Why We Age- Theories On Cellular Aging, Factors That Drive It and Slow Its Progression
Society today has a strong, vested interest in researching the science behind aging as well as its prevention. In fact, 62 Billion dollars is spent annually on anti-aging remedies.
Within our culture, the process of growing old is often looked upon as something we must cure and prevent, like a disease. In fact, some dietary systems, such as the ayurvedic dietary system, consider aging to be just that. However, aging is a natural process and part of human design. Our bodies are literally pre-programmed to self-destruct based on several biological, biochemical processes. In addition, many cellular aging processes can occur at an abnormal rate given the SAD diet and overworked lifestyle that most Americans adopt today. This leads to premature aging, and chronic illness, and cancer.
When seen in the right way, the idea of growing old can be a graceful, beautiful, and transformative process. Aging is not something we can or need to prevent. Still, it is instead a design that we can support and, even reverse, when aging occurs prematurely.
What factors contribute to cellular aging?
The aging process takes place on a genetic and biochemical level and is complex, involving many systems.
Based on a scientific journal article I found from the Journal of cell biology (2018), aging is caused by senescence which means the loss of energy and function of a cell. Several factors influence allostatic load (overall wear and tear of the body). These factors drive senescence, which is the leading risk factor for death in developed countries (Balan,2018). These factors include-
· A decrease in telomere length- telomeres are structures that reside on the ends of chromosomes, acting as caps, protecting their composition. They are vital for shielding the chromosome from disrepair and becoming shorter as well as frayed.
· DNA damage- Internal and external environments high in genotoxins (agents that damage DNA and chromosomes). This process also permanently alters DNA structures passed on to future generations (ChEBI, 2020).
· Dysfunction within the mitochondria of a cell- a condition that occurs when mitochondria do not function as they should.
· Proteostatic dysfunction (proteins that help regulate neural function)- Proteostasis is a process that allows proteins within the cell to fold correctly, which helps with the maintenance of cellular homeostasis. When the cells become dysfunctional, they collapse, resulting in proteostatic dysfunction. Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Huntington's disease are examples of diseases caused by misfolded proteins.
· Chronic inflammation- slow, long-term systemic inflammation leads to type 2 diabetes, allergies, and cardiovascular disease.
· Stem cell depletion- Stem cells are crucial to the development of healthy tissues in adults. With the onset of age, stem cells diminish in production, leading to aging, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
· Nutrient deregulation sensing -sensory cells become damaged due to high insulin levels. This results in obesity, diabetes, and syndrome X. There are four nutrient signaling pathways-
§ Insulin and Insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1)- Aids in tissue and bone development. It is manufactured in the liver and skeletal muscles, among other tissues throughout the body.
§ Signaling pathway (IIS)- This pathway connects nutrients to metabolic requirements and growth and behavioral development.
§ mTOR pathway- regulates reproductive pathways and those connected with longevity factors such as reducing inflammatory cytokine production, increasing AMPK pathways, and signals the increase in amino acids essential to the cell such as leucine and arginine.
§ Pathway involving Sirtuins- anti-aging effects that mimic calorie restriction
§ AMP Kinase (AMPK) pathway.- increases cellular energy
Factors That Contribute To Aging
Several environmental and lifestyle factors contribute to the activation of cellular aging systems. When this occurs, cells within the body can no longer regenerate themselves, and cell death or apoptosis can occur.
These factors include:
· Environmental toxins
· Certain chemicals in household cleaning products
· Sun Exposure
· Poor Diet (See post my post on malnutrition in America)
· Depression and other diseases of the psyche
· Lack of social systems
· Lack of physical activity
· Lack of sleep
· Too much work
These factors all have one thing in common: a stressful impact on the body, which influences its ability to regulate repair pathways.
Foods That Accelerate Aging
· Fried foods such as French fries- cellular damage occurs when foods are fried at high temperatures. Many oils used within the food industry are hydrogenated and are pro-inflammatory. This effect on cellular DNA speeds up the breakdown of the elasticity of the skin (elastin). The salt in French fries also influences the skin's hydration levels, leading to dehydration.
· White bread and flour- When a protein molecule mixes with a sugar molecule, a process called AGEs (advanced glycation end-products) occurs. This generates oxidative stress and inflammatory responses, which increase cortisol and systemic inflammation. This has to do with insulin and sensing pathways that control and monitor blood sugar levels. Over time, these systems deplete, leading to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer.
· White sugar- Similar processes occur when white sugar is consumed in tandem with a protein (flour). Again, the more processed and refined, the higher the inflammatory response is. More repair pathways have to work to regulate insulin levels and inflammatory responses.
· Hydrogenated oils- trans fatty acids damage the heart and increase total cholesterol. LDL is the bad cholesterol that leads to cardiovascular diseases. Hydrogenated oils may also lead to dementia.
· Processed meats- pepperoni, hot dogs, bacon, and sausages are examples of processed meats. Unfortunately, many of their ingredients lead to aging on a cellular level. This has to do with the salt, sulfites, saturated fats, and other additives that make up the ingredients, all of which destroy collagen production.
· Dairy- For some individuals, dairy can have an inflammatory and oxidative effect on the body. Dairy can positively influence aging processes and adversely impact others based on each person's unique biochemistry.
· Alcohol- Alcohol dehydrates the skin, depletes essential B vitamins, taxes the liver and kidneys, ages the brain, slows cognitive function, and weakens the immune system. Alcohol also negatively impacts the heart (if consumed outside RDA) and adversely influences sleep, circadian rhythms, and the production of melatonin and GABA. Both melatonin and GAGA have anti-aging effects on the body and brain.
Aging is an inevitable phenomenon that is not something that needs to be avoided and the information provided is intended to help establish a foundational understanding of the implications of cellular aging. It is also essential to consider the lifestyle and dietary factors that influence the aging process. By applying the latest science and research to our diets, lifestyles, and even cosmetics, a lot can be done to prevent its early onset.
Instead of focusing on ways to cover up the fact that we get old, we can focus on attaining a healthy mind, diet, and lifestyle. By making a few small changes, we may find we feel so well, we look ten years younger.
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