by Ognyan Krastev - CEO, MLO Nutrition
Anti-aging, age-reversing, chronological age vs biological age, telomeres, epigenome, cellular health… The chances are that at some point in the last few years, you may have stumbled upon these terms as the narrative around aging becomes more and more viral by the minute. And while, yes, the statement "Growing old is a privilege" still holds true, there are nuances in our journey throughout the years that make all the difference.
Although the market for anti-aging products continues to expand into the multimillions charts, nowadays many scientists and everyday people start to question the direction of fearmongering trends such as Tik-Tok age filters, questionable surgeries or fad diets. The term "anti-aging" itself is often debated and criticized for the negative connotation it entails and the idea that you should fight AGAINST your years, your body, your face, and your mindset.
The reality is that "anti-aging" remains the most recognizable search online when it comes to growing old (or "wise" we should start to say), and probably it will take years for the new vocabulary like "pro-aging" and "well-aging" to become the norm. Meanwhile, the priority needs to be not the wording, but rather the awareness of how we can help ourselves to age with ease, how to remain healthy and active members of our community for as long as we can, and how to enjoy meaningful living in every phase of our lifespan.
In the following series, MLO Space will delve deeply into the conversation about age, longevity, health, and physical wellness. We will scrutinize the biology and science behind the human body, as well as the latest breakthrough studies around the potential solutions to slowing down the damage on our DNA and speeding up the rate of cell regeneration. Due to the expanding volume of research and knowledge in the field of aging, it is plausible to believe that in this day and age, we can safely alter the hardware of our bodies in order to feel and look younger. However, before jumping further into the complex aspects of the anti-aging voyage, we must start with the five basic pillars that are most crucial for achieving a healthy, long life.
The importance of adequate and restful sleep for promoting longevity and combating the effects of aging could never be underestimated. Yet, for most people in the 21st century, getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night is a real struggle. If you decide to embark on a daily routine focused on well-aging, it goes without saying that you should start by prioritizing sleep and establishing healthy sleep habits.
During sleep, the body undergoes essential repair and regeneration processes. This is particularly true for the skin, as skin cells regenerate and repair themselves during deep sleep. Sleep also helps regulate the release of various hormones, including growth hormone and cortisol. Growth hormone is key for tissue repair, muscle growth, and maintaining a healthy body composition. On the other hand, high cortisol levels (caused by inadequate sleep) can lead to increased stress, negatively affecting overall health and accelerating the aging process. In regards to the immune system, while we sleep deeply, our immune system produces and releases cytokines, which help combat inflammation and infections.
At the same time, sleep is the brain's best friend. During sleep, the brain consolidates memories, gets rid of unnecessary information we've accumulated throughout the day, and clears away toxic waste products. Figuratively speaking, sleep restarts our cognitive system and optimizes communication between our neurons. Without it, we can easily morph into a grumpy version of ourselves with severe mood swings, irritability, and increased stress levels, which can age the body prematurely.
Fully unraveling the connection between sleep, the brain, and aging is still a work in progress. One of the most fascinating discoveries in recent years has been associated with the hypothalamus — a small region in the brain that regulates various physiological processes, including body temperature, hunger, thirst, and circadian rhythms. Recent studies have shown that it also has an impact on aging. One of the key discoveries came from researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 2013. They found that the hypothalamus may control the rate of aging through the production of specific hormones, particularly a peptide called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). Another study published in the journal Nature in 2017 demonstrated that hypothalamic stem cells decline in function as we age, leading to impaired neurogenesis (the formation of new neurons). This decline in neurogenesis is associated with the aging process and may contribute to age-related cognitive decline. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that the hypothalamus is involved in regulating the body's response to stress, which can also influence the aging process. Chronic stress has been linked to accelerated aging and increased risk of age-related diseases.
Vice versa, the lack of sleep has also been well-studied for decades, and the growing number of academic papers today continues to illustrate the havoc it can unlock within our bodies. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to cognitive decline, an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, and higher chances of cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. Failing to get a good amount of sleep on a regular basis could also weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to illnesses and infections.
The most beneficial time to sleep is typically during the hours that align with our natural circadian rhythm. For most people, this means going to bed around 10:00 PM to midnight and waking up between 6:00 AM and 8:00 AM. This period aligns with the natural rise and fall of the hormone melatonin, which helps signal sleepiness. During the first half of the night, especially between 10:00 PM and 2:00 AM, the body tends to experience more deep sleep. Deep sleep is crucial for physical restoration, tissue repair, and overall physical well-being. The second half of the night, especially between 2:00 AM and 6:00 AM, is when REM sleep becomes more dominant. REM sleep is essential for cognitive processes, memory consolidation, and emotional regulation.
If you experience difficulties in your relationship with Morpheus, a few techniques could ease your transition to bedtime. Try to maintain a comfortable room temperature (generally between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit / 15 to 20 degrees Celsius). A cool bedroom promotes better sleep as it mimics the body's natural temperature drop during the night. You should also strive to avoid, or significantly limit, exposure to blue light screens (phones, tablets, computers) at least an hour before bed. You can substitute aimless scrolling on social media with stress-reduction practices such as taking a warm bath, reading a book, finding time for a couple of yoga stretches, or doing breathing exercises. Last, but not least, stay away from spicy, heavy, or large meals before sleep. The earlier you eat dinner – the better!
It would be mission impossible to encompass in one article all the papers and studies dedicated to the unbreakable bond between good food and good health. Moreover, as professor Morgan Levine from Yale University points out, diet is the behavior that's been studied the most in terms of trying to affect things like aging and longevity. For the purpose of this introductory piece, we will start with the three components of diet that seem to be impacting aging - how much we eat, what we eat and when we eat.
Trends in diets and health nutrition come and go. In the span of just 60 years people have been experimenting with dozens of food adaptation and restrictions, including The Graham Diet, The Cabbage Soup Diet, The Grapefruit Diet, The Liquid Diet, Low-fat / No-fat Diet, The Zone Diet, The Atkins Diet, The Blood Type Diet, The Master Cleanse, The Raw Food Diet, The Baby Food Diet, Juicing, Gluten-Free Eating, The Paleo Diet. While it’s hard to measure the long-term effect of such nutritional practices, nowadays the majority of researchers favor the balanced and simplified approach to diet. Some directions may vary but so far there is one principle that stood the test of time – a plant-based diet with more fruits, veggies and whole foods and less animal products and refined sugars remains the gold standard in terms of slowing aging and boosting longevity. As well as aiming to avoid high-glycemic foods that will trigger abnormalities in the levels of blood sugar.
A plethora of scientific studies supports the notion that plant-centric diets can significantly reduce the risk of chronic ailments like heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers – notorious culprits that can truncate our lifespans. Packed with antioxidants, plant-based foods aid in quelling the harmful free radicals that wreak havoc within our cells, thus aiding in the anti-aging battle. By fostering an anti-inflammatory environment in the body and maintaining healthy gut microbiomes, plant-based diets further equip us to combat age-related maladies. Notably, these nutritionally dense diets may play a role in preserving telomere length, the protective caps of our chromosomes that shrink as we age.
Perhaps the most crucial aspect of nutrition as a biomarker of aging is how much we eat. Unfortunately, the surge in obesity rates during the 1980s and 1990s, along with its associated health implications, led to the adoption of the term "obesity epidemic" to describe the alarming public health concern. As we speak, in a growing number of countries around the world, excessive weight has started to emerge as a leading cause of premature death. On the flip side, longevity is almost always linked to caloric restriction. "Caloric restriction" by no means indicates starvation or a drastic limit in the amount of food we consume daily. Scientists believe a 20% reduction in overall calorie intake should be enough to trigger a positive effect. Research on animal models consistently shows that caloric restriction (CR) extends lifespan, likely through reduced oxidative stress, inflammation, and cellular damage. CR also delays the onset of age-related diseases, improves metabolic health, and enhances cellular repair and autophagy. Moreover, it may protect cognitive function and reduce chronic inflammation. One caveat to the calorie restriction concept is that humans today tend to overeat, making it challenging to calculate our caloric baseline and, therefore, how to reduce it by 20%. The good news is that some researchers suggest that even if you can't restrict your calories, just stepping away from overeating could have a beneficial outcome in delaying aging.
Finally, the time when we eat is the last piece in the larger puzzle to improve our healthspan. Minimizing the food intake to a small window during the day can create mild stress inside the body, which in the long run makes us more adaptive and resilient to age-related shifts in our organism. The merits of intermittent fasting have been closely watched throughout the last decade, and so far, that's one of the most scientifically endorsed dietary approaches to regulate calorie consumption and meal schedules. Intermittent fasting shows promise in several aspects of anti-aging, inducing autophagy, a cellular process that breaks down and recycles damaged cells, improving cellular function for longevity. Some research even suggests that intermittent fasting may influence gene expression related to longevity, activating "longevity genes" that support healthy aging.
Intermittent fasting offers various styles and methods, such as the 16/8 Method, involving a 16-hour daily fast and 8-hour eating window. The 5:2 Diet includes five regular eating days and two non-consecutive days with reduced calorie intake. Eat-Stop-Eat requires a 24-hour fasting period once or twice a week. Alternate-Day Fasting alternates between fasting and regular eating days. The Warrior Diet fasts for 20 hours, followed by one large meal in a 4-hour window. OMAD (One Meal a Day) consists of a 23-hour daily fast, followed by one meal within a one-hour window. Extended Fasting involves fasting for more extended periods, while the 36-Hour Fast lasts for a full 36 hours. No matter which one of these approaches to intermittent fasting you decide to try, the chances are you will end up with improved metabolic health and weight management, reduced inflammation processes, better cardiovascular health, sharper cognitive function, and a lower risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
Evolutionary speaking, we were made to move - every single day. And sometimes it's hard even to begin to understand how sedentary life destroys our bodies in the long run. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week, coupled with muscle-strengthening activities at least two days per week. This is the baseline for a healthier life, but any sport, training or moving (as long as there are not too brutal) could also favor the longevity and anti-aging agenda. Let’s see how it’s done.
One key aspect is the cellular health. Physical activity promotes the production of antioxidants and reduces oxidative stress, which protects cells from damage and slows down the aging process. Additionally, exercise improves mitochondrial function, the energy-producing powerhouses of our cells, leading to enhanced cellular energy production and potentially contributing to increased longevity. Moreover, regular physical activity appears to play a role in telomere maintenance. Telomeres are protective caps at the end of our chromosomes that naturally shorten with age. Shorter telomeres are linked to cellular aging and age-related diseases. However, studies suggest that exercise may help preserve telomere length, thus slowing down cellular aging. The hormonal effects of exercise also contribute to anti-aging benefits. Physical activity can reduce stress hormone levels like cortisol while increasing the release of growth hormone and endorphins, which have anti-aging effects and positively impact overall health. Cardiovascular health is significantly improved through regular physical activity, reducing the risk of heart diseases such as heart attacks and strokes. This, in turn, promotes longevity as a healthy cardiovascular system is crucial for overall well-being. Cognitive function is another area influenced by exercise. Regular physical activity has been associated with improved cognitive function and a reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and dementia, ensuring healthier aging and longevity. Engaging in weight-bearing exercises and strength training helps maintain bone density and muscle mass, preventing age-related issues such as osteoporosis and sarcopenia. This, in turn, positively impacts mobility and independence in older adults. Furthermore, exercise can enhance the immune system's efficiency in fighting off infections and diseases, providing additional support for overall health and longevity.
Although the main goal, should be to implement more movements in your daily life, it's worth mentioning that certain sports and styles of training are considered particularly beneficial for anti-aging purposes and boosting longevity. Activities like brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, and dancing are excellent choices for cardiovascular health. These exercises improve heart and lung function, enhance blood circulation, and contribute to overall cardiovascular fitness, which is crucial for longevity. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) involves alternating short bursts of intense exercise with periods of rest or lower-intensity activity. HIIT is highly effective in improving cardiovascular health, metabolic function, and insulin sensitivity. It can also help burn calories more efficiently and maintain muscle mass, making it a time-efficient and effective workout for anti-aging purposes. Resistance or strength training involves using weights or bodyweight exercises to build and maintain muscle mass. As we age, we naturally lose muscle mass, but strength training can help slow down this process and preserve muscle strength, which is vital for mobility and overall functional fitness. Yoga combines physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation, offering numerous benefits for both physical and mental well-being. Regular practice of yoga can improve flexibility, balance, and strength while reducing stress and promoting relaxation.
Similarly, pilates focuses on core strength, flexibility, and body awareness. It can help improve posture, muscle tone, and joint flexibility, making it an excellent choice for those looking to maintain a strong and agile body as they age. Swimming is a low-impact exercise that is easy on the joints, making it an excellent choice for people of all ages. It provides a full-body workout and can improve cardiovascular fitness, strength, and flexibility. Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that involves slow and gentle movements combined with deep breathing. It has been associated with improved balance, flexibility, and cognitive function. Tai Chi is particularly beneficial for older adults and can help prevent falls and enhance overall well-being. Mind-body exercises like Qigong and mindfulness-based practices have been associated with reduced stress, improved mental well-being, and better overall health. These exercises can complement physical activity routines and contribute to longevity.
The profound significance of the microbiome to our health was underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, even before this, numerous scientists had advocated for viewing the community of microorganisms within the human body as an organ, akin to the liver or lungs. This paradigm shift emphasizes the need for extensive research on the microbiome's role, not only as a vital component of our well-being but also as a complex entity that warrants thorough exploration.
The term "microbiome" refers to the diverse community of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microbes, that inhabit various parts of the human body, such as the skin, mouth, gut, and other mucosal surfaces. The gut microbiome, in particular, is a complex ecosystem of trillions of microorganisms that play a crucial role in various physiological processes. The microbiome has a significant impact on human health since it plays key role in digestion, synthesizes certain vitamins, trains the immune system, and contributes to the maintenance of a balanced and healthy state. An imbalanced or disrupted microbiome (known as dysbiosis) has been associated with various health issues, including digestive disorders, autoimmune diseases, allergies, obesity, and more.
Even though, the research into the connection between the microbiome, anti-aging, and longevity is still ongoing, there is growing interest in this area. Some studies suggest that the composition of the gut microbiome might influence aging processes and longevity. The gut microbiome's role in immune regulation, inflammation, and metabolism may have implications for aging-related conditions. One theory is that changes in the gut microbiome as people age (a phenomenon called "microbiota drift") might contribute to age-related health decline. Certain microbial populations decline while others increase, and this could potentially influence various aspects of aging. Additionally, the gut microbiome's influence on metabolism and inflammation could indirectly impact aging. Some researchers speculate that interventions that modulate the microbiome, such as dietary changes, probiotics, or even fecal microbiota transplantation, might have implications for healthy aging and longevity.
Cultivating a healthy microbiome is a gradual process that requires patience and consistent effort. A balanced diet plays a pivotal role, with an emphasis on consuming diverse foods rich in fiber, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Prebiotics found in garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, and bananas provide nourishment for beneficial gut bacteria, while probiotics from fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi introduce live microorganisms that offer health benefits. Probiotic supplements are also a great option. Keep in mind that different strains of probiotics may have varying effects, so it's a good idea to research and choose a reputable product.
Engaging in stress management techniques like exercise, meditation, yoga, and mindfulness can also counteract the negative impact of chronic stress on the microbiome. Regular physical activity, adequate sleep, and proper hydration also contribute to a healthier gut environment. Additionally, it's important to avoid overusing antibiotics, as their indiscriminate use can disrupt the delicate balance of the microbiome. Minimizing sugar and processed food consumption, as well as avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol intake, further supports the microbial community. While making these lifestyle changes, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional, especially if you have specific health conditions or concerns. Remember that cultivating a healthier microbiome is a gradual process that requires patience and consistent effort.
Do you truly need to incorporate supplements into an anti-aging protocol? Well, if you're consistently able to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night, exercise regularly 4-5 times a week, consume predominantly healthy plant-based foods, stay hydrated, and lead a stress-free life, then probably not. However, let's be realistic; maintaining such a perfect balance in today's world can be quite challenging. Unless you commit all your time to these objectives or choose to leave your job behind and embark on a new life in a serene, remote location surrounded by nature.
This is where supplements come into play. They serve as fantastic tools to compensate for the deficiencies that may arise from the hectic lifestyle of the 21st century. A well-curated supplement regimen can counteract some significant disruptions in the human body and aid in overcoming various challenges, including immune system function, microbiome balance, and cellular repair.
Presently, several supplements are backed by research in the field of anti-aging and longevity. These include antioxidants, probiotics, resveratrol, omega-3 fatty acids, NAD+, collagen peptides, glutathione, vitamin D, and coenzyme Q10. Each of these supplements targets distinct processes within the body, such as shielding against oxidative stress, supporting hormonal transitions, and fostering epigenetic adjustments.
Considering the intricate nature of healthy aging, in 2023, MLO Nutrition is expanding its SPACE SERIES with four brand-new products that focused on a modern holistic approach to preserving our bodies in optimal condition as time advances. Stay tuned and accompany us on this long(evity) journey as we continue to share with you more in-depth details, exiting news and white papers on how to improve your quality of life and embrace the years ahead with happiness and vitality.