by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health
Itâs certainly true that we live in a youth-obsessed culture, but the desire to stave off aging is long-standing and universal. Remember Ponce de Leonâs search for the Fountain of Youth? Nowadays there are lots of products and programs aimed at holding back the years — but theyâre not only unproven and expensive, many are also just plain unsafe. And, of course, weâve been writing about strategies for longevity over the years — but it isnât often that something truly new and effective comes along… until now.
You may recall that I recently interviewed Michael Aziz, MD, an internist who practices in New York City and author of The Perfect 10 Diet.Â Dr. Azizâs book also provides helpful information on how to delay aging and I thought that information was worthy of its own article. It isnât an approach that youâve seen before — and some of it will surely surprise you.
According to Dr. Aziz, aging degrades our bodies in several different ways:
- The “rusting” of our bodies through oxidation. While oxygen is vital to life, itâs also oxidation in the body that produces free radicals — molecules that damage, disrupt and destroy nearby cells. Allowed to continue unchecked, free radicals eventually accumulate and inflict damage on the body to the point that many healthy cells can no longer survive properly and aging takes over. As we age, our bodies tend to lose the ability to resist oxidative challenges due to improper diet (sugar, refined vegetable oil used in fast foods), nutrient absorption issues, accumulated stress and other causes such as toxins and air pollution.
- Suboptimal hormone levels. Normal aging brings a steep decline in certain hormones, the ones that help maintain energy, skin elasticity, recovery from injury — both physical and biochemical — and resistance to disease and infection. These include sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone) and human growth hormone (HGH). Meanwhile cortisol, the hormone associated with stress, is the only hormone that naturally rises with age — which is especially a problem for people whose cortisol levels have been chronically elevated due to ongoing stress. Such hormonal changes accelerate the aging process.
- Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs). AGEs result when sugars bind (glycate) to proteins when you cook at high temperatures without using water, such as when you grill meat. Evidence is rapidly building that AGEs are implicated in wrinkles and, more importantly, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and even Alzheimerâs disease.
The Doctorâs Plan for a Natural Antiaging Program
Dr. Aziz says that there are many lifestyle choices you can make that will diminish the impact of these three aging factors in your body…
- Promote HGH production. HGH stimulates new tissue growth. It is produced when tissue is replaced due to normal recycling and response to injury. There has been some controversy around HGH supplementation, relating to a possible link to fast-growing cancer cells. But Dr. Aziz says that naturally produced HGH actually serves as a buffer against cancer by strengthening the immune system and increasing the size of the thymus gland, which ordinarily shrinks with age. Eating frequently suppresses HGH secretion. Dr. Aziz advocates three square meals a day, and limiting snacks to the days you work out. Since HGH also has fat-burning properties, it is no wonder that it is hard for overweight people to lose weight. Excess body fat lowers HGH — so lose weight! Another safe and easy way to bring up your HGH levels naturally without controversial HGH injections is an occasional fast. Dr. Aziz advises having a 24-hour vegetable-juice fast every two to three weeks, drinking just tomato juice or fresh vegetable juice (low-salt if you have a blood pressure problem). Fasting and reducing calories has been shown to promote longevity in insects… new research now shows it can do the same in mammals.
- Sleep is important, too. The body produces HGH up until one or two in the morning, so if you tend to burn the midnight oil itâs best to go to bed a bit earlier to increase the length of time your body produces HGH.
- Lift weights. Weight-training increases muscle mass and also ups HGH production — even if you train with only light weights.
- Make protein at least 20% of your daily calorie intake. The body uses protein to manufacture hormones, so it is vital to consume it in sufficient quantity. Dr. Aziz thinks that the best proteins to consume are animal-based, as they are rich in vitamin B-12, which keeps your memory sharp, among other benefits. Many people turn to soy for a large portion of their protein, but too much soy reduces testosterone in men and raises estrogen in women, which is not good for natural hormone balance. Note: Itâs best to eat your meat rare to medium rare (per FDA guidelines, rare is an internal temperature of 145Â°F for steaks and roasts… 160Â°F for ground beef) and cook protein in ways that decrease AGEs production. (For more on AGEs, see Daily Health News, April 6, 2010 “Cooking the Health Out of Your Food?”.)
- Do not follow a vegetarian diet. Dr. Aziz cautions against a vegetarian diet because it becomes challenging to eat enough protein to serve hormones effectively — and in fact, vegetarian menâs testosterone levels tend to be 15% lower than normal. Advocates of vegetarian diets overlook the negative effect on hormones such as thyroid and HGH. Vegetable protein sources also lack vitamin B-12.
- Sharply curtail eating sugar in all its forms. This includes not only refined sugar, but also starchy carbohydrates, such as potatoes and pasta. Sugar is harmful because it promotes oxidation… triggers the release of insulin, thus raising cortisol (both are potentially aging hormones) and also because AGEs need sugar to develop. Even natural fructose in fruits can be a problem in large amounts. The human body can effectively metabolize only 15 grams of fructose a day — about two pieces of fruit.
- Avoid refined vegetable oils. Corn oil, soy oil and all other refined vegetable oils are chemically processed using high heat, which creates a bevy of free radicals leading to oxidation in the body. Avoid fried foods for the same reason. Dr. Azizâs favorite oil: Macademia oil, as it has a high burning point. (For information on how to choose healthy oils, see Daily Health News, March 15, 2010 “Unsavory Truth About Vegetable Oils”.)
- Amp up your sex life. For men, according to Dr. Aziz, having frequent sex increases sex hormone levels, especially testosterone. Research from England shows that men who have two or more orgasms a week are more likely to live seven or eight years longer! Is it a link between testosterone levels and longevity? Absolutely, says Dr. Aziz. Men with low testosterone have a 33% chance of higher mortality according to several research studies. And letâs not forget that people who have sex frequently are more relaxed and feel livelier and happier.
Other Antiaging Reminders
Must we mention smoking? For those few who continue to puff, you should know that smoking directly accelerates aging in numerous ways.
Should we take supplements? Yes, says Dr. Aziz, starting with a good multivitamin supplement via an all-natural whole-food pill that has no artificial ingredients (he likes the brand Juice Plus). Also, for much-needed youth-giving omega-3s, he prefers krill oil to fish oil because it is more potent. As a last recommendation, after the long cold winter, Dr. Aziz says to throw open your windows to let in the fresh air. The pollution in your home, from various chemicals, pesticides, cleaning products and the like, could be worse than what lurks outside. Fill your lungs with oxygen, and enjoy your newfound sense of youthful well-being.