3 Easy Ways We May Actually Be Able To Reverse Aging, From Microbiologist David Sinclair, PhD
Sometimes, the concept of longevity can be pretty ambiguous. It makes sense—how to live longer is a pretty robust topic, after all. But according to Harvard geneticist and professor of aging biology David Sinclair, Ph.D., we can better understand longevity if we view the concept of aging the same way we view a disease.
"We're at a point now with aging that we were with cancer 30 to 40 years ago. We can now understand what drives the process," he tells me on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast.
What drives the aging process, he explains, is the lack of stress our bodies experience. In order to truly optimize our longevity, Sinclair wants us to add more stress to our lives.
To start, here are three easy tips to place our bodies under more "stress" to promote longevity. Think of it as training your muscles—you might experience some discomfort as you bicep curl, but your body will thank you in the long-run:
1. Eat fewer calories.
And no, Sinclair isn't talking about intermittent fasting. While he mentions that IF is incredible for longevity, he acknowledges that some people have trouble maintaining a fasting schedule, perhaps intimidated by the thought of a 16:8 eating plan. Any easy way to reap the longevity benefits without necessarily fasting, according to Sinclair, is to just eat fewer calories overall.
"I try to be more of a guinea pig than a lion," he quips.
In order to eat fewer calories, Sinclair avoids high-calorie food, such as meat. He recommends a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle to eat fewer calories; salads with hearty vegetables are usually fewer calories than a fatty steak.
And who knows—you might end up preferring vegetables over animal-based products. Sinclair certainly does: "Once you get used to it, the idea of eating a giant steak is not that appealing."
2. Eat organic—but not for the reason you might think.
While eating organic and in-season is overall a good idea, Sinclair has a unique perspective on the matter. In order to promote longevity, he says, we have to trick our body into thinking it's stressed ("even though we live in a utopia compared to our ancestors," he says). And a great way to trick our bodies into being stressed is to eat foods that are stressed themselves.
"Organic foods aren't held with gloves. They're a little bit more stressed out. The more stressed out your food is the brighter colors they'll have because they're producing these colors as a defense," Sinclair explains.
Those bright colors, he adds, are indicators that the food has produced "xenohormesis molecules," which activate our sirtuins that give our bodies an extra boost for longevity.
His favorite food rich in those important molecules? Red wine: "It's full of xenohormesis molecules because the grapes are picked when they're stressed," he says.
3. Experience cold temperatures for at least one minute.
Finally, Sinclair believes that in order to boost our longevity, we should experience extreme cold.
"We know that in mice, if you make them cold, they develop what's called brown fat," he explains. "And we've discovered the last 15 years that we have brown fat as well. Brown fat is very good for us—it burns energy, and it releases proteins that help the rest of the body."
Before you jump in an ice bath, take note that you don't have to be cold for a long time—in fact, it's when our bodies become used to the temperature that the longevity effects stop working. So, just one minute is enough to spark a stress reaction in our bodies.
"You want the shock," Sinclair states. "That's why I think for a minute up to my neck is enough. Once your body starts to get used to it, the effect is gone."
With Sinclair's three tangible tips for longevity, you have the power to optimize the aging process and live a healthier life. If you're going to take healthy aging advice from one expert, you might as well take it from the Harvard professor of aging biology himself.
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