Research Proves Nature Profoundly Helps Us Live Longer, Disease-Free Lives

As children, many of us instinctively understood that being outside in nature and getting active was, well, simply the best! Now as adults, we can even turn to scientific evidence to see how exposure to green vegetation can profoundly and positively impact our health.

In one study looking at 108,630 women for 8 years, it was found that women living in the top 20% of “average greenness” had a 12% lower rate of all-cause, non-accidental mortality. This was compared to women in the bottom 20%, with the greenness level measured within 250 meters of their homes. These results were weaker, but still consistent, when the level of green cover within 1250 meters was measured.

The association between vegetation and reduced mortality was strongest in the cases of cancer, respiratory diseases, and kidney disease, which fell by 13%, 34% and 41%, respectively. However, exposure to greenery did not protect against coronary heart disease, diabetes, or infections, and its effect against stroke was too weak to be significant.

How Could Nature Protect Against Disease?

So how does this work? For thirty years, a hypothesis of “biophilia” has been proposed, which means that we have evolved to prefer favorable natural environments, i.e. those with plenty of vegetation and water. More specifically, living in said environments can increase physical activity, reduce exposure to pollution, improve social engagement, and reduce stress and depression.

Vegetation can remove harmful air pollution from the air, such as particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide. And honestly, how would you rather exercise? By walking or cycling down a crowded city street, cars and buses speeding (or crawling!) past, or in a park where you can hear the birds sing? Where would you choose to meet friends, or go to relax?

The women in this study weren’t exactly young, either. They had initially signed up for the Nurses’ Health Study in 1976, when they were between 30 and 55. This means that from 2000 to 2008, they were aged anywhere from their 60’s to their 90’s! Deaths are usually more difficult to prevent at these ages, so the power of nature is nothing to laugh at.

Green space may also prevent another major threat to the longevity and health of older people: cognitive decline. Amber Watts, an assistant professor of clinical psychology, found in 2014 that daily walking slowed cognitive decline even in people with Alzheimer’s-related pathology. This required their communities to be “walkable,” and a sizeable part of this protective effect came from the mental exercises provided by spatially complex neighborhoods.

There is more than enough research (and personal experience) showing how beneficial nature can be; it’s just about time we unplug ourselves from this crazy world and boost our collective health in the green grass and blue skies.

Could Going Mostly Vegetarian Relieve Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux is a very common condition, where stomach acid backs up into the oesophagus or throat, causing symptoms such as a burning chest pain (heartburn). The ailment is often treated with proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which may be effective, but can cause poor digestion and related issues such as osteoporosis, kidney problems, heart attacks, and even dementia. All the while, people may just find the relief they are looking for if they’re willing to adopt a nearly-vegetarian diet.

Due to the potential side effects of PPIs, even some doctors of conventional medicine are looking for dietary approaches to treat reflux. One of these doctors, Dr. Craig Zalvan, studied almost 200 people to compare the use of PPIs and a mostly vegetarian diet in treating laryngopharyngeal reflux. [1]

Most people only know acid reflux as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), but another type known as laryngopharyngeal reflux also affects many worldwide. This differs from GERD in that it does not cause heartburn, but instead symptoms such as hoarseness, persistent cough, and a constant need to clear the throat.

Anyway, he began to advise individuals to eat a 90% plant-based diet, focusing on vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fruit, and nuts. Meat and dairy intake were limited to 2 or 3 moderate-sized servings per week. For this study, he and other researchers looked at the records of 99 patients given the new dietary advice, and 85 others who were only prescribed PPIs and standard advice between 2010 and 2012.

Read: PPIs for Acid Reflux – Costs May Well Outweigh Benefits

After 6 weeks of both treatments, relief of symptoms was shown. Almost 2/3 of patients (63%) advised to go mostly-vegetarian had an at least 6-point drop in their scores on the reflux symptom index, which considered to be a clinically significant improvement.

As for the PPI group, 54% had an at least 6-point drop in their symptom scores. Those who changed their diet lost an average of 8 pounds, which may have explained some of the effect. On the other hand, there is a growing understanding that reflux may be an inflammatory disorder, and these dietary changes are known to reduce inflammation.

It has been known for years now that a plant-based diet can significantly benefit our health and longevity. The Seventh-Day Adventists of Loma Linda live an average of 4-10 years longer than expected for Californians, one reason revolving around their mostly-vegetarian diet. [2]

Most of their average diet is made of vegetables, grains, beans, fruit, and nuts. They avoid alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, and pork; have healthy social lives including volunteering; and regular exercise isn’t uncommon for those in their 90’s.

It’s time to take this to the mainstream.

Additional Sources:

[1] WorldHealth

[2] Life Extension

Study: How Magnesium Supplementation Could Help with Depression

Sadly, depression is a common mental health condition that affects millions of people in Australia and around the world. However, there are many natural therapies for depression that give you back your power, as they are more preventive in nature and help your body to heal itself. One of these natural solutions for depression may be magnesium, as pointed out in recent research.

This study involved 126 men and women who suffered from mild to moderate depression. Sixty-two were given a supplement containing 248mg of magnesium (as magnesium chloride, not the best supplemental form) for 6 weeks, and then spent 6 weeks with no supplementation. The others first spent 6 weeks taking no magnesium, and then swapped with the first group for the second half.

All volunteers were given questionnaires to evaluate their depression and anxiety at the start of the study and every 2 weeks during treatment.

During supplementation, depression and anxiety scores improved significantly, and participants were less likely to suffer from headaches. During the control period, however, depression scores did not change and anxiety worsened.

As their symptoms showed improvement in 2 weeks, magnesium could be a rapid-acting remedy for mild and moderate depression, while offering a wide range of side benefits. And if you are worried about negative social attitudes towards depression, magnesium is indicated for so many health complaints that a supplement implies nothing.

So, Why? What Does Magnesium Do?

From energy production to the synthesis of neurotransmitters that control mood, magnesium is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. If you are deficient, and many people are, then these chemical reactions are limited.

Of course, magnesium is not the only nutrient that we need to make neurotransmitters. B vitamins, particularly B12, folate (B9), B6, and niacin (B3), are essential co-factors in neurotransmitter production.

Deficiencies do not just affect mood, but overall brain function and memory.

A balance of omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids is also important, as they are a part of nerve cell membranes and play a role in communication between cells. Impaired communication affects things like mood, memory and function in general.

Vitamin D deficiency is another common problem, which can contribute to depression by altering gene expression and the ability to control inflammation.

Overall, the ‘chemical imbalance’ is more complex than conventional medicine tells you, and we have far more control over it too.


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Cultures Around the World Show Us How Life Purpose Fuels Longevity

We know instinctively that meaning and purpose are necessary in order to live a fulfilling life, with those of us in a career we love often held in high regard. But regardless of how passionate you may be about your career, we all need a hobby – an interest outside of work that we truly love to do. The benefits of purpose and hobbies, however, go beyond quality of life.

Japanese culture has a concept called ikigai, which roughly translates to “purpose in life.” Ikigai has traditionally been associated with health and longevity. One study on over 4000 adults set out to determine if this theory was true.

All participants were over 65, with:

  • More than 1800 identified as at high risk of death
  • More than 1200 at high risk of losing ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs)
  • More than 1100 at risk of losing their ability to perform instrumental ADLs.

Data from February 2011 to November 2014 was used, which can be a long time when it comes to age-related disability. Compared to people who had both hobbies and an ikigai, having neither of these was associated with double the risk of mortality, close to triple the risk of losing ADL abilities, and almost double the risk of losing IADL abilities!

Therefore, hobbies and ikigai were linked to increased longevity and healthy life expectancy in older adults.

This was not the only study that found a link between purpose in life and longevity. Another study on 6000 adults with a 14-year follow-up time found that people who initially reported a strong purpose in life had a 15% lower risk of dying from any cause.

Other research found that those who described clear goals and purpose lived both longer and better than those who did not. In fact, other “Blue Zone” cultures (areas with a high prevalence of centenarians) besides the Okinawans of Japan value purpose, with the Nicoyan (Costa Rica) people calling it plan de vida.

Longevity Secrets: 6 Reasons Okinawans Live to Be Older than 100

How to Find Your Own Ikigai

So how can you find your own iikigai, or plan de vida, if you haven’t already? A great way to start is by doing an internal inventory.

Take a piece of paper, and for 20-30 minutes think of all your ideals, principles, standards, and morals, then think of your physical, mental, and emotional talents, strengths, and abilities.

It can take a while, maybe even a couple of attempts, to get an idea of what you really want, but you know you’re getting close if anything brings out a strong emotional reaction. And then…put your skills into action!

It’s also important to build relationships with people who can help you achieve your goals. Overall, longevity is for everyone, and it turns out that some of the best ways to extend your life also improve its quality.


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Does Aging Have an ‘End Point?’ People Younger than Ever

Usually when we hear about life expectancy rising and death rates falling, the good news is accompanied by handwringing about living in a “greying world” and a supposedly increasing proportion of people who must depend on others for health reasons. But times are changing, as life at certain age groups is not what it was even one generation ago.

Who would have thought that this could be a 51 year old woman’s life: teaching yoga at a hip hotel and club; sharing clothes and yoga challenges with her 19 year old daughter; and is in love with travelling? Such is the life of Polly Kemp, and it’s becoming increasingly common.

Polly says that when she hears the term middle-aged, “I have to stop and think, ‘Is this meant to be me?’ I don’t polish silver or plan menus, and I’m not interested in housework. I am also spontaneous and I don’t think that’s a quality traditionally associated with middle age.’”

Even the author of the article adds that 40 years ago, she would have pictured her 53 year old self as having much shorter, greyer hair, and wearing “frocks and face powder” instead of jeans and CC cream.

Polly, here with daughter Iggy, embraces an age-defying lifestyle CREDIT: RICK PUSHINSKY

It Isn’t Just These 2 Women, Either

In a survey of over 500 women performed by the UK Telegraph:

  • 96% of women over 40 do not consider themselves to be “middle-aged”
  • 90% said they had a younger attitude than their mothers at the same age
  • 84% used products and services aimed at younger women
  • Almost 66% said they felt as vibrant and young as they ever had.

Unfortunately, the media hasn’t caught up to these changes, choosing to hold onto the old ways. Women over 40, 50, 60, and sometimes even older are no longer confining their lives to, as the Telegraph describes, “lawnmowers and Rotary Clubs, cheese and wine parties, elastic waists, river cruises and walking tours of Madeira.”

I myself could not imagine my friends of those ages living in such a restricted way!

The “ageless generation”, also referred to as “perennials,” is also gaining ground in a literal sense. As far back as 1939, British statisticians Major Greenwood and J.O. Irwin found that aging seems to stop at around 90! Even they were confused, stating that: “At first sight this must seem a preposterous speculation.”

Not only did their findings seem counterintuitive, but 1939 was also a bad year to attempt making scientific history because of other world events. Much more recently, Michael Rose has done more research on the matter, with even data from other species showing that there is a point where aging stops if you live long enough – at about 90 for humans, but at different times for other animals.

Sources:

The Telegraph

NewScientist


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Coenzyme Q10 may Be Viable Solution for Many Diabetics

Coenzyme Q10 has long been known for its antiaging properties, especially in the cases of energy production and cardiovascular health. Now, it seems as though we have another use for this not-quite-a-vitamin – the prevention and mitigation of diabetes.

One little-publicized cause of diabetes may be the use of statins, marketed as “prevention” for cardiovascular events. Some statins, such as rosuvastatin, are linked with a 27% higher risk of type II diabetes! Two meta-analyses also found an elevated risk of diabetes, one with a 9% higher risk, and the other showing a 12% higher risk. This disproportionately affects the elderly, who are most likely to be prescribed statins.

So Why May Statins Raise the Risk of Diabetes?

Statins work by blocking an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase, but this also blocks a precursor to coenzyme-Q10. Depletion of CoQ10 disrupts mitochondrial function. Along with negatively affecting energy levels, this also has a negative impact on insulin signalling, which could lead to the blood glucose dysregulation known as diabetes. To make things even worse, lowering LDL cholesterol also reduces CoQ10 transport into cells. [1]

These effects combined can deplete CoQ10 by as much as 54%.

This is why medical professionals now often recommend CoQ10 supplements to anyone taking statins. In fat cells exposed to statin drugs, the coenzyme can restore the normal glucose uptake mechanism that the drugs also disrupt.

Additionally, CoQ10 has been found to reduce blood sugar and HbA1C levels in diabetic patients. Blood sugar tests only take a picture of how your glucose regulation is doing now; haemoglobin A1C gives an idea of your blood glucose regulation over the past 4 months, as it shows how much sugar has been tangled in the haemoglobin proteins.

The root cause of many diabetes complications is loss of endothelial function (the lining of the blood vessels), which leads to poor blood flow and tissue destruction in parts of the body such as the eyes, kidneys, and toes. Worse still, this can even affect the heart, causing something known as diabetic cardiomyopathy (heart muscle damage).

Fortunately, supplementation with 200mg of CoQ10 has been found to significantly improve loss of endothelial function in diabetes, which may spare many from crippling complications.

Are Statins Even a Necessity?

But do we even need these CoQ10-depleting statins? Research has actually shown that statins may be more harmful than beneficial for the heart, even if there were no alternatives. Statins have been found to increase the risk of microalbuminuria, which is a known marker of blood vessel dysfunction.

Other studies have found that some statins could worsen heart function, increase LDL oxidation (which is the cause of plaque!), cause heart failure and/or atrial fibrillation (a fluttering movement that does not pump blood!), reduce blood flow to the heart, and weaken the heart muscle. [2]

The CoQ10 depletion may also be behind the increase in congestive heart failure in the USA. It is very fortunate that even “mere” diet advice can also protect against cardiovascular deaths, such as eating an apple every day – which may reduce LDL cholesterol by an impressive 40%!

Overall, CoQ10 deficiency can be debilitating and even dangerous, but you don’t have to suffer.

Sources:

[1] LifeExtension

[2] GreenMedInfo


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90 is the New 70: Old Age Just Isn’t Old Age Anymore

This year, the oldest of the Baby Boomers are turning 70. But these late-decades of life aren’t what it used to be. With celebrities such as Cher (who turned 71 this year) no longer holding a monopoly over looking and acting younger. The UK’s Oxford Institute of Population Aging even recommends that people in their 70’s and 80’s be called “active adults” instead of “old.”

Even the Daily Mail has added to the discussion, with a few writers who are, well, rewriting what it means to be over 70.

First up is Angela Neustatter, who at 73 looks years younger than you’d expect. She attributes her youthfulness to yoga, Pilates, a house full of stairs, sex, and stepping back from emotional conflict. Angela does and wears what she wants, even mini skirts and leggings!

Angela Neustatter

Lesley Pearse also appears to be in her 50’s at the age of 72. Her “normal” involves parties, swimming, and scrambling around her cliff-top garden.

Lesley Pearse

Jan Leeming is still a BBC newsreader at the age of 75. As part of the first generation of women to have lifelong careers, she doesn’t see the point of retiring or giving up travel or physical activity.

Jan Leeming

Jo Foley is also very grateful for a life of freedom, so unlike her mother’s generation. She describes the new and improved “normal” as: “In our 70s we shop at Zara, drink pisco sours, take slow boats along the Mekong and talk to ourselves without contradiction.” Jo then adds, “Did we ever think to thank our parents,” referring to the restricted life of marriage, children, staying home and growing old that she saw in previous generations.

Jo Foley

Older age groups growing younger are nothing new, however. Dr Martin Connolly, Freemason’s Professor of Geriatric Medicine at Auckland University, says that 90-somethings today are the same in terms of health and fitness as 70-somethings at the end of World War One. He describes meeting someone over 90 as “rare” thirty years ago, but common now. And despite his position, he struggles to pinpoint the age of someone over 90 by looking at them, even though he has an easy time of doing the same for someone under 90.

This may be because researchers have found that aging appears to stop at around 90 in humans (with a range of 80-100), and at different ages in other animals. It’s hard to get your head around, but we do have our own mechanisms of fighting key drivers of aging such as oxidative stress and inflammation, and the aim of this research is to keep those mechanisms strong.

Overall, these days, we don’t have as much to fear or put up with as we once thought, as times are changing in ways we didn’t previously expect.


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Is Metformin a Viable Anti-Aging Solution?

If you’re a longevity enthusiast, I’ve got some news for you. After all of these years, aging itself is on its way to be officially classified as a disease. Of course, it’s taken decades of improving life expectancy and survival rates due to better living standards and lifestyles, but it is most likely worth the wait.

Why?

This could mean that antiaging will be taken more seriously by the health industry and society as a whole, including insurance companies. It may also raise the value of prevention, instead of just waiting for health problems to appear or reach a certain level of severity before treatment.

So, What Happened Exactly?

Two years ago, researchers managed to convince the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve a human lifespan study of metformin, which is currently used for blood sugar control. But it may end up being the first drug approved specifically to ‘treat’ aging.

The study, known as the TAME Study (Targeting Aging With Metformin) started up in 2016, aiming to enroll 3,000 people aged 70-80 and study the effects of metformin over 5-7 years. Everyone must be at risk of or have one or more of the following: cancer, heart disease, or dementia. If metformin can delay or prevent these and delay death, the next step is to test it in younger people.

But why Metformin?

High blood sugar and insulin resistance are key factors in aging and other complex, chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. But this is not the only way that metformin could fight aging. Metformin works by acting on an enzyme called AMPK (adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase), which regulates how cells process energy.

AMPK boosts metabolism, which may aid weight loss by burning more sugar and fat; it improves blood flow and body composition; it aids cell detoxification and renewal; and it has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory effects.

On the other hand, unaddressed aging results in slowing metabolism and weight gain; muscle loss; poor circulation and detoxification, and a vicious cycle of inflammation.

Is Metformin Really the Best Solution to Aging?

Unfortunately, no. Aging is a complex ‘disease’ involving chronic inflammation, so health and longevity promoting strategies that target the whole person are likely to be far more effective. As it is multifactorial, focusing on one aspect of it is probably not the best strategy, as other complex, chronic diseases do not respond to this method.

Metformin is not without side effects, either. It has a black box warning for the rare-but-dangerous side effect of lactic acidosis, which is especially problematic in reduced kidney function. It may also be pro-inflammatory and increase production of beta-amyloid protein, which gets tangled in brain tissue as it accumulates and causes the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. If you want to use pharmaceutical drugs, aspirin is an anti-inflammatory AMPK activator.

So What Can We Do to Fight Aging?

There are natural antiaging therapies which also activate AMPK, without the side effects.

  • Intermittent fasting, where food intake is confined to 8-12 hours of the day, has been shown to promote longevity and fight age-related diseases.
  • Exercise not only keeps the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems strong, but also activates AMPK, especially in high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
  • Cold water immersion, especially after exercise, also enhances AMPK.
  • There are also herbal remedies that can activate AMPK, such as Gynostemma pentaphyllum (Southern Ginseng). One human study involving diabetic patients found that this herb reduced haemoglobin A1c ten-fold, which measures the rate of glycation (a very pro-aging process). It also decreased insulin resistance by three-fold and did not cause dangerously low blood sugar. It has been used as a pro-longevity herb in some Chinese circles for hundreds of years, but only now do we know exactly how it works and how to best use it.

Read: 5 Anti-Aging Herbs to Slow the Aging Process

While metformin may be a promising treatment for aging, there are natural alternatives that could be far superior.

Sources:

GreenMedInfo

LifeExtension

Cell

Pubmed/27607453

Pubmed/4613459


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Fend off Illness by Fueling Your Own Disease-Fighting Stem Cells

The popular view of stem cells is typically that of high-tech treatments reserved for “the future,” far-off foreign clinics the “authorities” usually tell us to avoid. But there is being a lot of progress in the stem cell world for treating numerous conditions. What’s more, studies are showing that we may be able to harness the power of our own stem cells, using nutrients that are already accessible in ways that are more in line with traditional natural medicine than science fiction.

One of the underlying drivers of aging is a decline in the number and function of our own stem cells, which we need to aid in tissue regeneration. Of course, one way to fight aging is therefore to protect and nourish these stem cells.

Research is showing now that extracts from green tea and berries, carnosine, and vitamin D, are actually able to influence gene expression in ways that assist these cells. One of these studies is based on other research showing that substances in older animals’ blood can speed aging in younger animals, and young blood can fight aging in older animals.

This time, both young and old rats were given either a mixture of blueberry extract, green tea extract, carnosine, and vitamin D, or a placebo. Their blood serum was then administered to cultures of rat stem cells to compare their effects.

While the blood of old rats on the control diet had harmful effects on the stem cells, that of the younger (and the older) supplemented rats did not. These nutrients have protective effects on cells, where older animals’ blood is likely to contain high levels of oxidizing, inflammatory substances that cause damage.

In another study using the same nutrient combination, supplemented rats were showing a great amount of changes in gene expression, including changes that reduce the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals and increase the amount of anti-inflammatory ones. This could have significant protective effects on stem cells, guarding their ability to repair tissue.

The researchers also found another amazing discovery: this combination boosted the expression of genes that trigger stem-like cells in brain tissue to become adult neurons – creating healthy, new neurons that could replace damaged and dying cells. Properties like this could be tremendously beneficial for people living with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Another similar nutrient combination has seen success in human clinical trials. This time, it was a commercially-available formula of green tea, astragalus and goji berry extract, with vitamin D3, ellagic acid, beta-1,3 glucan and food-derived Lactobacillus fermentum (probiotics).

Eighteen adults aged 20-72 took 2 capsules twice daily for 2 weeks, and their levels of immune cells, haematopoietic and endothelial progenitor cells were measured at several points.

Even just one day after supplementation began, their numbers of 2 types of immune cells and the 2 types of partially-transformed stem cells significantly increased, and stayed that way over the 2 weeks.

A previous pilot study also showed that endothelial progenitor cells significantly rose after supplementation began. Besides being a natural, accessible alternative to experimental procedures, it could also be much more cost-effective. The difficulty in producing growth factors or directly injecting stem cells means that only a few specialized institutions are able to pull it off, and commercial viability can be poor.

Overall, these nutrient combinations may be an effective way to fight aging, targeting multiple causes such as oxidative stress, inflammation and stem cell degeneration.

Additional Sources:

LifeExtension


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