This Is What Causes Accelerated Aging, According To New Study
There's no arguing with the fact that our society is obsessed with age. We often ask ourselves questions like "Am I too old to do that?" or "Am I too young to wear this?" But according to a new study, what we should really be concerned about is our biological age, which is how old our body seems—not how old we actually are in chronological years.
The study, published in the journal Current Biology, showed that DNA changes that occur during our lifetime can significantly increase biological age, which can make us much more susceptible to age-related diseases.
A collaboration between the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, the researchers collected data from over 1,000 older adults to determine how large the gap was between each participant's biological and chronological age—and how much these DNA changes, which are called somatic mutations, played a role in that gap.
The results showed that the 6% of the population with somatic mutations had a biological age almost four years older than the participants without the mutations. According to the researchers, somatic mutations can affect the way blood stem cells work, which can leave people more vulnerable to illnesses like blood cancer, heart disease, and dementia. In fact, the study was funded by Alzheimer's Research UK, a research charity that aims to defeat dementia.
Somatic mutations have been studied as they relate to cancer development, but as Tamir Chandra, Ph.D., the lead author on the study, explained, "Our findings suggest they play a role in other diseases, which will change the way we study disease risk."
So how do we prevent these somatic mutations and protect ourselves against age-related disease? According to Ilene Ruhoy, M.D., Ph.D., an integrative neurologist and mbg Collective member, "Our genes are vulnerable to exposures, including toxicants in our water, air, and food as well as to stress, infections, chronic illness, and trauma (both physical and emotional)." When it comes to protecting our genes in the long term, she recommends limiting our exposure to these toxins and trauma as much as possible. "Second, we should increase consumption of anti-inflammatory foods such as dark leafy greens, sprouts, cruciferous vegetables, and seeds and avoid foods that are pro-inflammatory," she said.
But are the right foods really strong enough to influence these somatic mutations? Apparently, yes. Studies have shown that eating fruits and vegetables has a protective effect against cancer by modulation of somatic mutagenesis. That's right: What we eat can actually affect our DNA (in either a beneficial or detrimental way, depending on what it is that we eat).
According to Ruhoy, a supplement called NR can also play a role here. "Nicotinamide riboside is a member of the vitamin B3 family and is a precursor of NAD+, which is an important component of a variety of cellular and metabolic processes, and diminished NAD+ levels contribute to degenerative disease," she explained. According to Ruhoy, an NR supplement can increase endurance, muscle strength, muscle function, and muscle mass, slow cognitive decline, and improve certain measures of mitochondrial health. It's been shown to activate certain sirtuins, which have also been shown to contribute to longevity and anti-aging.
So no matter how many candles are on your cake, it seems like there may be a chance to bring down the age that really matters—your biological age—with some simple lifestyle choices, and that's worth celebrating.
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