Professor Cynthia Kenyon, whom many experts believe should win the Nobel Prize for her research into aging, has discovered that carbohydrates directly affect the genes that govern youthfulness and longevity.
By tweaking the genes of roundworms, she has been able to help them live up to six times longer than normal.
The genes that controlled aging in worms also do the same thing in rats and mice, probably monkeys, and there are signs they are active in humans, too. She found that turning down the gene that controls insulin in turn switches on another gene which acts like an elixir of life.
The Daily Mail reports:
"Discovering the ... [first] gene has prompted the professor to dramatically alter her own diet, cutting right back on carbohydrates. That's because carbs make your body produce more insulin (to mop up the extra blood sugar carbs produce) ... so the vital second gene, the 'elixir' one, won't get turned on."
Funny how conventional media can make something so foundational for good health sound like a brand new insight. I've been warning my readers to avoid carbohydrates in the form of sugars and grains for well over a decade, in order to improve health and increase longevity.
Still, the fact that this is now getting some well-deserved attention is great news. As science catches up, perhaps more people will finally see the light of truth.
As the Daily Mail reports above, research confirms that insulin-like growth factor is intricately linked to various cancers, and that "raised insulin levels, triggered by high carbohydrate consumption, could be what connects many of our big killers."
If you've been reading this newsletter for any amount of time, this is already a familiar fact for you.
But many still have not gotten the message. As Daily News states, this is a suggestion that "flies in the face of 30 years of health advice to have a lower fat intake and eat plenty of long-lasting complex carbohydrates to keep the body supplied with energy."
Indeed. And that standard health advice is a major reason why obesity and diseases such as diabetes and cancer have reached such epidemic proportions in the US and other developed nations.
Insulin is in fact a MAJOR accelerant of the aging process, and also affects many bodily processes, all of which can impact your longevity.
For example, insulin:
- Alters the expression of numerous hormones
- Stimulates your sympathetic nervous system
- Promotes vasoconstriction
Research Now Shows HOW Carbohydrates Shorten Your Lifespan
The research that is now turning conventional dietary advice on its ear was done by Professor Cynthia Kenyon, and it's so revolutionary that many experts think she should get a Nobel Prize for it.
She found that carbohydrates directly affect two key genes in your body that govern longevity and youthfulness.
Daily News reports:
"This work has revolutionized our understanding of ageing, explains Jeff Holly, professor of clinical sciences at Bristol University.
'Ten years ago we thought ageing was probably the result of a slow decay, a sort of rusting,' he says. 'But Professor Kenyon has shown that it's not about wear and tear, but instead it is controlled by genes."
I've previously written about how your diet can over-ride genetic predispositions to disease, and this research further strengthens those claims, as the two key genes in question can be turned on or off as a consequence of eating carbohydrates.
Now, Professor Holly goes on to say that this opens up new vistas for slowing down the aging process using drugs designed to turn these genes on or off, but come on...
The real answer is staring you right in the face!
Limit your intake of carbohydrates, primarily in the form of fructose and grains, and you'll achieve these results without any negative drug-induced side effects!
Professor Kenyon worked with C. elegans roundworms, but her findings have been successfully repeated in other labs around the world using other animals, including rats, mice, and to some extent, monkeys. Humans also have these genes, indicating these results should apply to us as well.
One of the most interesting details of her findings is that not only did the roundworms live up to SIX TIMES longer than normal, but they kept their health and youthful vigor until the end.
Previous research has shown that you can extend your lifespan by reducing your caloric intake, and I've written about this technique in the past. The problem is that most people do not understand how to properly cut calories, because in order to remain healthy, you have to cut out calories from a specific source – namely, carbohydrates!
Kenyon's research offers renewed support for this key point.
Daily News reports:
"... [W]hat Professor Kenyon found out was why drastically reducing calories has such a remarkable effect.
She discovered that it changed the way two crucial genes behaved. It turned down the gene that controls insulin, which in turn switched on another gene, which acted like an elixir of life.
'We jokingly called the first gene the Grim Reaper because when it's switched on, the lifespan is fairly short,' she explains. The second 'elixir' gene seems to bring all the anti-ageing benefits — its proper name is DAF 16, but it was quickly nicknamed 'Sweet Sixteen' because it turned the worms into teenagers. 'It sends out instructions to a whole range of repair and renovation genes,' says Professor Kenyon.
... The Sweet Sixteen gene also 'boosts compounds that make sure the skin and muscle-building proteins are working properly, the immune system becomes more active to fight infection and genes that are active in cancer get turned off,' she adds.
... Discovering the Grim Reaper gene has prompted the professor to dramatically alter her own diet, cutting back on carbohydrates. That's because carbs make your body produce more insulin (to mop up the extra blood sugar carbs produce); and more insulin means a more active Grim Reaper. So the vital second gene, the 'elixir' one, won't get turned on.
... To test this, last year she added a tiny amount of sugary glucose to the normal diet of some of her worms that had had their genes engineered so they were living much longer, healthier lives.
'The effect was remarkable,' she says. 'The sugary glucose blocked the "youthful" genes and they lost most of the health gains.'"
Elevated Insulin Levels -- The Leading Cause of Premature Aging and Premature Death
Increased insulin and leptin receptor sensitivity have clearly become the leading candidates for premature death.
This results from two primary conditions:
- Excessive amounts of sugar/grains and processed foods, combined with
- Insufficient exercise
Previous studies have also found that diets high in sugar and grains are the primary culprit of obesity, and that leanness (more so than food restriction in general) is a key contributor to a long life. One such study was published in 2003 in the journal Science. This elegant study from Harvard confirms that insulin is the major mechanism through which this result is mediated.
Unfortunately, many health care practitioners are still ignorant of the profound influence that insulin has on health.
Please understand that a firm appreciation of insulin's role is one of the most important things you can do to optimize your health and outlive the naysayers.
Fructose Wrecks Your Health and Kills You Prematurely
Aside from grains, fructose, typically in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), is perhaps the absolute worst dietary culprit as it:
- Destroys your insulin sensitivity
- Metabolizes into fat far more readily than other sugars
- Causes glycation and inflammation, which speeds up the aging process
We now know that fructose is a primary contributor to:
- Insulin resistance and obesity
- Elevated blood pressure, triglycerides, and LDL (bad cholesterol)
- Cardiovascular disease
- Liver disease
Fructose-Glycation-Inflammation – A Disease-Promoting Triangle
I've written extensively about the different ways fructose adversely affects your body and can lead to the health problems listed. However, one of the mechanisms that causes significant damage is glycation; a process in which the sugar bonds with proteins and forms so-called 'advanced glycation end products', or AGEs.
It's a fitting acronym because – along with oxidation – it's one of the major molecular mechanisms whereby damage accrues in your body, which leads to disease, aging, and eventually, death.
When sugar glycates, it creates inflammation, which activates your immune system in a defensive maneuver. Macrophages are scavenger cells that are part of your immune defense system, and as such they have special receptors for AGEs, aptly called RAGEs (think: raging inflammation). These RAGEs bind to the AGEs and get rid of them.
Unfortunately, this process can leave its fair share of battle scars. Inside your arteries, for example, the scar tissue created from this process is called plaque. This also explains why there's such a strong connection between diabetes and heart disease.
Lifestyle choices such as smoking, consuming processed foods laden with trans fats and other harmful chemical additives, along with pesticide- and other chemical exposures further add to your body's free radical burden.
As a standard recommendation, I strongly advise keeping your TOTAL fructose consumption below 25 grams per day. However, most people would be wise to limit their fructose to 15 grams or less, particularly if you have elevated uric acid levels, which can be used as a predictor for fructose toxicity. (For more information on this, please see this recent article.)
This includes keeping track of your fructose intake from whole fruits. For a helpful chart showing the fructose content of many common fruits, please see this link. I recommend this lower level simply because if you consume processed foods or sweet beverages at all, you're virtually guaranteed to consume "hidden" sources of fructose.
Limiting Carbs and Exercising are the Cornerstones of "the Fountain of Youth"
I'm glad the Daily News included exercise as a complementary way to reduce your insulin levels. Physical exercise does indeed help you regain insulin sensitivity.
In fact, exercise may in and of itself have the effect of "relative calorie restriction" as it produces many of the same benefits you get when cutting calories from your diet.
These benefits include:
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Decreased fat mass
- Reduced risk of cancer
Studies repeatedly show that regular, moderate-to-vigorous exercise can help prevent or delay your onset of hypertension, obesity and heart disease, just to name a few of the diseases that significantly contribute to premature death.
I'm also excited about the research showing how high-intensity, interval training like Sprint 8 can increase longevity by promoting human growth hormone (HGH) production, which is yet another important aspect of the longevity puzzle.
But What Will Actually REVERSE Aging?
Clearly, limiting carbs and avoiding fructose will be very useful in prolonging your healthy lifespan, but it will NOT reverse aging. Fortunately there are other strategies that involve lengthening your telomeres that can do that.
Last week Harvard researchers actually successfully implemented such strategies in rats. It is likely that these strategies will be available for humans in the not too distant future, so it will be KEY to stay healthy now and limit carbs so you can use these tools to actually REVERSE aging.
I list other strategies below that will help slow down the aging process so you can maximally benefit from the telomere lengthening strategies when they become available.
The Anti-Aging Lifestyle
Of all the healthy lifestyle strategies I know of that can have a significant impact on your longevity, normalizing your insulin and leptin levels is probably the most important. There is no question that this is an absolute necessity if you want to slow down your aging process, and that means modifying your diet to avoid excessive amounts of fructose, grains, and other pro-inflammatory ingredients like trans fats.
That said, longevity is the result of an overall healthy lifestyle, so in addition to curbing your carb intake and exercising, which I already discussed above, these additional strategies can further help you stay young and vibrant, longer:
- Learn how to effectively cope with stress – Stress has a direct impact on inflammation, which in turn underlies many of the chronic diseases that kill people prematurely every day, so developing effective coping mechanisms is a major longevity-promoting factor.
Meditation, prayer, physical activity and exercise are all viable options that can help you maintain emotional and mental equilibrium. I also strongly believe in using energy psychology tools such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to address deeper, oftentimes hidden emotional problems.
- Eat a healthy diet based on your nutritional type – My nutrition plan, based on natural whole foods, is your first step toward increasing your chances of living a longer, healthier life. This is so important, I now offer the full nutritional typing program for FREE.
- Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels to between 60 and 70 ng/ml.
- Animal based omega-3 fats – Correcting the ratio of omega-3 to healthful omega-6 fats is a strong factor in helping people live longer. This typically means increasing your intake of animal based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil, while decreasing your intake of damaged omega-6 fats (think trans fats).
- Get your antioxidants from foods –Good sources include blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, beans, and artichokes.
- Get your resveratrol naturally – Because resveratrol appears to be so effective at warding off many diseases associated with aging, it is often referred to as a "fountain of youth" that can extend lifespan. Good sources of naturally-occurring resveratrol include whole grape skins and seeds, raspberries and mulberries.
- Use coconut oil – Another excellent anti-aging food is coconut oil, known to reduce your risk of heart disease and Alzheimer's disease, and lower your cholesterol, among other things.
- Naturally increase your glutathione levels with high quality whey protein – Another exciting anti-aging discovery is related to the process of slowing down telomere shortening, as discussed in more detail in this previous article. There's some evidence that this can be done nutritionally, by consuming high quality whey protein.
- Avoid as many chemicals, toxins, and pollutants as possible – This includes tossing out your toxic household cleaners, soaps, personal hygiene products, air fresheners, bug sprays, lawn pesticides, and insecticides, just to name a few, and replacing them with non-toxic alternatives.
- Avoid pharmaceutical drugs – Pharmaceutical drugs kill thousands of people prematurely every year – as an expected side effect of the action of the drug. And, if you adhere to a healthy lifestyle, you most likely will never need any of them in the first place.
Incorporating these healthy lifestyle guidelines will help set you squarely on the path to optimal health and give you the best shot at living a much longer life. For even more anti-aging information, please review the related articles listed below.