Life Extension Update
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Weight gain associated with aging marker
A report published in the May 3 2005 issue of the American Heart Association journal Circulation (http://circ.ahajournals.org/) demonstrated that weight gain and increased insulin resistance result in greater telomere shortening over time. Telomeres are the genetic material at the end of chromosomes that become progressively eroded with age and oxidative stress. Telomere length has been proposed as a marker of biological, as opposed to chronological, aging.
The study examined blood samples from 49 young men and women who participated in the Bogalusa Heart Study. Blood samples obtained from initial visits between 1988 and 1991 and during follow up visits from 2000 to 2001 were analyzed for fasting glucose and insulin, and white blood cell telomere length. In addition, the homeostasis model of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) was determined. Height and weight were measured at both visits and body mass index calculated.
Increases in both body mass index and insulin resistance as determined by HOMA-IR were significantly correlated with reduction in telomere length. The change in HOMA-IR was also correlated with change in body mass index. Of only three participants whose telomere length increased, two had lost weight and showed less insulin resistance during the 10 to 12 year interval between visits.
The authors, from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Tulane University in New Orleans, speculate that “oxidative stress, by enhancing telomere erosion per replication, and inflammation, through increasing WBC [white blood cell] turnover, are responsible for the increase in telomere erosion with a rise in insulin resistance in the present study cohort.” They conclude that “Insulin resistance and obesity accelerate aging because they are states of increased oxidative stress and inflammation, which bring about a shorter lifespan. In biological terms, an accelerated WBC telomere attrition rate in insulin resistance and obese states is an affirmation of this concept.”
Dr. Gerald Reaven, M.D., an authority on insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia, coined the term Syndrome X (in 1988) to identify clusters of symptoms that often accompany abnormal blood glucose levels: hyperlipidemia (too much cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood), hyperinsulinemia (too much insulin in the bloodstream), obesity, and hypertension. Syndrome X, like Type II diabetes, is a condition of insulin resistance, a disorder in which insulin does not produce the same glucose-lowering effects seen in otherwise normal, insulin-sensitive individuals. The failure occurs at the cellular level, robbing insulin of its primary role of glucose delivery.
Syndrome X and many cases of early stage Type II diabetes are conditions of insulin resistance and excesses of compensatory insulin. Hyperinsulinemia, in most cases is only a temporary reprieve in delaying the onset of full-blown diabetes. The pancreas will eventually become weary in its effort to supply the extra insulin needed to forestall the disease.
It is important to note that while almost all Type II diabetic patients are insulin resistant, not all individuals with hyperinsulinemia become diabetics. Although opinions are varied as to the numbers, some speculate that one in four hyperinsulinemic individuals will become diabetics (Lukaczer 1999). Should the individual escape diabetes, hyperinsulinemia is still a significant risk to long-term survival. Note: Several decades ago, investigators at the Bronx Veterans Administration Hospital showed that patients with Type II diabetes could have elevated blood glucose levels despite having higher insulin levels, a revelation that stunned the medical community.
Lipoic acid protects LDL against oxidation and is beneficial in preventing and treating Syndrome X and diabetic complications such as neuropathy. As little as 150-300 mg daily of lipoic acid may be sufficient in healthy individuals. Diabetics usually take 150-300 mg of alpha-lipoic acid 3 times daily. For the last 30 years, German practitioners have used high doses of lipoic acid to improve insulin sensitivity and diabetic conditions.
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