Human longevity is a complicated dance of genetics and lifestyle. While you can’t change your genetics you can make positive changes to your environment and lifestyle - including your nutrition, supplementation, sleep and fitness level. One of the ways this impacts your shot at longevity is through gene expression and the effect on your ‘telomeres’.
What are telomeres?
Telomeres are found at the end of your chromosomes. These have been likened to the protective tip found at the end of shoelaces, which prevent the laces from fraying and unravelling. Research has shown that telomere length is affected by lifestyle factors like eating a nutritious diet and getting regular exercise(1). This is important because scientists such as Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn believe that maintaining telomere length can help to keep us young and healthy(2). Telomeres generally shorten as we age, but this can be accelerated by things like smoking, poor diet or lack of exercise. For this reason telomeres are sometimes described as ‘epigenetic agents’(3). Epigenetics is the study of gene expression, where parts of your genetic code are effectively switched on or off due to external or environmental factors like diet and nutrition.
Longevity and health span
There are many modifiable lifestyle factors that have an epigenetic effect on your ‘health span’ - the number of years you will remain healthy, active and disease free. One of the best ways you can stay healthy for longer is by providing your body with exceptional nutrients. Nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin D and Magnesium are required for multiple different enzymes within our cells. When we suffer a shortage of these important nutrients the body will ‘ration’ these, prioritising enzymes critical to our survival over long term maintenance required for healthy ageing. This concept is described by researchers as the ‘triage’ theory of nutrition(4).
A good example of this is the way that Vitamin K is rationed when you are suffering from a low level Vit K deficiency. Research has shown that the body has an in-built mechanism which prioritises the blood clotting requirement if there is a shortage of Vitamin K. When this occurs, Vitamin K is sent to the liver to preserve coagulation function, rather than being used for maintenance functions such as keeping the arteries clear, or keeping bones strong - both of which are functionally important for longevity because they are associated with age-related diseases(5).
Some of the nutritional compounds which have been shown to help with healthy ageing include:
- Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that supports bone and cardiovascular health as we age, and makes proteins required for healthy bones and blood clotting.
- PQQ - Pyrroloquinoline quinone is found in kiwifruit, spinach, egg yolks and human breast milk. It has been shown in animal studies to extend lifespan by inducing mitochondrial biogenesis - the formation of new mitochondria. Further studies in humans have shown that PQQ reduces inflammatory markers including C-reactive protein(6). Bulletproof Unfair Advantage contains PQQ along with Coq10 (see below).
- Coq10 is a natural physiological compound which is found in almost every cell in the body, and has direct antioxidant effects. There is evidence to show that supplementation with Coq10 helps with the symptoms of ageing and age-related disease(7).
- OAA - Oxaloacetic acid is required for cellular energy production and has multiple protective effects in the body. Oxaloacetic acid supplementation via a product like BenaGene has been shown to provide an increase in health and life span in mammals, and activates over 350 anti-aging genes through its ability to mimic caloric restriction. We wrote more about BenaGene on our blog, Oxaloacetic Acid and the Brain.
- Resveratrol, a polyphenol found in grapes and wine has been shown to suppress the expression of inflammatory biomarkers, supporting healthy aging and longevity(8)(9). Resveratrol is one of the key ingredients in Quicksilver Scientific’s Adaptogenic formula, The One.
- Taurine is an important amino acid found throughout the body including in nerve cells and heart muscle. Higher levels of dietary taurine is strongly linked with longer life spans, and has been described as the ‘nutritional factor for the longevity of the Japanese’(10).
1. Genomics, Telomere Length, Epigenetics, and Metabolomics in the Nurses’ Health Studies
2. The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer
3. The Epigenetic Regulation of Telomere Maintenance in Aging
4. Prolonging healthy aging: Longevity vitamins and proteins.
5. Vitamin K, an example of triage theory: is micronutrient inadequacy linked to diseases of aging?
6. Dietary pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) alters indicators of inflammation and mitochondrial-related metabolism in human subjects.
7. Coenzyme Q10 Supplementation in Aging and Disease
8. Resveratrol: a multitargeted agent for age-associated chronic diseases.
9. Lifespan and healthspan extension by resveratrol.
10.Taurine as the nutritional factor for the longevity of the Japanese revealed by a world-wide epidemiological survey.