Longevity medicine is a fascinating, fast-paced and complex area of medicine. The goal is to slow ageing and improve your healthspan – the period of time in which you are healthy and able – so you can live better for longer. Have we piqued your interest? Read on for 5 surprising facts you never knew about longevity medicine.
But surely our age tells us how we are ageing, doesn’t it? Well, not completely. Ever met a 30 year old with the ailments of someone much older? Or perhaps a 60 year old who is fit as a fiddle? The phrase ‘age is just a number’ definitely has truth to it. It is not just our numerical age that tells us our age, but also how our body is on the inside.
At Harpal Clinic we measure your biological age by looking at what is going on inside your body using epigenetic testing. It allows us to ascertain how you’re ageing on a cellular level. Epigenetics is the study of how behaviour and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work. Unlike genetic changes (which are permanent), epigenetic changes are reversible and do not change your DNA sequence, but they can change how your body reads a DNA sequence. Epigenetic testing gives us an overall idea of your longevity. We use this information to compare against the average population for your age and can use this as a measurable way to gauge how well you are ageing. This gives you an insight into the impact of your lifestyle choices on your long term health.
There are many types of epigenetics tests which look at different parameters, but we have chosen to partner with GlycanAge, a very sensitive test that measures glycans – complex carbohydrate molecules. Glycans initiate inflammation which, as we know, in high doses, have a negative impact on our health and can contribute to ageing. You need a balance between pro and anti-inflammatory glycans for healthspan.
Dr Harpal Bains says: “Your DNA is not your destiny! Many people get nervous about DNA testing as they believe that they may find out information about genes that feels like a death sentence. Using epigenetic testing will not only give you the peace of mind to know that you control your gene expression (the process by which specific genes are activated to produce a required protein), but you also can track the changes that you make. It’s an exciting field and I think there are many more years of more advanced testing coming our way.”
If you’d like to find out more about the testing we offer, you can view details about our longevity medicine memberships.
We all know that high blood sugar is bad for us but were you aware that high blood sugar = ‘inflamm-ageing’ (inflammation that causes ageing)? The body needs a certain baseline amount of inflammation so that it can fight off infections, but not too much. Excessive and chronic inflammation can speed up the ageing process. Inflammation can be triggered by many factors, including stress, diet, and even some medications.
Here at Harpal Clinic, we use Metformin as a tool in our longevity medicine arsenal to decrease age-related inflammation and restore the balance.
Metformin was first used in 1957 to treat type 2 and gestational diabetes. Made from French lilac, it lowers blood sugar by reducing the amount of glucose that gets absorbed from the gut. It also alters the gut bacteria population, selecting for beneficial and desirable bacterial species like Akkermansia municiphilia which reduces adipose tissue inflammation and improves glucose control.
If this is an area of interest for you, then this research by Nir Barzilai about Metformin and its actions that target ageing is an interesting read. The fact that the U.S. Government has sponsored such a study is, in itself, a statement of support for metformin.
Metformin improves our bodies from the inside by protecting our DNA from harm and promoting DNA repair. Not only this, but it activates our own endogenous antioxidants which initiate cell regeneration, repair damage caused by free-radicals, and boost formation of new nerve cells. In doing so, it helps decrease inflamm-ageing.
There are four pathways where modulation has been shown to influence the rate of ageing: Insulin (IGF-1), mechanistic Target of Rapamycin (mTOR), AMP-activating protein kinase (AMPK), and Sirtuin.
You know how we generally slow down as we age? Metformin also stimulates AMPK in the liver (AMPK is the master regulator of cellular energy homeostasis – it determines what the whole body does with its energy). As a result, it helps our cells get more energy so we feel vital for longer.
Rapamycin is the first molecule that has been shown to extend lifespan in mammals. It was initially used as an immunosuppressive in transplant patients. However, in recent years research has suggested that at smaller doses, Rapamycin can actually work as an immunomodulator.
Rapamycin briefly and cyclicly suppresses the mTOR pathway that controls cell growth. mTOR balances the need to grow and reproduce cells against the availability of nutrients. It is the most studied longevity pathway and is essential for proper metabolic regulation.
In suppressing the mTOR pathway, the body recognises that there are not enough nutrients and the body starts to repair itself through cellular recycling and ‘clean-up’ – getting rid of dead cells. This is important because dead cells release cytokines and other nasties which trigger inflammation and inflamm-ageing. Fewer dead and sluggish cells equates to a longer healthspan.
Dr Harpal Bains adds: “Imagine the impact of this in the brain (conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons, for example) where protein aggregates are cleaned up! The good news is that clinical trials looking at the effect of Rapamycin on Alzheimer’s in humans are underway.”
NAD+ levels in our bodies decline with age and unfortunately, no NAD+ means no energy for our cells. This powerful coenzyme has really important functions – it stimulates cell regeneration across the body by increasing the activity of proteins that are linked to slower ageing. NAD+ is cleaved for recycling – which also helps in DNA repair.
NAD+ is a major cofactor in the sirtuin family (which helps control the development of chronic inflammatory and metabolic diseases). If NAD+ levels are maintained as we age this leads to an increase in the functioning of sirtuins, which support mitochondrial biogenesis, oxidative metabolism, antioxidant defences and mitochondrial function (the powerhouse of our cells). Your NAD+ levels can be optimised with an IV drip.
Longevity medicine is all about looking ahead to the future and asking what you can do today to maintain good health, because it is very possible in today’s world to live past 90 years old – and the steps you take for your health now will determine the quality of life you can enjoy later.