Forever Young: Don't
Help the Reaper
He also is 77 and going strong. Ames combines plain-spoken reminders to eat right and stay fit with esoteric insights into the nature of the aging process. In this article, Ames talks about the basics of aging and how to keep from aiding and abetting it.
Life expectancy increased about 30 years from 1900 to 2000, and I think it's going to increase at least another 30 years from 2000 to 2100. Science is going like a rocket.
In the old days you knew the dozen people in the world who worked on aging. Now there so many bright young people coming into the field. So, I'm an optimist. We don't know where all the breakthroughs are going to come from but we know there will be ways to intervene.
My interest is mainly diet. It's clear that there are all sorts of ways of aging yourself faster because of bad diet.
Mitochondria are the power plants in every cell. With age what happens is the mitochondria decay. So you look in an old rat or an old person, the mitochondria are less efficient and they're putting out more side product. Byproducts of mitochondrial burning are oxidants. Just the way iron rusts or fat grows rancid, we're all going rancid from these oxygen free radicals coming out of our metabolism.
It's like an old car engine -- it's putting out more black smoke and getting less efficient. And, so we've been interested in how to tune that up and make it better.
We can do that, but there are lots of things you can do that will age your mitochondria faster, and one of them turns out to be not getting enough vitamins and minerals. So not only do you need fuel in your diets -- the fat and carbohydrates -- it's also 40 different micronutrients. These are the vitamins and the minerals and the essential fatty acids that you need to keep all your biochemistry humming along.
If you don't get enough iron you're in trouble. If you don't get enough zinc you're in trouble. When you look at the population, they're eating this god-awful diet. You drink a sugary soft-drink and you get 10 teaspoons of sugar and no vitamins and minerals. It used to be that calories were hard to get and people ate dilute food and got their vitamins and minerals. Now, we eat a donut or a sugary soft drink or a glass of wine and you get no vitamins or minerals. But, it fills you up.
So we're finding all kinds of vitamin and mineral deficiencies that age your mitochondria faster. If you don't get enough iron -- and we're talking about a quarter of menstruating women (less than half the needed amount) we showed that your mitochondria go-to-pot. They start pouring out oxygen free radicals into the cells. If you don't get enough zinc, the same thing happens. We're showing it for a number of things.
Poor people are eating the worst diets along with the obese -- obesity means you're eating a bad diet by definition.
So, you need to exercise because it keeps your mitochondria healthy. And, you need to eat a good diet. It's what your mom told you a long time ago: if you're eating just calories, then you're going to get fat (I think in part) because you're always hungry due to the body craving all these missing ingredients.
The solution isn't very complicated -- take a multivitamin-mineral pill as an insurance pill.
Most multi-vitamin mineral mixtures do not have enough magnesium and calcium. If they made it with enough, the pill(s) would be huge. So you should eat some low fat yogurt every day and take extra calcium and magnesium.
Also, you need to eat fish a couple of times a week because fish has DHA, which is a long-chain Omega-3 fatty acid and 30 percent of the brain is made of DHA. A lot of people don't eat fish. (Fish oil supplements) do the job.
There's no sense trying to make people live longer if they're shortening their lifespan by smoking or eating lousy diets.
What we've been doing is looking at rats that get good diets (much better than people) and trying to see what we can do to make the mitochondria in old rats look like more like young rats.
Next: Cutting edge research in life extension
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