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How to Reverse Your Biological Age

At-a-Glance:

  • Getting older is inevitable, but aging is not. 
  • Aging is a gradual deterioration over time that increases your vulnerability to diseases, reduces your resilience, and hastens death.
  • Fortunately, you can control how you age.
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By Dr. John Neustadt

Getting older is inevitable, but aging is not. Aging is a gradual deterioration that increases your vulnerability to diseases, reduces your resilience, and hastens death. Fortunately, you can control how you age.

This process happens on three levels: functional, cellular, and genetic. While they’re interconnected, having a basic understanding of each one will make the approaches to reversing biological age make more sense. 

Functional Aging

As people get older, their ability to function deteriorates. They often feel more sluggish, their brains slow down, their balance and strength decrease, and they begin losing their ability to work and fully participate in life. 

Cellular Aging

Cells are the building blocks of all your organs, including your kidneys, bones, intestines, and brain. Therefore, cellular aging is the driving force behind functional aging. Your cells are continually exposed to stressors like reactive oxygen species (ROS), environmental toxins, UV radiation, and other assaults on cellular health.

Throughout your body, cells are constantly being renewed. For example, bone remodeling is your body’s way of breaking down old bone and creating new, healthy bone. This process takes about a decade for complete bone turnover, meaning you have all new bones every ten years. 

In the time it takes for old cells and molecules to be replaced, damage accumulates. Fortunately, your cells have ways to protect and repair themselves. But damage builds up when it happens too quickly, or your ability to repair it decreases. This causes tissue injury and aging.1 

Genetic Aging

Whenever your cells divide, your genes also must replicate. When they do, a part called the telomere is shortened. Like the caps on the end of shoestrings, telomeres exist at the end of your DNA. Telomeres are your biological clock. With each cell division, telomeres get shorter. When they become too short, your cells can no longer divide and die. 

Environmental, lifestyle, poor diet, and chronic inflammation speed up your biological clock and how fast you lose telomere length.2,3 Exposure to heavy metals (e.g., lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic), air pollution, radiation, industrial chemicals, tobacco, and pesticides negatively affects telomeres and further accelerates aging.4 In fact, environmental factors may be responsible for 72% of the variability in telomere length.5 Fortunately, you can not only slow down your biological clock but telomere length can be restored. 

The approach to slow, stop, and reverse biological aging has two components. First, stop doing or exposing yourself to things that create damage. Then, provide the environment and raw materials to repair and enhance cellular function. Below, I provide suggestions on improving how tissues function (e.g., muscle, bone, and brain) and supporting telomere health.

Eliminate Kitchen Toxins

We live in an increasingly toxic world. While we can’t isolate ourselves from all toxins, removing toxic chemicals from your kitchen is a straightforward way to reduce exposure. Start by eliminating these five toxins: toxic oils, hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners, anything with ingredients you don’t understand, and most added sugar. 

Reduce Pesticides 

Each year, farmers spray 2.2 billion pounds of pesticides on their crops. While eating organic is more expensive, focus on swapping out organic produce for those products that use the most pesticides. Some are meats (beef, pork, poultry), dairy, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, apples, pears, and tomatoes. You can see all the foods in The Dirty Dozen: 12 Foods to Buy Organic.

Support Brain Health

Exercise is important for overall health. It’s also an excellent tonic for brain health and has been shown to reverse age-related declines. A randomized clinical trial with 94 adults ages 20-67 years evaluated the effects of six months of aerobic exercise on cognition and brain structure. The volunteers exercised at five YMCA centers in New York City four times weekly for 30-40 minutes each time. 

For the first two weeks, they exercised 55-65% of their maximum heart rate (moderate exercise), then increased it to 65-75% (vigorous exercise) for the rest of the study. While they wore heart rate monitors, you can estimate the intensity of your workout by the “talk test.” Moderate exercise means you’re moving your body enough to be a bit winded but can still carry on a conversation; however, you won’t be able to sing. Similarly, you know you’re doing vigorous exercise if you’re so winded you can’t continue a conversation.

At the end of six months, executive function (e.g., working memory, focus, organization, time management, achieving goals, flexibility) significantly improved for all ages. Interestingly, those improvements were greater in the older participants. Compared to 40-year-old volunteers, those aged 60 had a 61.4% greater improvement. For all age groups, brain thickness also improved, specifically in the frontal cortex, which is involved with planning and executive functions.6

Supporting these findings, aerobic exercise increased telomere length in a clinical trial with 124 women and men ages 30-60 years. Volunteers walked or ran for 45 minutes three times per week for six and a half months. Aerobic exercise increased their telomeres by 3.3-3.5%.7 

Build Muscle 

Skeletal muscle is important for balance, strength, and stability, catching yourself when you stumble and preventing falls. Improving muscle mass and strength is also important for lowering your biological age and reducing your risk of dying. 

People who don’t participate in physical activity can start losing muscle as young as thirty, which gets even more pronounced after age 60.8,9 Low muscle mass causes insulin resistance and diabetes and is associated with an up to 258% increase in dying from any cause compared to people with healthy amounts of muscle.10, 11 In fact, every 0.39 inch (1 centimeter) increase in thigh circumference is associated with a 4% reduction in all-cause mortality.12 

Fortunately, it’s never too late to build muscle. A recent clinical trial with volunteers 65 to older than 85 years showed that resistance exercise builds muscle. Twelve weeks of whole-body resistance exercises done three times a week significantly increased muscle mass and strength in all ages.13 

To build muscle, it’s also important to get enough protein. Importantly, how much you need increases as people get older. People 65 or older should consume about 0.60 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily, which is about 75% more than the US Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) for protein.14 

Build Bone

Bone loss is second only to cardiovascular disease as a global health problem. In the U.S., osteoporosis creates more disability than high blood pressure, breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer, and Parkinson’s disease.15

As damage accumulates in your bones, they lose mineral density and weaken. Bones are miracles of biological engineering. Like everything else in our bodies, they contain all the necessary machinery to thrive when we provide the right raw materials for them to do their job. The sad belief that bones are on this inevitable decline and that there is nothing we can do about it is just plain wrong.

Like with muscles, resistance exercises are important. Resistance training improves bone density and balance and reduces fracture risk.  

Getting enough protein is also crucial for bone health. The major protein in bone is collagen, which provides structure, flexibility, and strength. It also is the scaffolding on which minerals bind.16-19 In addition to collagen, there are about 200 other proteins in bone.20 In fact, the amount of protein you consume can account for 2-4% of your bone mineral density.21 Ensuring adequate protein is critical to maintaining and reversing your bone’s biological age. 

Beyond diet and exercise, some nutrients have been shown in clinical trials to support bone health by improving bone density and maintaining strong bones. These are Collagen and the nutrients in NBI’s Osteo-K line of products—MK4, Vitamin D3, and Calcium. These nutrients give your body the raw materials that promote healthy bone density and maintain strong bones, as indicated by more than 70% fewer fractures in clinical trials.22, 23  

Optimize Hormones

Hormone deficiencies increase cellular aging and accelerate aging. Low estrogen in women and testosterone in men increases inflammation, creates depression, and increases Alzheimer’s disease risk, heart disease risk, and more.24-26 When estrogen and testosterone deficiencies are corrected, the risk for many chronic diseases decreases.

Estrogen also protects telomere length. While women produce more estrogen than men, men still benefit since men convert testosterone to estradiol. Multiple studies have shown that while testosterone is not associated with telomere length in men, estradiol is.27 

Testing and getting low hormones back into their healthy ranges is important when you want to improve your biological age. Numerous studies have shown that hormone replacement therapy improves cellular and physical function.28, 29

Take Vitamin D

Vitamin D promotes healthy inflammation balance, helps regulate calcium absorption, and is important for bone health. It also supports healthy aging. In a 12-month, placebo-controlled clinical trial, 183 volunteers aged 65 and older took 800 IU/day of Vitamin D3 or a placebo. At the end of the study, compared to people getting the placebo, volunteers taking Vitamin D3 significantly improved cognitive function and increased telomere length.30 Research shows that to maintain healthy vitamin D levels for bone and immune support, many people need more vitamin D.

Take Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Ingestion of omega-3 fatty acids increases learning, memory, cognitive well-being, and blood flow in the brain. Omega-3 treatments are advantageous, well-tolerated, and risk-free. Lonelier people, the elderly, and those who eat fewer healthy foods containing omega-3 may benefit from an omega-3 supplement.”31 (Effects of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids on Brain Functions.pdf)

Researchers evaluated data from five clinical trials with 375 volunteers in a meta-analysis. Those who took omega-3 fatty acid supplements had a mean 21% longer telomeres than the control groups. Telomere length was preserved in people taking 467 mg of EPA+DHA daily, while it increased in people taking 1,250 mg and more of EPA+DHA daily.32 

In a 2017 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 86 men and women (mean age 71 years old) with mild cognitive impairment associated with aging were randomized to take either 720 mg EPA and 480 mg DHA per day or a placebo for six months. At the beginning of the study, there were no significant differences in cognitive performance; however, after six months, those who took the EPA+DHA had significantly better “perceptual speed, space imagery efficiency, and working memory” than the placebo group. Additionally, inflammation markers, including interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a), and secretory phospholipase A2 (sPLA2), significantly decreased in the volunteers who took the dietary supplement.33

NBI’s Best Catch Omegas provides 1,500 mg of EPA+DHA per serving, the amount shown in clinical trials to promote healthy telomere length, support healthy memory, and provide other health benefits.

Eat a Plant-Forward Diet

Your diet impacts your longevity and biological age. A systematic review and meta-analysis that evaluated the impact of nutrition on longevity concluded that certain foods are associated with longer telomere length and a reduction in all-cause mortality. Eating whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and drinking coffee are associated with a lower all-cause mortality. In contrast, a high intake of red meat, especially processed meat, increases all-cause mortality. Regarding overall dietary patterns, the Mediterranean Diet reduces all-cause mortality risk.34 

In a 3-year lifestyle intervention study, women following the Mediterranean Diet, which is essentially a plant-forward, alkaline diet, and participating in regular physical activity had an increase in telomere length.35 Plants contain lots of vitamins and minerals, and consuming these nutrients in your diet has also been associated with longer telomere length.36

 

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References

1 Behr LC, Simm A, Kluttig A, et al. 2023;88:101934. 

2 Lin J, Epel E, Blackburn E. 2012;730(1):85-89. 

3 Vidaček NŠ, Nanić L, Ravlić S, et al. 2017;73(1):39-47.

4 Liu Y, Wang J, Huang Z, et al. 2021;83:103575. 

5 Hjelmborg JB, Dalgård C, Möller S, et al. 2015;52(5):297-302.

6 Stern Y, MacKay-Brandt A, Lee S, et al. 2019;92(9):e905-e916. 

7 Werner CM, Hecksteden A, Morsch A, et al. 2019;40(1):34-46. 

8 Lexell J, Taylor CC, Sjöström M. 1988;84(2-3):275-94.

9 Janssen I, Heymsfield SB, Wang ZM, et al. 2000;89(1):81-8. 

10 Wang Y, Luo D, Liu J, et al. 2023;18(6):e0286745. 

11 Liu ZJ, Zhu CF. 2023;15(1):46.

12 Chen CL, Liu L, Huang JY, et al. 2020;13:1977-1987. 

13 Marzuca-Nassr GN, Alegría-Molina A, SanMartín-Calísto Y, et al. 2024 2024;34(1):11-19. 

14 Baum JI, Kim IY, Wolfe RR. 2016;8(6).

15 Kanis JA. 2020. WHO_Technical_Report-2007.pdf

16 Burla F, Dussi S, Martinez-Torres C, et al 2020;117(15):8326-8334. 

17 Wang X, Bank RA, TeKoppele JM, 2000;(371):228-39. 

18 Zioupos P, Currey JD, Hamer AJ. 1999;45(2):108-16. 

19 Boskey AL, Wright TM, Blank RD. 1999;14(3):330-5.

20 Sroga GE, Vashishth D. 2012;10(2):141-50. 

21 Weaver AA, Tooze JA, Cauley JA, et al. 2021;76(12):2213-2222. 

22 Cockayne S, Adamson J, Lanham-New S, et al. 2006;166(12):1256-1261. 

23 Ma ML, Ma ZJ, He YL, et al. 2022;10:979649. 

24 Jung BH, Jeon MJ, Bai SW. 2008;49(3):345-51.

25 Mohamad NV, Wong SK, Wan Hasan WN, et al. 2019;22(2):129-140. 

26 Wu D, Cline-Smith A, Shashkova E, 2021;12:687551. 

27 Coburn SB, Graubard BI, Trabert B, 2018;6(4):542-546. 

28 Dimopoulou C, Ceausu I, Depypere H, et al. 2016;84:94-9. 

29 Speth RC, D’Ambra M, Ji H, Sandberg K. 2018;315(6):H1765-h1778. 

30 Yang T, Wang H, Xiong Y, et al. 2020;78(4):1509-1518. 

31 Dighriri IM, Alsubaie AM, Hakami FM, et al. 2022;14(10):e30091. 

32 Ali S, Scapagnini G, Davinelli S. 2022;13(1):25-33.

33 Bo Y, Zhang X, Wang Y, et al. 2017;9(1).

34 Ekmekcioglu C. 2020;60(18):3063-3082. 

35 Marti A, Fernández de la Puente M, Canudas S, et al. 2023;42(9):1581-1587. 

36 Mazidi M, Kengne AP, Banach M. 2017;127(2):87-90.

 

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