Have you ever heard of the “healthspan”, in regard to aging? Don’t worry, you’re not alone!
Healthspan was created to define the period of time that somebody remains in optimal health. For example: being able to walk, talk, lift and move in sporadic but normal ways.
Medium.com featured a very interesting article regarding the fight against aging.
It goes very in-depth into the science behind eating and aging – we’re talking mitochondrial regulators and biogenesis.
So, we’re going to summarize what they found, with the information that’s most significant. We’ll include some brief explanations but hopefully in a way that anybody without a science degree can understand.
Due to the fact that it’s almost impossible to accurately experiment on live humans, animals were the subjects of this data.
Why Do We Age?
The key thing to remember about aging is that it is a natural process caused by the gradual degradation of your cells. In the damage theory by Lopez-Otin et al. (2013) they discuss the instability of genomes, deregulated nutrient-sensing and stem cell exhaustion. They talk about nine factors in total but these three were relevant enough to mention.
They looked at the possible interventions of aging on a cellular level. From genetics and pharmaceutical drugs to exercise and nutrition. You’ll never guess what they found.
Of all the significant ways to increase the average lifespan, there was a list that stood out. A few examples were caloric restriction, growth hormone receptor KO and green tea extract.
The actual list contained 43 interventions for aging!
Of those 43 interventions, 20 of them are able to work by decreasing nutrient-sensing pathways. To add to that, another 5 worked through factors related to nutrient-sensing pathways.
mTOR, Insulin and AMPK are the three nutrient sensors to focus on.
mTOR is what regulates cell growth, cell motility, cell proliferation, cell survival and protein synthesis. To be blunt: It’s important. But that doesn’t mean you should go out and buy yourself some mTOR supplements. It has become apparent that when mTOR is blocked, stem cell function improves and so does protein handling.
Insulin, we all know, needs to be kept to lower levels. It should only be triggered when there are important nutrients to shuttle around your body. When you overeat, you spark an insulin response far higher than normal. Keep overeating and you’ll desensitize your body to the insulin and become insulin resistant.
So, keeping your mTOR and insulin levels low is said to be effective in slowing the aging process and keeping your cells healthy.
AMPK on the other hand, we want to be naturally high. ATP is the molecule that every living thing on this planet uses to carry energy. The energy that fuels all of the amazing things happening inside of your body right now!
When ATP is low, AMPK is increased. This, in very simplified terms, tells your body to use energy more efficiently. The less energy you go through the less stress you put on the body.
Think about it like this: If your body is a car and ATP is the fuel, imagine you’re getting about 18 miles-per-gallon and your engine wears down 15% every year that you use it. Introduce AMPK, this would be the “chip” or tuning device you plug in to the engine to make your engine use fuel more efficiently.
Once you add AMPK to the mix, now you’re getting 23 miles-per-gallon and your engine only degrades at only 3% per year! Sounds like a great deal, right?
AMPK will also indirectly add to the regulation of fatty acid oxidation – and that helps with using stubborn fat stores for energy.
We won’t go any further in-depth with the science of it, if you want to read more you can check out the full article (linked at the bottom of the article).
What Experts Are Saying
Dr. Jason Fung, the author of the article, states that decreasing nutrient sensors seems to be the best way to slow down aging. AMPK does not increase unless the body is deprived of external energy, insulin only stays low as long as you don’t eat and mTOR is sensitive to protein – eat a lot of it consistently and you’ll have consistently high mTOR levels.
In the article it reads that “…eating a pure fat diet (not realistic) may lower mTOR and insulin but will not be able to raise AMPK” the same could be said for the keto diet as it consists of high fat and minimal carbs. Consuming fat means you’re giving your body a source for ATP creation. ATP creation means no AMPK creation.
Simply put, fasting seems to be the best way to slow down the aging process.
That isn’t to say it’s the healthiest way to eat. You should also always seek medical advice when thinking about changing your eating habits in a major way. But we read this article and thought you might enjoy reading a little more about a few ways your body can make food work for and against you.