth
So which HGH should you use?
Well, first of all, you can no longer actually buy true Human Growth Hormone. Technically, only actual growth hormone taken from human beings can be called Human Growth Hormone. And in fact, 30 years ago, that was the sole source of Growth Hormone - human cadavers, that is. But that was abandoned when it turned out that growth hormone taken from people had a major downside (in addition to cost) - and that was that it occasionally caused the human equivalent of mad cow disease. Not good, as they say.
Fortunately, at around the same time it was determined that true Human Growth Hormone was not an acceptable alternative, recombinant DNA technology came into its own. The bottom line is that scientists learned how to alter the DNA of a single-cell yeast plant so that it would produce large amounts of Growth Hormone (molecularly, absolutely identical to real Human Growth Hormone) safely and inexpensively. Because this growth hormone is identical to HGH, people often use the terms Growth Hormone and Human Growth Hormone interchangeably. Technically, however, it should be referred to as a plant-based Growth Hormone and not Human Growth Hormone.
Nevertheless, many companies deliberately try and cross this line.
Anyway, given that there now exists a good, inexpensive source of Growth Hormone, another problem remains. It turns out that the Growth Hormone molecule is so large (containing 191 amino acids) that it cannot be absorbed orally. This means it can only be administered by injection. This, of course, requires a doctor and is very expensive - costing between $1,000 and $1,800 a month.
The only alternatives to this for years have been precursor formulas (also called secretagogues) that allow your body to produce and release more HGH. Although not as powerful as HGH injections, these formulas can be quite effective (provided your pituitary is still functioning) and carry none of the downside of the injections. The key ingredients in these formulas tend to be arginine (an essential amino acid) and GABA.
Although arginine, an essential amino acid, has been proven an effective HGH stimulator when administered intravenously, the results of oral supplementation are more questionable. And at doses sufficient to stimulate HGH production in the body, it tends to produce significant intestinal distress.
GABA, on the other hand, is far more interesting as a supplement. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is an amino acid/neurotransmitter found in the brain, where it helps induce relaxation and sleep. In addition to its calming effect, GABA also stimulates the anterior pituitary, leading to higher levels of HGH. Many studies have been done on GABA that show it can promote a significant increase in plasma growth hormone levels -- up to a fivefold increase within 90 minutes of oral supplementation of 5 grams of GABA. (Note: research shows that at least 2-5 grams of GABA should be taken for it to be effective.)
Note: Build your dosage of GABA slowly. Some people experience mild tingling around the face and neck or notice a mild change in heart rate or breathing patterns when supplementing with GABA. These effects quickly disappear and are not harmful.
Within the last two years, two alternatives have appeared on the market that actually use real Growth Hormone (the plant-based variety). One is homeopathic GH. This makes use of real GH, diluted down to homeopathic levels. The jury is still out on homeopathic HGH, but the early indications (anecdotally) are that it works at least as well as the secretagogues.
And several years ago, a new form of GH that can be absorbed orally was introduced. This again works as well as a secretogogue for most people. Its advantage is that this version will work for those few whose pituitaries are dead and no longer capable of producing HGH, whereas a secreatogogue will not. Its downside is twofold.
- First cost, as it is the most expensive of the alternatives (but still far less costly than the injections).
- Second, it is now the focus of so much spam marketing that the market has been flooded with high-priced garbage formulas so that it is almost impossible to track product quality. If you find a formula that works for you, use it. But at this point in time, I have no brand recommendations.
Let me digress for a moment and explain exactly how GH works.
HGH is produced in the pituitary gland. It is released in a series of 9-24 microscopic "pulses" throughout the day (mostly in the evening), and it signals a number of body functions relative to aging and the production of other hormones such as DHEA and Melatonin and various parts of the endocrine system, including the hypothalamus (considered to be the master gland). Interestingly enough, the release of GH at "pulse" levels stimulates the pituitary to produce even more GH. However, its most important function is telling the liver to produce Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF-1). That's the main key to anti-aging. Specifically, the benefits of HGH can be measured in terms of how much it increases the body's production of IGF-1. Any number above 20% starts to be significant in terms of effectiveness for anti-aging.
Most of the formulas on the market will increase IGF-1 levels by a minimum of 20% - some even approaching 100%. Keep in mind, however, that one 30 minute aerobic session can easily increase IGF-1 levels by a good 100%, and a solid session of weight training can increase levels by an incredible 400-800% -- and at no cost.
In animal studies DHEA supplementation bordered on the miraculous. It seemed to:
- Extend life by 50%
- Protect against heart disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases, obesity, and diabetes
- Boost the immune system
- Reverse the effects of stress
The reality turns out to be somewhat less.
I am not a big fan of DHEA supplementation (at least without a blood workup) for several reasons. First of all, the oral DHEA commonly used is composed of particles that are too big to be directly used by the body; therefore, it has to be sent to the liver to be broken down. Unfortunately, since the liver is unaccustomed to receiving DHEA in this form, it ends up converting most of it into androgens (sex hormones). It is these androgens that can cause the growth of facial hair in women and may contribute to prostate disorders in men. The second problem with standard oral DHEA supplementation is that there is strong evidence it reduces the body's own production of DHEA. And finally, DHEA supplementation (usually in doses greater than 10 mg a day) is often accompanied by side effects that include:
- Acne and excessive oiliness
- Growth of face and body hair in women
- Irritability or mood changes
- Over stimulation and insomnia
As we mentioned earlier, the oral DHEA commonly available is composed of particles that are too big to be directly used; therefore, it is sent to the liver, which ends up converting most of it into androgens. What's left is converted into 7-Keto DHEA, the useful portion. 7-Keto DHEA seems to provide most of the benefits of regular DHEA; but since it can't be converted to active androgens (e.g., testosterone and estrogen), it is safer and has minimal side effects.
Many people use supplements containing Mexican Wild Yam (Discorea villosa) as a DHEA supplement. The theory is that Wild Yam contains diosgenin, a DHEA precursor, which your body uses to produce its own DHEA. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that, in fact, your body converts any Wild Yam into DHEA. All benefits related to Wild Yam appear to be from its phytoestrogen effect.
Pregnenolone is the ultimate hormone precursor. Virtually every hormone in the body can be produced by your body, as required, from pregnenolone. Again, as with all of the other hormones that we've talked about, pregnenolone levels decline precipitously as you get older.
The prime benefit of pregnenolone is that it helps balance out your other hormone levels as required. In addition, though, it does provide specific benefits, such as:
- Extremely powerful memory enhancement and improved cognitive performance
- Supports the adrenals
- A strong anti-fatigue agent
- Significant benefit in rheumatologic and connective tissue disorders such as rheumatism, osteoarthritis, scleroderma, psoriasis, lupus, and spondylitis
- Repair of the myelin sheath structure
- Improved immunity
- Reduced PMS and menopausal symptoms
- And it just makes you "feel" really good
Use of pregnenolone has shown no serious side effects even at very high doses of up to 700 mg. However, at the high dosage level, there has been some occurrence of minor side effects, including over stimulation and insomnia, irritability, anger or anxiety, acne, and headaches.
Melatonin is a natural hormone made in the pineal gland. Since its first discovery in 1958, melatonin has been studied extensively and has been shown to be widely beneficial to the body. As with all of the other hormones we're discussing, melatonin levels decline significantly as we age. An interesting note on melatonin is that the trigger for production of melatonin is darkness - total darkness. Any light in the room will inhibit production of your body's melatonin. Today, however, living in a world with nightlights in the bedroom, or streetlights sneaking through the window, we actually have an epidemic of people with insufficient melatonin production, even at a very young age. Now here's the really interesting part. The problem doesn't just come from light falling on our eyes while we sleep, but from light falling on any part of the body. Even if you wear an eye-mask, so that you are in total darkness, if light is falling on your arms or chest or feet, that's enough to stop melatonin production.
The benefits of supplementation include:
- Better Sleep: Lowered levels of nighttime melatonin reduce the quality of sleep resulting in the need for more sleep. If your pineal gland does not produce adequate melatonin early enough in the evening, both the quality and quantity of your sleep may suffer. Lack of melatonin may make it difficult for you to fall asleep, or may cause you to wake up too soon. Too much melatonin and you will feel yourself feeling exhausted, or "drugged" throughout the day. If secretion does not continue, you may wake up too soon. By taking melatonin instead of other so-called sleeping aids, rapid eye movement sleep (REM=dreaming) is not suppressed nor does it induce "hangover" effects when used as directed.
- Enhanced Immune Function: Many people report that supplementation with melatonin has significantly reduced their incidence of colds and infections. The exact way in which melatonin affects the immune system is not known. However, since much of the activity of the immune system takes place at night, some researchers have proposed that melatonin interacts with the immune system during sleep, helping to buffer the adverse effects of stress on the immune system.
- Powerful Antioxidant Capabilities: Melatonin is one of the most powerful antioxidants produced in the body. In addition, since it is both water and fat soluble, melatonin can reach almost every single cell in the body. On the down side, however, since it cannot store in the body, it must be replenished daily. This would normally not be a problem, except for the fact, as we've already mentioned, that constant exposure to artificial light has significantly reduced production of melatonin in our bodies.
- Mood Elevator: Nighttime melatonin levels are low in people with major depressive and panic disorders. Individuals with noticeable mood swings or who are melancholic also have depressed melatonin levels. Both seasonal affective disorder and non-seasonal cyclic depressions are related to the peaks and valleys of melatonin levels.
- Cancer Fighter
- Helps the Heart
- Relieves Asthma Symptoms
Testosterone: Extracts of wild oats and nettles can safely help increase testosterone levels in the body by releasing the bound testosterone already there and helping to prevent conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone in men. For men, zinc supplementation of approximately 50 mg a day is also advisable to help prevent production of dihydrotestosterone in the body.
HGH: Supplementation with a secretagogue such as GABA, a homeopathic HGH formula, or a sublingual polymer matrix HGH makes sense for anyone over 35. All of these are okay to use on a daily basis as they do not suppress the body's own production of HGH. At one time, my recommendation was to use the polymer matrix HGH, but quality and cost issues have convinced me that GABA based secretagogues are the best choice. You also might want to try increasing your exercise levels. Aerobic exercise can double HGH levels in the body, but weight training can increase levels by as much as 400-800%.
DHEA: Supplementation with 7-Keto makes sense. Be sure and take periodic breaks as supplementation may suppress the body's own production of DHEA.
Pregnenolone: Start with 5 mg a day and increase by 5 mg a day (to a maximum of 30 mg) until you "feel" really good. Then try backing it down to the lowest level that still produces that same feeling. Finally, start backing off on the days that you use it until you are using it only 2 or 3 times a week (so as not to suppress your body's own production). As needed, as you age, you can increase the days and dosage. The final recommended dosage is age dependent. If you're younger than 50, you might consider dosages in the range of 10-20 mg 2 to 3 times a week. If you're over 50, you may end up using 15-30 mg daily.
Melatonin: Melatonin, in small doses, several times a week (so as not to suppress your body's own production), makes sense for supplementation. There's virtually no downside; it can help restore optimum sleep patterns, and it's a powerful antioxidant and immune enhancer. As you get older, you can increase the amount and frequency as needed. There is, of course, another option. Use black-out curtains in the bedroom, and turn off any nightlights. Try to get the bedroom as close to total darkness as you can get. This will help increase your body's own melatonin production. And when you wake up in the morning, expose yourself to sunlight ASAP to cut melatonin production and wake yourself up.
- There are several cautions that should be observed when supplementing hormones.
- Pregnant or nursing mothers should not supplement without guidance from their doctors
- Likewise, women trying to conceive would be advised to check with their doctor first
- Anyone being treated by a doctor for a pre-existing condition should check with their doctor. This would include conditions such as:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Mental illness or depression
- Anyone on prescription steroids should check with their doctor first
In fact, it probably makes sense to check with an anti-aging specialist before starting a program of hormone supplementation. Yes, Matilda, there's now such a thing as an anti-aging specialist.
And by the way. Happy Valentines day everyone!
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Index of archived newsletters and reports
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