A MO­MENT FOR SE­NIORS

At an in­ter­na­tional sym­po­sium on longevity held in Geneva, Switzer­land, new re­search showed how it might soon be pos­si­ble to slow down the bi­o­log­i­cal, or ‘in­ner’ ag­ing process. Char­lotte Lyt­ton high­lights some things we can all do to im­prove our chances o

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TAK­ING THE PEP­TIDES

Of­ten re­ferred to as “small pro­teins,” nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring pep­tides (short chains of amino acids) in­crease the pro­duc­tion of hu­man growth hor­mone, more com­monly known as HGH, which helps to me­tab­o­lize fat and stim­u­late mus­cle and bone growth. Once you hit your 20s, the body’s nat­u­ral pro­duc­tion of HGH slows by 14 per cent ev­ery decade.

In re­cent years, pep­tides have been in­tro­duced to cos­met­ics and food sup­ple­ments, mak­ing boost­ing your lev­els of them eas­ier than ever. Pep­tide-en­riched mois­tur­iz­ers, which have been avail­able for sev­eral years, have been shown to help skin cells to heal and stim­u­late new cell growth.

As well, Cana­dian health au­thor­i­ties be­came the first in the world to ap­prove a range of nu­traceu­ti­cal sup­ple­ments con­tain­ing shrimp shells — which are nat­u­rally rich in pep­tides, but are nor­mally dis­carded dur­ing food pro­cess­ing — af­ter sev­eral clin­i­cal tri­als showed they have a re­mark­able blood pres­surelow­er­ing effect.

TRY THE OK­I­NAWA DIET

At 83.7 years, Ja­pan has the long­est life ex­pectancy in the world and a greater num­ber of cen­te­nar­i­ans than any other na­tion, largely cred­ited to their adop­tion of the Ok­i­nawa diet. Based on the eat­ing habits of the Ryukyu Is­lands’ in­dige­nous peo­ple, it re­places tra­di­tional Ja­panese rice with sweet potato, and in­cludes a higher than av­er­age con­sump­tion of pork.

It also ad­heres to what is eas­ily the least pop­u­lar, yet most ef­fec­tive, means of boost­ing over­all health: calo­rie re­stric­tion.

Ok­i­nawa di­eters eat about 300 calo­ries fewer than av­er­age. Ac­cord­ing to Craig Will­cox, coau­thor of The Ok­i­nawa Pro­gram: How the World’s Long­est-Lived Peo­ple Achieve Ev­er­last­ing Health — and How You Can Too (Pot­ter/TenSpeed/Har­mony, $24.99): “Ok­i­nawans have a low risk of ar­te­rioscle­ro­sis and stom­ach can­cer, a very low risk of hor­mone-de­pen­dent can­cers, such as breast and prostate can­cer.”

WRAP YOUR­SELF IN FIR

Christ­mas trees and can­cer pre­ven­tion may seem strange bed­fel­lows, but re­cent re­search into ter­penoids, a hy­dro­car­bon found in Siberian firs, have shown that the com­pounds could de­fend against can­cer and the ag­ing process. Pro­duced in bulk by conifers to pro­tect against dis­ease, the genes have been found to play a key part in the trans­porta­tion of com­plex pro­teins as well as de­grad­ing un­nec­es­sary ones, ex­hib­ited in their sup­pres­sion of tu­mours, lead­ing sci­en­tists to be­lieve that they could be ap­plied to fur­ther ail­ments in the fu­ture.

DRINK GIN

Health ex­perts are reg­u­larly warn­ing us off booze, but a dose of mother’s ruin could work won­ders. At least, that’s what the mak­ers of Col­laGin (34.99 pounds, C$53 for 500 mL; col­lagin.co.uk, and only avail­able in the U.K.) prom­ise, dis­till­ing the hard stuff with pure col­la­gen, star anise and or­ris root, botan­i­cals said to have anti-ag­ing prop­er­ties.

MAKE MORE MELA­TONIN

Com­monly used as a sleep aid, mela­tonin can help reg­u­late cir­ca­dian rhythms and is widely used as a jet-lag rem­edy. But as the quan­tity pro­duced by the body de­clines with age, in tri­als sup­ple­ments have been found to im­prove the over­all health of mice, as well as ex­tend their life.

There is also in­creas­ing ev­i­dence that mela­tonin as a di­etary sup­ple­ment could help slow down the ag­ing process. Re­cent stud­ies have shown that tak­ing the hor­mone in small doses (such as 0.5 mg each night) can pro­tect against heart dam­age and help to de­lay the on­set of Alzheimer’s by guard­ing against cell de­cay. It has also been shown to fight UV ray-in­duced skin ag­ing due to its an­tiox­i­dant prop­er­ties and abil­ity to re­pair DNA dam­age.

One of the eas­i­est ways to sup­port your body’s abil­ity to pro­duce mela­tonin is to con­sume more mag­ne­sium, which is found in foods such as al­monds, av­o­ca­dos and spinach. Also, trop­i­cal fruits such as pineap­ples, or­anges and bananas are nat­u­rally rich sources of nat­u­ral mela­tonin.

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