Aging & Longevity Support Protocol: A Basic Primer
The following article is adapted with permission by Fullscript.
Over the past century, we have seen a significant increase in human life expectancy, primarily as a result of advances in the field of medicine and improvements in public health, such as environmental and food quality. (14)(16) The National Institute on Aging reported that the average life expectancy increased from 47 years in 1900 to 79 years in 1998. (16) It is mportant to consider factors and interventions that may not only increase longevity but support healthy aging since we have also seen an increased incidence of age-related chronic diseases, (19) such as osteoarthritis, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. (9)(19)
It is, therefore, important to consider factors and interventions that may not only increase longevity but support healthy aging.
Many environmental factors, including access to social support, can impact aging and longevity, this article looks at the theories of aging and how to improve the quality of life as we age from a functional medicine perspective.
Theories of Aging
While the exact “causes” of aging have yet to be determined, physiological changes associated with the aging process have led to a number of proposed theories explaining the underlying mechanisms of aging, including:
Determinants of Healthy Aging & Longevity
Successful or healthy aging is determined by the absence of disease and disability, as well as the maintenance of physical ability, cognitive function, productivity, and engagement in social activities. (17) While healthy aging and longevity is influenced in part by genetic factors, studies have demonstrated that genetics account for only about 25% of the variation in human life expectancy. (14) Modification of certain environmental factors, such as diet, lifestyle, and psychosocial factors, may support healthy aging and longevity. Below are some examples of the environmental factors associated with healthy aging. (13)
- Physical activity levels
- Gait speed
- Alcohol consumption
- Psychological factors
- Stress and depression
- Self-esteem and life satisfaction
- Cognitive function
Integrative Protocol for Healthy Aging & Longevity Support
While diet and lifestyle may play a significant role in healthy aging, certain vitamins and supplements supply nutrients and botanicals that may also be beneficial. The following vitamins and minerals are examples of those that research has demonstrated may positively affect aging.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
An essential component to cell membranes, (2) omega-3 fatty acids are a major class of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and required in the diet because they cannot be manufactured by the body. (1) The primary omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA, found in plant oils such as soybeans, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds, can be converted to EPA and DHA in the body. However, this process is limited and the intake of EPA and DHA from food or supplements is often necessary to obtain adequate amounts. Synthesized by microalgae, EPA and DHA are found in fish and seafood, particularly cold water fish, such as salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel, and herring. (12)
In addition to their role as a structural component of cell membranes, omega-3 fatty acids are involved in eicosanoid formation and the expression of inflammatory genes. (12)(20) EPA and DHA form eicosanoids with lower biological potency, produce anti-inflammatory resolvins and protectins, and partly inhibit inflammatory mechanisms, including the production of eicosanoids derived from arachidonic acid. (1) Omega-3 fatty acids may also influence the aging process by increasing telomerase levels and lengths. (5)(15)
- Omega-3 PUFA has been shown to increase telomerase levels and lengths (5)(15)
- Omega fatty acids have shown to reduce IL-1?, TNF-? and IL-6 which contribute to the effects of inflammaging (21)
Telomeres are the caps on the end of your DNA and protect it from damage. Research has shown that increasing the length of the telomers (i.e. diet/exercise, nutritional support) is associated with a decrease risk in cancer and increase in longevity (in study animals).
First manufactured in the 1940s, multivitamin/mineral (MVM) supplements are still widely used in the U.S. More than one-third of the U.S. population reports taking an MVM. The term multivitamin/mineral is difficult to define as it refers to a broad range of dietary supplements with various characteristics and compositions. MVMs will typically contain the daily recommended amounts of most vitamins and minerals and may contain other nutrients or herbal ingredients. MVMs may also be formulated specifically for special populations (e.g., prenatal, children) or conditions (e.g., athletic performance, weight management). (11)
Individuals report using MVMs to increase daily nutrient intake, promote health and prevent disease, and/or fulfill special nutrient needs in certain individuals (e.g., pregnant women, elderly individuals, those following a vegan diet). (11) Studies have shown that multivitamin use may improve certain factors related to aging.
- Multivitamin use was associated with longer telomere length in women aged 35 – 74 (24)
- Multivitamins containing minerals and herbs were shown to decrease perceived mental stress in an elderly population several hours after intake (7)
- Multivitamin intake in elderly women was associated with an increase in inhibitory neural processes, which translates into an improvement in neural efficiency during memory retrieval (8)
- Multivitamins were shown to improve alertness and negative mood symptoms in men aged 50 to (4)
- Astragalus membracanus may be support healthy aging and longevity by increasing telomerase activity.
(Antique Botanical Engraving)
New & Upcoming Research:
Astragalus membracanus is a medicinal herb that has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to treat a wide variety of disorders. (6)(10) In TCM, it has been used to strengthen eliminative, immune, metabolic, and respiratory functions. (6)
To date, more than 2000 species of astragalus have been identified. (10) The primary active constituents of the astragalus plant include polysaccharides, flavonoids, and saponins. Pharmacological research examining the activity of these components suggests that astragalus may possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, immunoregulatory, antihyperglycemic, hypolipidemic, hepatoprotective, expectorant, and diuretic effects. Astragalus may also increase telomerase activity. (6)
- Decline in the percentage of senescent cytotoxic T cells (CD8+ and CD28-) and natural killer cells were observed in seropositive patients
- Decline in the percentage of senescent cytotoxic T cells (CD8+ and CD28-) and natural killer cells were observed in seropositive patients (3)
- TA-65 has shown to lengthen telomerase in a clinically significant way and decrease the percentage of short telomeres. Astragalus extract is the active constituent in TA-65 (3)(18)
The Bottom Line
While aging and longevity are determined in part by genetic factors, modification of diet, lifestyle, and other environmental factors may support healthy aging and improve longevity. A protocol using natural supplements can be used therapeutically on its own or as an adjunct to existing treatment. If you are not an integrative healthcare provider, we recommend speaking with one to find out whether these supplements are right for your wellness plan.
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