We all know that ageing occurs and time marches on, we also know that it occurs at different speeds from person to person as some people age gracefully and others disgracefully. In the world of celebrities and media many people, particularly women feel they are not allowed to age, so anti-ageing is big business. I got interested in the science of ageing or anti-ageing over 15 yrs ago in my 20s when I was working as a biochemist. At that particular time I was working on brains and also something called oxygen scavengers which are also called anti-oxidants.
More recently I was able to review, update and re-experiment with many supplements while I was writing my e-Book, Superhuman Structures, which is on compounds for healing bones, soft tissue, skin and general anti-ageing and will be out in a few weeks
So what exactly is ageing and why does it matter?
As we age we can become dehydrated and effectively ‘dry out’ which means the skin can become wrinkled, dryer and less hydrated. Our arteries can become hardened so they are less stretchy with less space in them, meaning a possible rise in blood pressure. Our bones and nails can become brittle and break more easily meaning there is a risk of fractures. This bone thinning is known as osteoporosis. We can become inflexible in our muscles and tendons, which leads to lack of suppleness, smooth movement and speed. This means as we age we are more likely to get injured and move less, which causes new problems. To add to this, our mitochondria which are the powerhouse of the cell and also cell detoxifier begin to age and become less efficient. This means we have less energy, worse fat burning ability and more free radicals. I will mention mitochondria again later.
We produce less of certain hormones as we age and it’s a gradual decline, there is an andropause (male hormones) , somatopause (growth hormone) and menopause (female hormones).
Thanks to science and if you are interested you can replace the hormones, but with younger people there are ways to heal the glands so they can produce their own hormones naturally. Most people of heard of HRT which is replacing female hormones after the menopause, but less people are aware of testosterone replacement (TRT) for men, or growth hormone replacement for men and women over 30.
I will talk about ‘the somatopause’ or low growth hormone. Growth hormone is produced in pulses by the pituitary gland in the brain and has multiple roles in the body.
A decline in growth hormone plays a role in age related problems such as
- Loss of lean body mass
- Loss of bone mass, ageing of the skin
- Decreased wound and injury healing
- Weaker immune system
- Cardiovascular disease due to increased low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
- Increase in abdominal fat around the organs
- General cognitive decline
This is why some people choose to either use certain drugs such as sermorelin or Mod GRF and a GHRP (growth hormone releasing peptide) such as Ipamorelin or GHRP-6 to increase natural growth hormone production and release, which is safer and easier than just growth hormone replacement. There are also oral growth hormone secretagogue such as MK677 which aid with growth hormone release and production over 24hrs. Growth hormone and testosterone can increase or help maintain lean muscle mass and muscle mass is key in anti-ageing. Firstly loss of strength is a sign of ageing and also muscles provide a sink for glucose and help maintain insulin sensitivity, as insulin can be the hormone of ageing if we become insulin-resistant or have type-2 diabetes. This means that if you do not want to use supplements working consistently on a strength or muscle building program will help you stay youthful.
However, producing too much growth hormone or abusing growth hormone replacement can lead to issues with glucose metabolism, an increased likely hood of cancer and ageing of organs. So its about balance, moderation and learning about the best ways to boost your growth hormone levels safely and effectively.
Schematic diagram of GHRP-6
On the subject of hormones we can become insulin resistant with age, meaning we have issues with responding to sugar and carbohydrates, using fuel and storing fuel, which is part of middle aged spread and developing type 2 diabetes. I will cover insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, ‘carb sensitivity’ and type 2 diabetes in another blog as there are many ways to combat this common, but serious problem. Often people who struggle to lose weight despite doing everything properly have an issue with insulin resistance and become very sensitive to carbohydrates of all kinds.
Leading on from this we can become less efficient at producing energy as our mitochondria, ‘the powerhouse of the cell’ can become damaged over time as whenever fuel is burnt in the body, free radicals or reactive oxygen species are produced and these damage cell membranes and the DNA in the cell. Supplements which protect the mitochondria, like IGF-1, glutathione and essential fats can be useful to protect the mitochondria and effectively slow down ageing. The fats need to be in the correct ratio of 3:1 Omega 3 : Omega 6 to aid the mitochondria, to add to this we need saturated fat such as the kind from grass fed butter or coconut oil. Liquid vegetable oils such as canola or soybean oil become oxidized when heated which then damage mitochondria and other parts of the cell, contributing to ageing. Our bodies can only absorb about 1/40th of the omega-3 from plant oils such as flax seed, so it is better to get your omega-3 from fish oil.
Briefly, we do have enzymes to mop up free radicals but as we get older our ‘mopping up’ system gets less efficient, so our bodies need some help. This is why supplement companies get excited about ‘anti-oxidants’. Some anti-oxidants such as L-glutathione or vitamin E are excellent and others are a waste of money. Even though L-glutathione is a great anti oxidant the way you take its crucial. It is not readily absorbed in the gut unless it’s in a liposome, but some people prefer to take it as an injection. It is important that if you plan to use a supplement you do some research into how to take it, when to take it and how much. Lycopenes which are found in watermelons and tomatoes are very powerful anti-oxidants and protect the mitochondria. Another very powerful anti-oxidant is astaxanthine which is found in salmon and it protects the salmon’s muscles and gives it a red colour. Both lycopenes and astaxanthines can be bought as supplements if you want extra or do not have access to salmon or watermelons.
To summarize, ageing happens but there are many interesting and useful compounds out there which if used at the correct dose and in the correct way can help keep you healthy and active for as long as possible.