A hypothetical ‘fountain of youth’ has long been a sought-after commodity.1 Researchers have looked at elements as disparate as vitamin D,2 DHEA,3 and telomerase4 among many others, in order to try and prevent nature from taking its course.5
New and exciting discoveries in the scientific field aside, it is important to note that a healthy lifestyle is the number one way to prevent both disease and aging.6 In fact, oncologists found of all cancer-related deaths, as many as 30–35% are linked to diet.7
Many mechanisms induce the process of aging,8 including the gene, TAp63, as a possible critical element.9 Described as a ‘master transcriptional regulator of lipid and glucose metabolism,’10 the theory has merit.
High docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) content combats the aging process, placing wild-caught fish near the top of the list.11 One anti-aging mechanism via which omega-3’s (such as DHA) operate, is through nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2).12 Nrf2 is a master transcriptional factor for antioxidant genes,13 and vital for many processes in the body.14
Interestingly, researchers found that DHA, but not EPA, markedly increased intracellular 4-HHE, and nuclear expression and DNA binding of Nrf2.15 This lends further support to evidence DHA’s superiority to EPA.16 DHA has also been shown to have neuroprotective effects,17 increasingly important in neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s.18
Researchers also identified dietary flavonoids as important activators of the Nrf2 system.19 Flavonoids are present in large amounts in citrus fruit, berries, olive oil, apples, red wine, tea, grapes, chocolate, and cocoa.20, 21, 22
Fasting and caloric restriction activate Nrf223, 24 as well. Since Nrf2 has been shown to help with longevity, metabolic regulation and also responds to nutritional input,25 its importance in anti-aging cannot be overstated.26
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there have also been studies that show consumption of alcohol and caffeine actually alter telomeres.27 Telomeres protect chromosome ends from degradation and play crucial roles in cellular aging and disease.28 This is further proof that a Paleo lifestyle can help protect against aging.29, 30
Out of all aging-related mechanisms, the most interesting may be a protein named GDF11, which appears to cause a reversal of many signs of aging.31 GDF11 normally declines with age, but when levels are restored, GDF11 shows benefits to multiple tissues.32 The idea of a novel approach to not only reverse muscular aging, but also brain aging, is tantalizing.33
But remember, while scientific advances are exciting, they are still years away from being proven in humans, and/or are limited in implementation. Therefore, a healthy lifestyle is still the number one way to prevent both disease and aging. A Paleo Diet, which is by nature high in flavonoids, low in inflammation and rich in nutrients, is a great choice. A Paleo lifestyle, with regular physical activity, fun, and high quality sleep, will keep you looking and feeling young, for many decades to come!
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