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The Life Extension Revolution

June 2005

By Matt Sizing

Designing Your Supplement Program

An aggressive nutritional supplementation program is another cornerstone of any comprehensive anti-aging and life extension program. Even if we were to eat a precisely balanced diet comprising only highly nutritious foods,it would still be impossible to consume the variety and amounts of nutrients needed for optimal health.

The Life Extension Revolution’s step-by-step guide to building a customized dietary supplementation program begins with a “comprehensive regimen of vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids.” The vast majority of daily multi-vitamin/mineral formulas conform to nutritional guidelines propagated by the federal government and thus fail to offer adequate nutritional support. “Instead of trying to determine what amount of nutrients will maximize health, the government instead has determined the minimal level of nutrition required to prevent overt disease,” says Dr. Miller. Moreover, most one-per-day formulas use cheaper, synthetic vitamins and poorly absorbed mineral salts. Therefore, a true high-potency, pharmaceutical-grade multi-vitamin/mineral formula that promotes health and fights disease may supply nutrients in amounts that are 10-50 times those in the government’s inadequate recommendations. Rounding out a daily nutritional foundation are antioxidants such as gamma tocopherol, omega-3 fatty acids such as those contained in EPA/DHA formulas, carnosine to minimize glycation, bone-building nutrients such as calcium and magnesium, and vitamin K. Much overlooked, vitamin K directs calcium into the bones and away from blood vessel walls and other organs, adding to the body’s defenses against both osteoporosis and heart disease.

Step two is enhancing brain power with nutrients such as ginkgo biloba, acetyl-L-carnitine, phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylserine, and DMAE. Step three entails testing hormone levels and, if needed, beginning a program to restore youthful levels of crucial hormones such as DHEA, testosterone, estrogen(s), and progesterone. Finally, step four proactively corrects reversible risk factors, with specific nutrients for lowering dangerous homocysteine and reducing inflammation and cholesterol as necessary.

While some readers may find such a program somewhat daunting, Dr. Miller reminds us that “we are attempting nothing less than to forestall the aging process itself—to grow older without aging.”

The Anti-Aging Lifestyle

A customized anti-aging and disease-prevention program also incorporates four essential components of the anti-aging lifestyle: diet, exercise, sleep, and stress reduction. “The foods you eat, the amount and quality of exercise and rest you get, and even your mental attitude about life make an enormous difference in your health and vitality,” Dr. Miller remarks. “More to the point, they all affect the rate at which your body is aging.”

Rather than count calories or carbohydrates or fat grams, the anti-aging diet stresses consuming roughly equal parts of lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthful fats. More important than quantity is the quality of the protein, carbohydrates, and fats consumed. The anti-aging diet, like other elements of the anti-aging program, naturally promotes fat and weight loss, if needed. Four basic principles characterize the anti-aging diet:

  • Eliminating sugar and refined carbohydrates, which promote high blood sugar and insulin surges, provoking a cascade of debilitating effects throughout the body.
  • Replacing unhealthy saturated fats and trans fats (which promote heart disease and increase the incidence of obesity, diabetes, and cancer) with foods containing healthy monounsaturated fats (such as olive oil and nuts) and essential fatty acids (such as omega-3-rich salmon and other fatty fish).
  • Increasing consumption of the high-quality protein your body requires to build cells, tissues, and organs. At least one third of calories consumed should be in the form of high-quality lean proteins such as fish, egg whites, lean cuts of organically raised beef and poultry, low-fat organic dairy products, and beans and legumes.
  • Eating more red, yellow, and green foods, particularly fresh vegetables that, calorie for calorie, contain more nutrients than any other kind of food. Consuming the widest possible variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables ensures the most comprehensive intake of health-promoting phytochemicals.

Countless studies have demonstrated and confirmed the disease-preventing, anti-aging benefits of regular exercise. These include improved heart and lung function, increased bone density, reduced body fat, decreased joint pain, improved muscle strength and tone, reduced blood pressure, improved glucose tolerance, reduced anxiety and stress, and improved libido and sexual function. One example of exercising “smarter, not harder” is interval training, which alternates short bursts of intense exercise with short periods of recovery. Because of the body’s adaptive responses—what Dr. Miller calls the “efficiency trap”—long-duration exercise such as long-distance running or biking actually increases the production and storage of fat. By avoiding the efficiency trap, interval training maximizes both calorie and fat burning.

In addition to aerobic exercise, strength or resistance training should be incorporated in your exercise regimen. Strength training helps to build and maintain muscle strength, lower blood sugar, improve insulin, and maintain bone density and mass, among other benefits. Improving your flexibility by doing simple stretches at the end of your exercise regimen will help you reduce the risk of injury and discomfort from exercise and other daily activities.

Meaningful changes in lifestyle habits can have a countervailing influence on the aging and disease-promoting effects of everyday stress. While many Americans consider watching television to be a form of “relaxation,” it has no beneficial effects on stress hormones and may even adversely affect brain function and hormone levels. “The type of relaxation that has beneficial effects on the body,” Dr. Miller says, “is usually achieved through a focused and intentional practice such as meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises.” Studies have confirmed that meditation and yoga lower cortisol and raise DHEA levels, improve immune response, decrease pain, alleviate depression, and lower blood pressure.

Getting sufficient sleep should also be a priority in any serious anti-aging program. As Dr. Miller reminds us, while “you may feel that you can fit more into every day by sleeping less . . . ultimately you will fit more into your life by living longer.” Steps to better sleep include taking vitamins (which tend to be stimulating) in the morning while consuming any additional mineral supplements (which are lightly sedating) at night. Avoid exercising at night, as this can create a surge of stimulating hormones. Additionally, research has demonstrated that melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland, helps people fall asleep faster, and improves the duration and quality of sleep.

The Future of Life Extension Science

As noted earlier, the Life Extension Foundation has several important missions. These include informing and educating medical professionals and the public about the state of life extension and anti-aging science, and fighting anti-consumer legislation and government bureaucracies such as the FDA that seek to deny or block access to information and novel new therapies. A third important mission is actively supporting and funding the most promising anti-aging and life extension research.

The Life Extension Revolution concludes with a look at some of the most novel anti-aging technologies currently under development, as well as a preview of therapies that many life extension scientists believe could revolutionize the practice of medicine within our lifetimes.

Caloric restriction. In laboratory experiments involving mice, rats, and dogs, animals fed a restricted yet highly nutritious diet lived much longer than did those allowed to eat as much as they want. On average, life expectancy was increased by about one third. Caloric restriction not only increased average life expectancy but also maximum life span, by as much as 40-60%. These effects were seen even in aged animals fed a calorie-restricted diet.

Ongoing, multi-decade studies at the University of Wisconsin and the National Institute on Aging are examining caloric restriction’s effects on rhesus monkeys, which have a maximum life span of 30 years. While it is too early to know whether caloric restriction will extend the monkeys’ maximum life span (though researchers expect this to be the case), it is clear that by preventing the onset of age-related diseases such as cancer and diabetes, caloric restriction has already extended the monkeys’ average life span.

Caloric restriction appears to accomplish these effects by retarding aging and the onset of disease—the very goals of the anti-aging and disease-prevention program outlined in The Life Extension Revolution. While no data exist on the long-term effects of caloric restriction in humans, these remarkable animal studies have led some people to adopt calorie-restricted diets, and have spawned research into modified caloric-restriction regimens such as fasting and intermittent fasting.

According to Dr. Miller, some research findings suggest that caloric restriction “may actually be able to reverse some of the genetic changes of aging, effectively rejuvenating the elderly.” New areas of research such as epigenetics, which focuses on the factors affecting genetic expression, and gene chip technology, which can analyze the genetic expression of thousands of genes at once, may enable scientists to evaluate how therapies such as caloric restriction affect genetic expression, thus bringing us closer to true anti-aging therapies.

Nuclear transfer. The process of “nuclear transfer”—commonly referred to as cloning—offers the prospect of a world in which healthy new cells, tissues, and organs could be created as needed from each individual’s very own cells, with that person’s unique genetic identity intact.

“Nuclear transfer technology can transform a mature cell into a very special and powerful type of cell called an embryonic stem cell,” notes Dr. Miller. Unlike normal cells, embryonic stem cells are immortal in the sense that they can continue to divide indefinitely and thus create infinite generations of new cells; they likewise differ from normal cells in having the potential to develop into any type of cell in the body.

Eminent scientists and leading health and medical organizations are adamant in their support for embryonic stem cell research as “our best and brightest hope for cures for today’s incurable diseases and conditions (including aging),” says Dr. Miller; however, “the future of this research is threatened because of a highly emotional and political debate over the ethics and morality of human cloning.” In exploring both the scientific intricacies of embryonic stem cell research and the political controversy surrounding it, Dr. Miller makes a compelling, clearly reasoned case for proceeding with therapeutic cloning (the cloning of very early-stage human cells, rather than human beings,) while noting “widespread scientific and popular support for regulations that would prohibit reproductive cloning of humans.”

Cryonic suspension. The “ultimate time-buying strategy,” cryonic suspension is an often-misunderstood technology in which blood and fluids are removed from the body and replaced with solutions of cryopreservation agents that protect the body against freezing damage. The body is then cooled to subzero temperatures to arrest physical decay indefinitely.

In recent years, an advanced technique known as vitrification has enabled researchers to transform cryogenically preserved tissue into a “hard, glassy solid as it cools, with little or no ice formation.” By avoiding the formation of ice crystals that can damage cells and

tissues cooled to very low temperatures, vitrification allows scientists to preserve cellular structure virtually intact, greatly increasing the chances that organs will function normally once rewarmed. “Although it may sound like pure science fiction,” remarks Dr. Miller, “human cryonic suspension has actually been in practice since the 1960s.” Cryonic suspension involves complex philosophical and ethical issues, and several major scientific hurdles must be overcome before the successful reanimation and repair of cryonically preserved patients.

Dr. Miller concludes by noting that long-term cryopreservation, like other life extension technologies that are still in their infancy, “may be only a temporary stopgap, a bridge that may allow a generation or two of pioneers to cross from the technologically limited shores of the present to the brighter beaches of a future in which disease and aging are no longer.”