Can human beings live to 120 years old or older? According to biologists, the human body is very capable of living at least that long. So why is that few people live past the age of 100?
Aging itself doesn't seem to be the real problem, but the diseases associated with aging are what we fear the most and what cause most "age-related" deaths. So far, medicine has accomplished relatively little to prevent the underlying disorders that are associated with aging.
Enter the new breed of physician who understands dietary/nutritional influences on human health and the aging process and who treats proactively, and who attacks the cause of dysfunction instead of the symptoms.
Aging isn't just about medical treatments or nutrition however. Other critical factors include genetics, lifestyle, your environment, and the stressors you put on your body. Regardless of the doctor or any treatments that may be prescribed, poor nutritional balance, weight, exercise, smoking, risky lifestyle, stressful career, and many other factors can drastically reduce a person's lifespan.
Conversely, a person who observes the healthiest lifestyle, diet, and environment is not guaranteed a long and/or healthy life. It is the cumulating effects of all of these factors that will determine how long a person will live and how healthy that life will be. Even then, there are no guarantees of long life. We know that aging can be accelerated, slowed, or even reversed depending on these factors.
Since discussing all of these factors, even in the briefest, would take gigabytes of online storage and years to read, we will merely focus on new information in this and subsequent series of articles dealing with finding longer and healthier lives.
Longevity research has discovered that aging is accelerated by declining cellular energy production, free radical damage, the "browning" of proteins by glucose (glycation), and impaired immune systems. We will examine some fascinating recent research on key compounds that have a strong potential for influencing these processes and keeping you young.
Preventing Mitochondrial Change
Mitochondria are tiny structures within each of the cells in everyone's body that convert nutrients into energy through a process called cellular respiration. Over time mitochondria change and become less efficient at their job. Biologists believe that the consequential decline in energy production is one of the chief causes of aging.
One co-factor that is critical for the transport of proteins in the mitochondria is called cardiolipin. Coenzyme Q10 is another cofactor that participates directly in energy production. Both of these mitochondrial cofactors decline with age (Hagen TM et al., 1997).
You may have heard of free radicals before as associated with cancer or other cellular diseases or in reference to products called antioxidants, which act to eliminate free radicals.
Free radicals ultimately lead to various diseases if the body doesn't have a high enough level of antioxidants. Acetyl-L-carnitine and lipoic acid are antioxidants that are both naturally present in the body and have been shown to restore mitochondrial function and reduce free radical damage. (Hagen TM et al., 1998; Lyckesfeldt J et al., 1998). Together with coenzyme Q10, they work to keep mitochondria functioning properly.
Recent animal studies have shown that a combination of lipoic acid, L-Carnitine, coenzyme Q10 and trace levels of iron have actually reversed mitochondrial changes, in effect restoring some level of cellular youth. All however seem to be required for the reversing effects. Personally, I'd like to see more test results, even animal test results before making these kinds of statements conclusively.
It is also still too early to say that similar effects would be found with humans, what if any risks are associated, the ideal amount of each supplement, or whether the long-term effects on humans would grant a long and/or healthier life. Such studies could take decades to come up with conclusive results and recommendation by the medical profession at large for the purposes of anti-aging is likely to be a long way off.
Should you be taking these supplements? That is strictly a question to discuss with your doctor. Because everyone is different, we cannot recommend that anyone take any supplement in any amount. Only your doctor can determine whether taking any of these supplements is right for you. Risk factors may apply to you.
Also be sure to tell your doctor if you are taking any supplements at all. Many people make the mistaken assumption that all supplements must be natural and therefore not have any adverse effects or react with each other or other medications. This is not true and making that assumption could put your health at risk.