Are There Anti-Aging Vitamins?

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in Anti-Aging Vitamins, Vitamins and Health

Could You Live To Be 120 And Beyond?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

anti-aging viataminsRecent headlines suggest that we can slow biological aging just by increasing our consumption of certain vitamins. That sounds wonderful.  After all, everyone is still hoping for that mythical “Fountain of Youth” and anti-aging vitamins could be just the ticket.

But, what did the paper behind the headlines actually show? The paper (J-Y Lee et al, Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, DOI: 10.1111/jhn.12403, 2016) reported that people who consumed the most vitamin C and folic acid had the longest telomeres.

You might be wondering how journalists extrapolated from that study to headlines proclaiming that those vitamins could slow biological aging. To understand the answer to that question you need to know two things:

  • What is biological aging?
  • What are telomeres and why are they important?

What Is Biological Aging?

biological agingIn simplest terms, biological aging refers to the aging process on a cellular level. This concept is based on the “Hayflick Limit” first proposed by Leonard Hayflick in 1962. He showed that normal human cells have a maximum lifespan of 40-60 cell divisions. As they approach that upper limit, DNA damage accumulates and cell division slows and eventually stops.

The “Hayflick Limit” is important because our tissues depend on constant cell division to remain young and vital. Our organs are made up of various tissues and depend on those tissues performing at an optimal level. Thus, as more and more cells lose the ability to divide, our tissues and our organs begin to age. This is thought to be associated with disease and eventually death.

Thus, even though biological aging refers to aging at a cellular level, its significance is thought to extend far beyond the cellular level. It is thought to influence aging, disease, and death at a whole-body level. It reminds me of the famous quote “For want of a nail…the kingdom was lost.” If you’ve forgotten that quote, look it up. It is a perfect analogy for how something that seems so inconsequential can have such a profound effect on our health and mortality.

What Are Telomeres And Why Are They Important?

anti-aging vitamins telomeresTelomeres are sequences of repetitive DNA at the ends of our chromosomes that protect their integrity. Telomeres become progressively shorter as we age. As a very simple analogy we can think of telomeres as being similar to the tips of our shoelaces. If you have ever lost the tip of your shoelace, you know that the shoelace is worthless once the tip is gone.

That analogy holds perfectly with respect to our telomeres. As the telomers become progressively shorter, DNA division slows and eventually stops. DNA division is essential for cell division. Telomere shortening is postulated to be responsible for the Hayflick Limit. Thus, it is no surprise that telomere shortening is associated with aging, age-related diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and dementia, and death.

Telomere shortening is a bad news, good news phenomenon. On the “bad” side, telomere shortening is inevitable. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we will all die at some point.

On the “good” side, there is tremendous heterogeneity in telomere length between individuals at any given age. Some of these differences in telomere length may be genetic, but many appear to be lifestyle related (MA Shammas, Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 14: 28-34, 2011). For example, short telomers appear to be associated with things like smoking, environmental pollution, stress, meat consumption, and fat consumption. Long telomeres are associated with the lack of those things and with positive lifestyle characteristics such as exercise and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Are Some Vitamins Anti-Aging Vitamins?

slow agingMore recent studies have begun to look at the influence of individual nutrients on telomere length. The study featured this week (J-Y Lee et al, Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, DOI: 10.1111/jhn.12403, 2016) is just the latest example.

This study used food frequency questionnaires to assess nutrient intake of 1958 middle-aged and older Koreans between June 2001 and January 2003. They measured intake of vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B9 (folate), C and E plus calcium, phosphorous, potassium iron and zinc.

Ten years later they measured telomere length in the same population and reported that:

  • Telomere length was positively associated with intake of vitamin C, folate, and potassium.
  • No association with telomere length was seen for the other nutrients.

So, are these anti-aging vitamins?  Let’s look at the strengths and weaknesses of this study.

This study has some notable strengths:

  • It is a fairly large study, so the results are statistically significant.
  • There is a good biochemical rationale for vitamin C and folate being protective for telomeres.
  • Antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, and polyphenols protect the DNA from oxidative damage.
  • Folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 are involved in pathways that stabilize and repair DNA.
  • It is consistent with previous studies (See below)

However, this study also has some glaring weaknesses:

  • It only measures associations, not cause and effect.
  • The diet analysis was not repeated at the end of the study. The authors assumed that dietary habits did not change, but we don’t know that.
  • The use of dietary supplements was not assessed, so we don’t know how that might have influenced the outcome.

What Does This Study Mean For You?

If we look at the totality of published studies(MA Shammas, Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 14: 28-34, 2011) :

  • There is good evidence that optimal intake of the antioxidants C and E is positively associated with telomere length.
  • There is good evidence that optimal intake of folic acid and vitamin B12 is positively associated with telomere length.
  • There is preliminary evidence that optimal intake of carotenoids, polyphenols, and omega-3 fatty acids is positively associated with telomere length.

However, there is a lot we don’t know about telomeres. We know that short telomeres are associated with aging, age-related diseases and death. What we do not know is whether telomere shortening is the cause of the aging process or merely a marker of aging. Let me rephrase those two possibilities in a more understandable manner.

  • If telomere shortening is the cause of the aging process, anything we can do to decrease the rate of telomere shortening would slow the aging process and delay the onset of age-related diseases.  If the vitamins mentioned above then caused this decrease, they could indeed be considered anti-aging vitamins.
  • If telomere length is simply a marker of aging, we can consider it like the “canary in the coal mine”. That analogy might be particularly apt. The value of the canary is that it can detect toxic gases when they are still undetectable to humans. It turns out that it is virtually impossible to detect the effect of nutrient intake on longevity (We simply live too long), and it has proven very difficult to determine the effect of nutrient intake on age-related diseases. Having a simple marker of the aging process may well give us valuable insight into how we can best delay the aging process.

Either way longer telomeres are probably a good thing. Based on a limit of 40-60 cell divisions for normal human cells, Leonard Hayflick estimated a maximum human lifespan of 120 years. If we could truly decrease the rate of telomere shortening, would that potentially increase maximum human lifespan or would it mean that more of us reach 120 in good health? Most of us would probably be happy with either outcome.

 

The Bottom Line

 

  • Telomeres are the tips at the end of our chromosomes that protect the chromosomes from unraveling.
  • Our telomeres get progressively shorter as we get older. Short telomeres are associated with aging, age-related diseases, and death.
  • Recent studies have shown that our lifestyle can influence the rate of telomere shortening. For example:
  • Short telomers are associated with things like smoking, environmental pollution, stress, meat consumption, and fat consumption.
  • Long telomeres are associated with the lack of those things and with positive lifestyle characteristics such as exercise and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Recent studies have also shown that optimal intake of certain nutrients can influence the rate of telomere shortening. For example:
  • There is good evidence that optimal intake of the vitamins C, E, folic acid, and B12 is positively associated with telomere length.
  • There is preliminary evidence that optimal intake of carotenoids, polyphenols, and omega-3 fatty acids is positively associated with telomere length.
  • There is a lot that we do not know about telomere length. In particular,
  • We do not know whether telomere shortening is the cause of the aging process or merely a marker of aging, like the canary in the coal mine.
  • In either case, anything we can do to reduce the rate of telomere shortening is probably a good thing.

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Latest Article

Yoga Pain Relief From Tight Muscles

Posted July 17, 2018 by Dr. Steve Chaney

Yoga Shouldn’t Cause You Pain

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT – The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

yoga pain relief

Do you love to practice yoga?  Do you feel energized after stretching your muscles?  Or do you have yoga pain that prevents you from moving easily after your session is complete.  You probably would like to know how to achieve yoga pain relief from tight muscles.

Why Tight Muscles Cause Yoga Pain

A muscle originates on a bone, merges into a tendon, crosses over a joint, and inserts into another bone. When the muscle contracts it pulls on the tendon, and the joint moves.  However, if the muscle is strained either by repetitive use, or trauma, it becomes too short.  Now you will feel pain when you try to lengthen it to its normal length.  If you try to stretch it you’ll feel even worse pain, and you won’t be able to move properly.

yoga pain relief stretchHere is an analogy to help you better understand the concept. If you tied a rope between two trees and knotted the rope, the flexible tree would bend. If you then tried to force the flexible tree to stand up straight, the knots would get tighter. Also, the fibers outside of the knots would over-stretch.

This is what happens in your body when a muscle is shortened by spasms (knots).  And in your body, the two ends are attached to a bone. As a result, when you try to stretch the knotted muscles, they put a strain on your joint.  You feel pain, and you may have even injured your muscles.

It makes sense to untie the spasms before you stretch.  This would help prevent the need for yoga pain relief.

How To Prevent Yoga Pain By Releasing Muscle Spasms First

yoga pain relief bookFor over 15 years I have been helping people around the world via email and Zoom consultations.  A person orders a consultation, sends me an email explaining the problem, and I send back some treatment ideas. Along with the consultation they get a copy of Treat Yourself To Pain-Free Living  so they can do the treatments I suggest.

An amazing yoga instructor in Texas, named Ana, was having pain in her calf muscles. She was accustomed to yoga eliminating all pains, so she was frustrated that the pain didn’t disappear.  She found me by doing an internet search and decided to have a telephone consultation.

Ana sent an email to me describing her problem.  I told her to order the Treat Yourself To Pain-Free Living book and described the self-treatment for her calf pain.  We then made an appointment to talk in two weeks.

yoga pain relief calfThe treatment for the pain in her calf muscles is shown on the left. You lie on your back and put your calf over top of your opposite bent knee.  Press down and slowly move your leg up toward your head so your knee moves down your calf.  If you find a sore point, that’s a spasm. Hold your pressure on the point for about 30 seconds, then release the pressure for about 30 seconds.  Then repeat 1-2 more times.  It will hurt, but since it’s releasing the spasm, you’ll find it will hurt less each time you do it.

It took Ana just two days to resolve her calf issue and get yoga pain relief. By then, her book had arrived. Since she still had 12 days before we talked, she decided to use the information in the book and work on her hips.  She was shocked to find her hips actually had a lot of spasms.  She treated them as the book showed, and her yoga improved.  Then she took a look at her shoulders that were also “fine.”  Again, she was shocked to find they also had multiple spasms. She treated them as shown in the book, and again her yoga improved.  She was thrilled!

Yoga Pain Relief

yoga pain relief dvdWhen we finally spoke, Ana had made the decision that this was information that needed to come out to yoga instructors everywhere.  That was the beginning of Trigger Point Yoga.  Ana and I worked together to create a product to teach how to release tight muscles before stretching.

Ultimately the product name was changed to Focused Flexibility Training so athletes would also release muscles before stretching.

It’s important to release the spasms that tie your muscles into knots before you stretch.  Focused Flexibility Training shows you where to press, and how to best treat the knot.  And the yoga stretching DVDs are truly first-class.

 

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

About The Author

julie donnelly

Julie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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