The AMMG conference is going on as we speak. This is a group of like-minded people who want real science, real data and real results. As a result, commercial interests are frowned upon unless there is solid data to support them.
There were some real gratifying moments for me. Telomere testing especially by Life Length a company I anticipated in my book The Immortality Edge (Wiley 2010) is finally getting its just due as a real biomarker for aging. I am so glad to see all my hard-working friends from Spain, who stuck through a tough market, thriving. It is certainly time for people to understand that telomere testing (www.lifelength.com) is acknowledged as the real BS detector how you are aging.
If you are not taking good care of those telomere biologic time clocks, then whatever you’re doing STOP. And start making the life style and other recommendations I have been recommending for the past 8 years!
I was kindly asked to present at this conference and I spoke about the relationship between short telomeres and cancer and lifestyle modifications all of us can make to improve telomere health and dynamics.
I would repeat all the stuff I have told you over the years in so many blogs on the topic but I do want to discuss a few specific points that came up.
First was the role of the immune system as a kind of “bell weather” marker for how well we age.
Close to a decade ago 2 studies were done looking at the relationship of immunity and longevity. Those studies name “Octa” and “Nona” laid out some specific things to look for in our blood that were directly linked to how long we would live. In addition, they looked at the effect of chronic viral infections on the same. It turns out that chronic viral infections are not a risk factor for early death UNLESS we lose the ability to hold those viruses at bay. A classic example, without the deadly consequences, is the chicken pox virus coming back as shingles. This indicates a gap in the immune system that allows the virus to reactivate. *
Now there are all kinds of relationships to stem cells and how well they can create new immunity in their progeny (like the kind of immune cells that fight off viral infections and cancers) but the more interesting link is to the presence of “senile” stem cells and their descendants and short telomeres.
Short telomeres are linked to poorly functioning immune cells.
The cool thing is it appears that with the right life style changes and certain supplements you can reverse that aging process and restore the immune system’s ability to fight off viral and bacterial infections the way it used to when you were young.
I have written tons about telomeres and much of it is currently published in this blog. I would highly suggest you go back and read anything and everything I have written here because soon it will not be here. I cannot get into the details of that transition but it is most likely going to happen soon so get it while you can!
Of course, since one of my nick names is “Dr. Telomere” you can bet I will be writing a ton more on this topic.
Ok so I mentioned the life style changes and this seems like good time to re list them for you.
Diet: Now I get asked all kinds of questions about all kinds of diets so I am going to list a few characteristics that covers the waterfront. As you’ll see there is more than one way to “get there” and rather than tell you which diet does that because there are several I am going to tell you what to look for.
A) Nutritional completeness with relative calorie lack (I give calorie lack a separate sub head below under “calorie restriction”). Get all the vitamins and minerals one way or another either through eating or supplementation but get them. Now there is a fair amount of studies that suggest food is superior to supplements. I don’t quite believe that for this reason: I do a lot of telomere test reviews for Lifelength (www.lifelength.com). I have yet to see a person with great telomere lengths that does not “load up” on anti-oxidants and vitamins in general. Especially important is maintaining a high Omega 3 (fish oil) level versus the inflammatory Omega 6 fats in your body!
B) Low insulin secretion. Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar. It is a direct result of certain types of food stuffs. While this may seem to simple it’s not: avoid or at least reduce concentrated carbohydrates like bread, pastas, pastries, candy, sweetened soda and the like. Limit your fruit intake to the lower glycemic fruits. It’s easier to tell you what I avoid than what to include.
Avoid melons, grapes, dried fruits in quantities larger than a tablespoon or two, pineapples, and dehydrated tropical fruits like mango or guava. Avoid the juice of all fruits. In the middle is watermelon – because of the high water content you can have it now and then.
You can eat normal portions of berries, apples and pears and similar “Northern” fruits because they have more fiber and less sugar. You can and should load up on veggies with any diet you chose.
C) Calorie Restrictions: Now I am not talking about the Calorie Restriction Society kind of limits but when you eat healthy you will pretty much automatically lop off 500 calories a day from your diet. Similarly, low calorie “diets” for 7 to 14 days that put you into nutritional ketosis are great. Note that nutritional ketosis can be achieved by going to a high fat diet as well. I have not seen any medically sound reason to cross over into starvation ketosis the way some “health” centers advocate. Once you cross over that level you are deeply chewing into your muscle and cannot achieve any other effects that you can’t already get from a nutritional ketosis situation. Remember ketones are the byproduct of fat metabolism and will clean off the fat in your body while your cells “take out the garbage” and recycle the mitochondrial power houses that may be sick dead and dying. This is the reason for not eating after 5 or 6 PM and leaving at least 12 preferably more, hours between your last meal one day and your first meal the next day.
Exercise: I am going to cover that in detail in an upcoming blog series but for now most of the research is on “aerobic” types of exercise, specifically, running, cycling, and Nordic skiing. Somewhere between 30 and 50 minutes 5 days a week is the sweet spot.
The rest of the habits including sleep, meditation, supplementation and so forth I will cover at length in upcoming blogs.
In the meantime, I’ve given you something to chew on!
The one and only original Dr. Dave!
*The relationship between cancer and shingles is a strange one. Cancer patients are at a higher risk for shingles than people without cancer. But getting shingles does not automatically mean you are at a higher risk for cancer!