Did you know about all of the anti-aging foods out there? Anti-aging is no longer just about skincare routines, working out, taking as many antioxidants as possible and hoping for the best. Our understanding of what aging is has dramatically transformed during the 21st century, and is starting to produce real, measurable results. The biological aging process can be conceptualized into a set of several “hallmarks”. They include mitochondrial dysfunction, telomere shortening, and stem cell exhaustion. Each hallmark is unlikely to operate alone, and instead a worsening of one is likely to bring the others down with it.
By now, we know that cigarette smoking and too much sun exposure can speed up aging. But what about anti-aging foods? Do they really exist, or are they just fads? Let’s go beyond the obscure supplements, devices and treatments, and take a look at several foods that may have anti-aging properties.
Anti-Aging Foods: Oysters and Grass-Fed Beef
Oysters and beef are high in zinc, a nutrient essential to youthful immune function. Zinc is one of the reasons why a flexitarian diet may be better for you than going 100% plant-based. Taking enough zinc slows down shrinkage of the thymus gland, which is essentially a “school” for some immune cell types. It also benefits the innate immune system and assists in cell division, all things we need to keep inflammation down and regeneration at a healthy rate. Low levels of inflammation contribute to aging through promoting tissue damage and impairing the response to infection. This is why aging is sometimes called “inflammaging”.
When sourcing oysters, check that they were harvested from clean waters instead of polluted areas. With beef, grass-fed and organic is best to reduce your exposure to toxins (e.g. pesticides and pharmaceuticals) as much as possible.
Oily fish not only contain high levels of anti-inflammatory fatty acids, but are also a great source of vitamin D. Although we can make vitamin D during sun exposure, this isn’t possible during winter in some parts of the world.
In one clinical trial, vitamin D has shown the ability to reverse epigenetic age by two years at a dose of 2000-4000IU. The volunteers in this study were African-American, putting them at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency as melanin blocks UV light. This means they may have been more likely to benefit from vitamin D than those of us with lighter skin. Epigenetic age clocks measure biological age by how your DNA is behaving, which can be younger or older than your age in years. Another study by the same authors demonstrated that vitamin D can increase telomerase too. This enzyme rebuilds the telomeres, protective caps on our chromosomes that shorten with every division. A cell can no longer divide when they get too short, and instead turns senescent (a less functional, overall damaging state).
Pomegranates are one of the most fun – or annoying – anti-aging foods you can eat, depending on how much you like your snack being a puzzle. The ellagitannins in pomegranates, as well as strawberries and walnuts, are broken down by certain species of bacteria to produce urolithin A. A study on high doses of urolithin A found that, even in elderly volunteers, it improved overall cellular health and the expression of mitochondria DNA. The mitochondria, the energy-producing centers of our cells, carry their own DNA, and so more expression means increased numbers and activity. The volunteers in this study are considered pre-frail, where there is already a lot of age-related muscle loss. They would need higher doses than young, healthy people seeking prevention.
Arginine-rich foods, especially pumpkin seeds and turkey, could be anti-aging foods too! The amino acid arginine is shown to increase our resting production of growth hormone, which enhances tissue regeneration and keeps the thymus gland in a youthful size. A 5-9 gram dose of arginine, achievable with one cup of dried pumpkin seeds or half a turkey breast, can double your resting level of growth hormone. Exercise can increase growth hormone by four to six times over, but combining the two only triples its production. It’s therefore best to separate the two for optimal results.
Besides thymus regeneration, growth hormone helps to regulate your body’s pool of stem cells. The mesenchymal stem cells have gained more attention for their ability to repair muscle and connective tissue. However, lack of appropriate signalling can turn them into fat cells, or stop them from working at all. Growth hormone gives stem cells the right messages, nudging them towards becoming bone cells and away from differentiating into fat.
Parsley and Chamomile
Parsley and chamomile are rich in a number of flavonoids, including apigenin. Apigenin may help to slow the breakdown of NAD+, increasing its levels in the body. The main responsibility of NAD+ is its participation in cellular energy production. This is an antiaging effect in itself because we need energy to not only feel great, but also maintain and repair our bodies.
NAD’s other anti-aging properties center around its role in DNA repair. DNA damage can increase our risk of cancer taking hold, and play a role in aging through making cells turn out damaged and less functional. NAD regulates the “communication” between proteins in the process of DNA repair, even in the face of aging or radiation exposure (don’t try this one out!).
Dark-Colored Grapes (And Their Seeds)
As a general rule, the more deeply-colored a fruit is, the higher it is in antioxidants. This is the case for procyanidin-rich grapes, which qualify as anti-aging foods thanks to their range of antioxidants, including the famous resveratrol. We love to use resveratrol as a reason to drink red wine, but you’re better off eating organic red or dark grapes, or taking a supplement.
Resveratrol and other polyphenols in grapes regulate the SIRT genes, a group with a range of anti-aging effects. In the case of resveratrol, it can soothe inflammation and oxidative stress; improve your energy metabolism; help to restore youthful nutrient sensing; and shift gene expression to a more youth-promoting profile.
Capers, Peppers And Onions
Who’s up for pizza – or maybe just a salad? The best sources of the flavonoid quercetin are capers, raw hot or yellow peppers, and red onions, measuring up to 233, 50 and 39mg of quercetin per 100 gram serving respectively. Quercetin is an antioxidant, protecting our cells from damage, particularly the mitochondria as energy production naturally generates free radicals. Through calming inflammation, quercetin may increase our levels of NAD and partly prevent senescent cells from causing so much trouble. Clinical studies show that topical quercetin can reduce the appearance of wrinkles, while oral supplements may lower high blood pressure. Overall, there are many potentially anti-aging foods that add color and flavor to your diet as well as health benefits. What determines how well you respond to certain foods, however, is your genetics. A test from CircleDNA could help to point you in the right direction when it comes to the best diet plan or best vitamin supplements for you, and you can see your skin profile and nutrition profile here.