Many studies have shown that cell therapy, hormones, nutritional supplements, diet modification and exercise can indeed reverse ageing.
IN the last two decades or so, the medical world has been abuzz with anti-ageing or rejuvenation therapies. The aesthetic/beauty market caught up, and peddled anything that held promise.
Nobody requires absolute proof. Selling hope is big business. Some say slowing the rate of ageing is believable, but reversing it is not.
So, with all this hype, can ageing really be reversed? The answer is a big YES.
Let me give you a simple example. Although the hair is not an important pre-requisite to good health (you can be bald and still be fit and healthy), it serves as a good example to prove that ageing can be reversed.
Many men and women who have thinning, receding or greying hair have benefited from natural hair treatments (excluding dyeing, which is “cheating”) that make their hair re-grow, or become black again. That is proof of the reversal of the biological ageing of their hair follicles.
If it is possible to do so to the cells in the hair follicles, then it is possible to do so for all other cells in the body.
The first landmark study on age-reversal was on the rejuvenative effects of HGH (human growth hormone) by Dr Rudman and his colleagues (reported in NEJM, July 5, 1990).
Although it was a small study on 61- to 81-year-old men, it showed, among others, that HGH increased lean body mass and bone mass, decreased fat mass, and even restored skin thickness.
Overall, the men reversed 20 years in age by these physical criteria. For more on HGH, please see The Youth Hormone (Fit4Life, March 3, 2013).
Another small US study showed that six months of moderate to intensive exercise (an hour daily) reversed ageing by about 20 years, as measured by cardiovascular fitness.
However, evidence-based modern medicine is very strict before any claims can be made. There must be ample, reproducible proof before anything is accepted. Fortunately, thousands of other studies have shown that cell therapy, hormones, nutritional supplements, diet modification and exercise do indeed reverse ageing.
Three types of ageing
In general, ageing can be defined in three ways:
1. Chronological ageing
Everyone is familiar with chronological ageing. It is getting old with time, as indicated by your (chronological) age. This is, of course, irreversible.
2. Biological ageing
This is what we are concerned here – the deterioration of health and function with time. Biological ageing is the result of the cumulative effects of everything that affects the health and function of cells, tissues and organs.
The factors that affect these include lifestyle, body weight, genes, hormones, diet, free radicals, toxins, sun exposure (UV radiation), exercise, stress and many others.
Each contributing factor may have many causes. For example, toxins may get into the body through food, water, air, and even the soaps, shampoos, creams and lotions we use.
Various ways have been proposed to calculate biological age to reflect the state of the body in reference to that of a healthy person of the same chronological age. Thus, if your biological age is 50, it means that you are as healthy as a very healthy 50-year-old, whatever your chronological age. If you are 40-years-old, but have a biological age of 50, it means that you have aged too fast. Likewise if you are 60 and have a biological age of 50, it means you have aged slowly.
All the available methods of calculating biological age are not accurate because the figures do not reflect reality. There are even weighing machines that also give your biological age by just measuring your visceral fat content.
While visceral fat is indeed unhealthy, it is certainly insufficient to give an indication of the overall state of health.
The only useful method is to estimate the biological age of each organ system. For example, a 50-year-old man who is fit and exercises regularly may have a cardiovascular age of 40. If he has been running in the sun for many years without adequate sun-protection, his skin would have aged faster. His skin age could be 60.
Combining the two (40+60) to give an average of 50 is meaningless.
3. Aesthetic ageing
This is about how old you look. How you look is determined by your biological age plus two other factors that do not directly correlate to ageing.
The first is the sagging of your face and body parts (eg jowl and breasts) due to gravity. Facial sagging certainly adds to how old you look. If we were to live on the moon, we will all look much younger because the gravity there is only one-sixth that of the earth.
The second is the wrinkles and furrows that appear because of movements and facial expressions. These are most obvious on the face and neck. These “dynamic lines” make you look old, but are more reflections of how expressive you are, rather than your state of health.
While sagging and wrinkles are not directly due to biological ageing, young healthy skin is more resistant to these effects. Therefore, biological skin ageing also contributes to the rate of sagging and wrinkling.
Biological skin ageing results in thinning (loss of collagen and matrix), loss of elasticity (loss of elastin fibres), dehydration (loss of extracelleular hyaluronic acid and intracellular fluid), age spots, moles, skin tags and other changes, which all add to the “aged” look.
Sagging and wrinkles are the easiest to reverse by aesthetic/cosmetic therapies. These include botox, fillers, chemical peels, lasers (and other light/energy machines), mesotherapy, micro-needling, non-invasive thread implants, minimally-invasive suspension threads, and many types of surgery.
Most of these treatments only make you look younger without improving your health (ie “cheating”), but it is important to look good. It boosts your confidence. Looking young makes you feel young.
In addition, anti-ageing therapies with cell therapy, hormones, nutrition, healthy diet and exercise can also reverse biological skin ageing. When done together with aesthetic/cosmetic treatments, the results will be more pronounced and longer lasting.
Anti-ageing therapies can be classified into cell therapies, gene modulation, hormone optimisation, dietary modification, nutritional supplementation, exercise and skin therapies.
I have written extensively on the roles of hormones, diet, nutritional supplementation and exercise. I had written about cell therapy and gene modulation eight years ago (see Genetic Energy, Fit4Life, October 9, 2005) and it is time for an update on the subject.
Being one of the pioneers of cell therapy in Malaysia, I have observed its rapid development over the years. Stem cell therapy is now widely available through several labs providing storage and culture facilities. You can store your baby’s cord blood (for future use of the stem cells). You can also harvest your own stem cells from your fat (obtained through liposuction) for rejuvenation or treating certain diseases (eg psoriasis, arthritis).
The easiest way is to use rabbit or sheep stem cells. Thousands of patients all over the world have had this stem cell xeno-transplantation (ie injections/transfusion of cells from another species) with good results.
I can confirm that some of our local “rich-and-famous” look good with help from cell therapy. However, the cost is still prohibitive for most people. For more on this, see Rejuvenation Therapies (Fit4Life, May 31, 2009).
The next cheaper option is placenta cell injection/transplantation. This gives faster and more pronounced effects than consuming oral placenta extracts, which is now very popular here judging from the advertisements and promotions at the pharmacies.
There are also oral supplements that boost the release of stem cells from your bone marrow. This may improve many aspects of health.
Another injectible therapy is DNA or RNA, which is actually a form of gene modulation. While our genes and DNA are species-specific, there is much overlap between our DNA/RNA and that of animals. Thus, when sheep DNA/RNA are injected (targeted to perform certain healing functions), the body still responds similarly as if the corresponding human DNA/RNA were injected.
This phenomenon extends to hormones, peptides, proteins and enzymes. For example, for many years before the advent of biogenetic-engineering, diabetics were treated with pig or cow insulin.
Every cell divides by making an exact copy of its chromosomes (which carries our genes or life instructions). Every mistake or mutation is repeated ad infinitum, unless that mutation is repaired.
Like all cell components, chromosomes are constantly bombarded and damaged by free radicals, which are natural by-products of our metabolism. Things get worse if excess free radicals and toxins get into the cells.
The body has mechanisms to repair the smallest damage before they become irreparable. Some of the damage may be harmless, but significant damage to certain genes may interfere with important instructions (e.g. orderly cell division or mitosis, peptide and enzyme synthesis, etc). The moles and skin tags of ageing are examples of what happens when these instructions are compromised.
One way to help the genes is to provide fresh, young DNA material (nucleic acids) so that the body can utilise this fresh material to make new chromosomes when our cells divide. Nucleic acids that come from young plants and animals are least likely to be damaged in any way.
While the best injectible DNA available is from foetal rabbit or sheep, the best available oral DNA supplement is derived from marine sources. Scientists have shown that marine animals are able to repair their own DNA better than others. Marine animals are also rich in antioxidants.
Avoiding sun damage and taking sufficient antioxidants to fight free radicals are essential DNA-protecting anti-ageing strategies too.
The other ways to modulate the genes to favour health, rejuvenation and longevity are gene activation and telomere preservation/prolongation. These will be discussed in the next article.