Michael Hunter, MD on Medika Life

Stop Getting Older! Six Steps to Slow Aging

POSITIVE LIFESTYLE CHANGE IS ASSOCIATED with a decrease in biological aging, according to a recently reported eight-week clinical trial. Today we look at how to measure biological age before turning to six strategies to slow aging.

Let’s cut to the chase and look at the six lifestyle interventions the study indicates slow aging:

  • Diet
  • Sleep
  • Physical activity
  • Relaxation
  • Probiotics
  • Phytonutrients

“How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true;
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face.”

― William Butler Yeats, The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats

Biological aging (senescence)

Biological aging, or senescence, is a complex process involving genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Here are some of the major factors that contribute to biological aging:

  1. Genetic factors: Aging has a hereditary component, meaning that certain genes can predispose individuals to age faster or slower than others.
  2. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the body’s ability to neutralize them. Free radicals can damage cells, tissues, and DNA, leading to aging and age-related diseases.
  3. Telomere shortening: Telomeres are protective caps at the end of chromosomes that shorten each time a cell divides. Over time, telomeres become too short to function properly, leading to cell damage and aging.
  4. Epigenetic changes: Epigenetic modifications, such as DNA methylation and histone modification, can affect gene expression and contribute to aging.
  5. Inflammation: Chronic inflammation can damage cells and tissues, leading to aging and age-related diseases.
  6. Environmental and lifestyle factors: These include exposure to pollutants, UV radiation, and other stressors, as well as lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, and stress management.

It’s important to note that biological aging is a complex process that involves many different factors, and scientists are still working to understand all the mechanisms involved.

Reversing biological aging

Do we have some evidence that we can reverse aging? For example, the first human study reported in 2019 showed biological age reversal of up to three years.

This small clinical trial from California (USA) suggested reversing our body’s epigenetic clock (the timekeeper for our biological age) is possible.

Nine healthy volunteers consumed a cocktail of three common drugs, including growth hormone and two diabetes medicines, for one year. On average, they shed 2.5 years off their biological ages, measured by analyzing genomic markers. The subjects also had signs of immune system improvements.

While the results were impressive (and surprised the researchers), the study was small and did not include a control arm. Here is Steve Horvath, the University of California, Los Angeles geneticist who performed the epigenetic analysis:

“I’d expected to see slowing down of the clock but not a reversal. That felt kind of futuristic.” The scientists published their findings in Aging Cell.

Vitamin D appears to slow aging among African Americans deficient in the vitamin. Photo by Leohoho on Unsplash

A separate study of obese African Americans with vitamin D deficiency discovered this finding:

The African American study subjects — deficient in vitamin D — reversed their biological age by 1.85 years in 16 weeks with a vitamin D supplement program.

For this clinical trial, researchers enrolled 70 overweight or obese African Americans with serum vitamin D levels of less than 50.

They randomized the participants into four dose groups, including 600 IU, 2,000 IU, and 4,000 IU of daily vitamin D3 supplements or placebo, followed by 16-week interventions.

The results suggested that vitamin D supplements may slow epigenetic aging. The study is not definitive, as it was small, short, and not randomized.

“The wisest are the most annoyed at the loss of time.”
― Dante Alighieri

Reversing biological aging — new evidence

In an eight-week clinical trial, multi-institutional researchers examined how diet and lifestyle intervention might reverse biological age. Here are the results:

The intervention, which included sleep, diet, exercise, relaxation guidance, supplemental probiotics, and phytonutrients, was associated with a 3.23-year decrease in biological age.

Each study participant followed this regimen:

  1. A healthy diet with dense, colorful cruciferous vegetables; low glycemic fruits; and some animal protein (for example, eggs or liver). In addition, subjects consumed foods with polyphenol compounds, such as tumeric, curcumin, green tea, and mushrooms.
  2. Hydration
  3. Exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes daily, five days weekly, at a perceived exertion of 60 to 80 percent of one’s maximum.
  4. Meditate regularly.
  5. Sleep for at least seven hours per night.
  6. Two supplements: extra polyphenols (a greens powder) and a simple probiotic.

The researchers designed each component, brick by brick, on what influences DUA methylation and epigenetics favorably. As one researcher put it, they aimed to “sweet talk gene expression and turn off bad genes, like genes associated with cancer or even inflammation, and turn on good ones.”

Lead author Kara Fitzgerald adds, “the best time to start implementing diet and lifestyle changes to impact your biological age is in your 30s as changes in the aging journey really kick in during our 40s.”

Photo by julien Tromeur on Unsplash

My take

Biological age reflects the rate at which you are aging physically. On the other hand, your chronological age is simply the number of birthdays that you have celebrated.

While we are stuck with our chronological age, a growing body of evidence indicates that you have more flexibility with your biological age. That is good news for those who aim to optimize our lifestyles, however imperfect we are.

Aging remains a central risk factor for both acute and chronic diseases. The recent study reminds me that we are moving closer to understanding how to wind back our biological clocks.


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Michael Hunter, MD
Michael Hunter, MD
I received an undergraduate degree from Harvard, a medical degree from Yale, and trained in radiation oncology at the University of Pennsylvania. I practice radiation oncology in the Seattle area.

Michael Hunter, MD

I received an undergraduate degree from Harvard, a medical degree from Yale, and trained in radiation oncology at the University of Pennsylvania. I practice radiation oncology in the Seattle area.

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