I think it’s troubling to use the term “anti-aging.” It seems to suggest you can completely halt—or even reverse—the body’s natural aging process. That’s why you won’t see claims about the latest-and-greatest “anti-aging” breakthrough in my Daily Dispatch.
And it turns out, I’m not the only scientist who refuses to embrace the term. So, today, let’s talk more about why…and then, I’ll share some modern science that shows there are still many ways to improve your lifespan through healthy aging.
Normal cells have a limited number of life cycles
Dr. Leonard Hayflick, a fellow alum of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, recently received a “Distinguished Graduate Award” from our alma mater.
Even back when I was in training at Penn in the mid-1970s to early 1980s, we were already talking about the contributions Dr. Hayflick was making as a young researcher into the science of human aging. And we took great pride in him as an alum of our own school.
Indeed, in 1962, as a young researcher at the Wistar Institute at Penn, Hayflick had overturned a 60-year-old theory developed by Frenchman Alexis Carrel that human cells were potentially immortal. (In other words, that human cells could keep on reproducing, dividing, and replacing themselves indefinitely.)
Hayflick’s work found that only cancer cells are immortal. Whereas when normal human cells replicate themselves, the ends of their chromosomes (telomeres) get shorter.
Eventually, the telomeres become so short, cell division comes to a halt. And there are no more new, young, healthy cells to replace the old. That’s when the cell reaches what we now call the “Hayflick Limit.” External factors—like infections, inflammation, radiation, and trauma—can also shorten a cell’s lifespan…making it reach this limit sooner.
Hayflick helps make progress against infectious diseases, too
Of course, the cultured human cells Dr. Hayflick developed to conduct this research had another thing going for them: They were completely free of microbial contamination. Therefore, scientists could use them to grow and study infectious diseases (alongside telomere length). Which was key. Because up until that point, scientists had been using cells taken, for example, from monkey kidneys to study infectious diseases and to make vaccines.
But some experts worried that the widespread use of monkey kidney cells in the 1950s to develop the polio vaccine led to the introduction of the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) in humans in Africa. And, of course, SIV led to the emergence of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the 1970s. (During the late 1990s, I was retained to write the script for a “top secret” video production about this theory, commissioned by a prominent vaccine maker. But the manufacturer never released it.)
Over time, scientists around the world began using Hayflick’s uncontaminated cells, instead of monkey kidney cells, to manufacture human vaccines. And Hayflick himself produced the first oral polio vaccine using this approach.
Protect your cells from prematurely reaching their “Hayflick Limit”
As you might expect, Hayflick strongly decries the field of so-called “anti-aging medicine.” He’s even published numerous articles questioning the feasibility…and even desirability…of human life extension.
However, there are many ways to slow down your cells’ natural aging process, so that it takes longer before they reach their “Hayflick Limit.” (Clearly, Dr. Hayflick himself has been following some of these steps, as he’s 93 years old and counting. And his mother was a super centenarian, making it past 105 years!)
Here are four steps you can take, starting today, to support healthy aging:
1.) Follow a Mediterranean-type diet. As you know, this healthy, wholesome diet works to fight inflammation, the root cause of cellular aging. So, be sure to enjoy plenty of:
- Full-fat, whole-milk dairy, including butter, eggs, cheeses, and yogurt. (Remember, in the Mediterranean, they eat cheese and/or yogurt at each and every meal. But health experts typically overlook that point because it doesn’t fit their “anti-fat,” “antidairy” narratives.)
- Wild-caught fish and seafood.
- Grass-fed and -finished, free-range, organic beef, chicken, and especially lamb; lamb has the best nutritional profile of all meats.
- Five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
- Nuts and seeds.
- Alcohol, in moderation.
2.) Cut out sugars and processed foods. Research shows that a diet high in ultra-processed foods can shave years off your life. So, make sure to stay in the outer perimeter of the grocery store, where they display the fresh, unprocessed foods that require refrigeration. (On the contrary, the center aisles are lined with all of the processed, packaged junk you want to avoid.)
3.) Get some moderate exercise outside in Nature. Now that the temperatures are rising in most parts of the country, I encourage you to spend more time outside in the bright sunshine. I suggest going for a hike, working in the garden, swimming, or playing with your children or grandchildren during the extra daylight hours.
This kind of healthy, outside activity will help lower stress and help give your vitamin D blood levels a boost. And, as an added bonus, it will contribute to your sensible goal of getting a total of 140 to 150 minutes of light-to-moderate exercise per week.
4.) Practice mindfulness meditation. As the weather continues to warm up, we may tend to get a little busier. But don’t forget to take some time each day to slow down, reflect, and meditate. Studies show this simple habit can help slow down the aging process…especially in the brain. (You can learn all about how easy it is to incorporate five minutes of mindfulness meditation into your life in my book with Don McCown, New World Mindfulness.)
The bottom line is, you can stay vibrant, youthful, and healthy well into your 70s, 80s, 90s, and beyond without “anti-aging” gimmicks. Instead, try the simple, natural, healthy aging strategies outlined in my protocol, The Insider’s Ultimate Guide to Outsmarting “Old Age.” If you’d like to learn more about this online learning tool or enroll today, simply click here now.
“Distinguished Graduate Award Discussion with Leonard Hayflick, Ph.D.” Alumni, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, accessed 5/18/21. (alumni.upenn.edu/s/1587/psom/index.aspx?sid=1587&pgid=33486&gid=2&cid=70195&ecid=70195&post_id=0)