The sunshine solution to a sharper brain
Why do we feel better in summer? A key reason is the effect of more sunlight which boosts mood, mind, immunity and bone health. This is become sun exposure increases vitamin DWhat it does: Helps maintain strong and healthy bones by retaining calcium. Deficiency Signs: Joint pain or stiffness, backache, tooth decay, muscle cramps, hair loss…., which is synthesized by sunlight acting on your skin. One of the hot areas of research right now is the effects of vitamin D on special hormone-like substances in the brain called neurotrophins, which regulate brain cell growth. While it is normally true that the number of brain cells decline with age, the implication is that optimal levels of vitamin D may help keep your brain young.
I used to think that supplementing 15mcg (600ius) a day, assuming you get some from sunlight and fortified foods, should keep you close to optimum. his may be enough in the summer but it certainly isn’t enough in the winter months.I consider a total intake of 30mcg (1,250ius) to be closer to the optimum level in the summer if you spend at least 20 minutes outdoors in shorts and t-shirt. You only make significant amounts of vitamin D when your shadow is no longer than your body, as a rough guide. Thirty minutes of sun exposure a day may provide you with the equivalent of 10mcg. Those eating fish and eggs may achieve a further 5mcg.
In the winter you’ll probably need 1,600iu to 2000iu (40-50µg) vitamin D3 needed to achieve at least 75nmol/l. This is also what you need for optimal disease prevention. For optimal immune function, for example during winter flu season, you’d be wise to supplement a bit more, 3,000iu a day. Since vitamin D stores in the body, and takes several days to convert into the stored form, taking a weekly dose ie 7 x 3,000iu = 21,000iu a week, is just as effective. See full Are you Getting Enough Vitamin D report.
The secret in red grapes
As far as your body is concerned, the proven way to extend a healthy lifespan is to eat fewer calories. In animal studies, optimum nutrition with minimal calories extends lifespan by as much as 25 per cent. How this is achieved has recently been unravelled with the discovery of Sirtuin 1, nicknamed the ‘survival gene’, which promotes DNA repair.1
An easier way could be upping your intake of resveratrol, the secret ingredient in red wine and grapes. Not only does a concentrate of resveratrol switch on the survival gene, it also favourably affects over a hundred genes that help programme you for longevity.2 Dr John Pezzutto of the University of Illinois, describes resveratrol as “a whiff that induces a biologically specific tsunami,” referring to its wide range of positive effects on gene expression away from disease and towards health and youth.3 Apart from its specific effects on slowing down various aspects of cellular ageing, it also seems to protect against heart disease, brain damage and even cancer.4
Eat low GL to slow cellular ageing
If eating less calories really is the mecca of anti-ageing, eating a low-GL diet is the holy grail of weight control. The reason the two are connected is simple – over-eating encourages cell overgrowth and hence cancer, while under-eating slows down cellular ageing. Diets high in dairy products, themselves high in growth promoters, tend to lead to more height and more cancer.
The rural Chinese, for example, have no dairy, more fish and vegetable proteinProteins are large molecules consisting of chains of amino acids. Proteins are essential nutrients for the human body – they are a building block of…, less meat, and more vegetables and fruit, and considerably less degenerative diseases, especially cancer. They also tend to hold the world records for longevity. As well as slowing down ageing, resveratrol may also help you lose weight. Firstly, it inhibits fatty acid synthase, an enzyme needed to convert sugars into fatThere are many different types of fats; polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, hydrogenated, saturated and trans fat. The body requires good fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) in order to…, and then reduces insulinInsulin is a hormone made by the pancreas. It is responsible for making the body’s cells absorb glucose (sugar) from the blood…. levels which means less blood sugar lows and less hunger.5,6 As a result, Resveratrol is currently being tested in clinical trials for diabetes.7
Case Study: transforming health
If you combine all these factors, miracles can happen – as Angela found out when she visited her GP for a check up. Apart from being borderline diabetic, she had high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Her GP insisted she start on a combination of drugs. This was a wake-up call and, not fancying a lifetime of drugs, she negotiated a ten-week reprieve. To effect her transformation, she signed up for one of my Zest for Life programmes.Ten weeks later, she revisited her GP and her cholesterol and blood pressure were normal – she’d also lost 26 lbs!
Now, according to conventional calorieCalories are a measure of the amount of energy in food. Knowing how many calories are in the food we eat allows us to balance… theory, this is impossible without starving yourself, but it happened – and happens – remarkably frequently when people both follow my low-GL diet to the letter, and take the recommended supplements. Also, the usual side-effect of eating a low-calorie diet, which Angela wasn’t consciously doing, is low energy. Yet she, and other low-GL dieters, report exactly the opposite – a definite increase in physical stamina and mental energy. I can’t explain why this level of transformation happens and I doubt that we’ll ever find out by testing each of the individual components.
That’s the shortfall with reductionist thinking, which supposes that you can understand a health promoting phenomena by testing each individual piece then adding the pieces together. My hunch is that when you take in exactly the right balance of nutrients, your body’s whole modus operandi switches into another gear. I think we will find, much like the research on resveratrol, that optimum nutrition changes multiple genes to programme your whole system towards anti-ageing.
Another nutrient that switches countless genes towards anti-ageing, and the most important for keeping your skin young, is vitamin A. It regulates 300 to 1000 genes, controlling cell growth and having anti-cancer properties. It has been quite wrongly demonized on the grounds that too much is toxic. Although it is true that eating a polar bear’s liver can kill you from vitamin A overload, the only clear cases of vitamin A toxicity have come from Roche’s messed up vitamin A molecule used in the drug Roaccutane.
By changing the natural form of vitamin A, in order to be able to profit from a patentable compound, the toxicity was vastly multiplied. I am not aware of any vitamin A overdose occurring from dietary supplements, which are now restricted to 3,000mcg – despite the fact that the best estimate of vitamin A intake of our hunter gatherer ancestors was three times this amount. As you might have noticed, skincare companies are cottoning onto the fact that increasing your vitamin A intake – both from the inside through diet, and from the outside – has the most profound anti-ageing properties, reversing pigmentation and wrinkles, and protecting from sun damage. Vitamin A’s sun protective effect is doubly important because it’s clear we need sunlight to make vitamin D. By increasing your skin’s concentration of vitamin A, sunlight still stimulates vitamin D production without damaging the skin. Sunblocks, on the other hand, stop your skin’s ability to synthesize vitamin D. For this reason, I don’t use sun blocks but rather favour lower SPF sunscreens that contain vitamin A, such as Environ’s RAD (available from beauty salons).
Also vital for anti-ageing are the methylationMethylation is what occurs when the body takes one substance and turns it into another, so that it can be detoxified and excreted from the… nutrients – especially vitamins B2, B6, B12 and folic acidWhat it does: Critical during pregnancy for the development of a baby’s brain and nerves. Also essential for brain and nerve function. Needed for utilising…. Methylation is a biochemical process that occurs a billion times every second – so optimising it is vital to keep our bodies running efficiently. Effective methylation also helps keep your homocysteineHomocysteine is an amino acid found in the blood. Elevated levels of homocysteine have been associated with narrowing and hardening of the arteries, an increased… low, ideally below 7, which is a very good predictor of longevity, and helps switch genetic expression towards anti-ageing. Connect was formulated for the purpose of supporting the methylation process.
Four steps to a younger you
So what does all this mean in terms of developing your own anti-ageing lifestyle?
- In terms of what you eat, this means controlling your weight by following a low-GL diet, high in antioxidants, and especially berries, cherries and red grapes (although the latter are quite high in sugar and hence GL). You want to clock up as many antioxidantAntioxidants are substances that protect cells within the body from damage caused by free radicals. They help to strengthen the body’s ability to fight infection… units as you can every day, for example by eating a couple of squares of dark chocolate, sprinkling cinnamon on your breakfast, cooking with turmeric and ginger, and eating lots of fresh vegetables as well.
- In terms of supplements, it means making sure you take on a daily basis – and ideally in two divided doses (ie with breakfast and lunch) – vitamin A (at least 1,500mcg), vitamin D (at least 15mcg), B vitamins that lower homocysteine (eg B6 20mg, B12 at least 10mcg – more if you are over 60, and folic acid 400mcg), vitamin CWhat it does: Strengthens immune system – fights infections. Makes collagen, keeping bones, skin and joints firm and strong. Antioxidant, detoxifying pollutants and protecting against… (2,000mg), plus a combination of antioxidants including resveratrol (20mg), glutathione (100mg), beta-carotene (15mg), alpha lipoic acid (20mg), Co-Q10 (20-50mg), vitamin EWhat it does: Acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage, including against cancer. Helps body use oxygen, preventing blood clots, thrombosis, atherosclerosis. Improves wound… and seleniumWhat it does: Antioxidant properties help to protect against free radicals and carcinogens, reduces inflammation, stimulates immune system to fight infections, promotes a healthy heart,…. In total, supplement 150-200mg of vitamin E and 75-100mcg of selenium (ie from a daily multi and an antioxidant). In my range Optimum Nutrition Formula is the core supplement and then add on ImmuneC for the extra Vitamin C and Age Antioxidant to increase levels of some anti-ageing nutrients as well as additional ones. For a one-stop-shop solution The 100% Health Pack is specifically for the over 50s. To achieve the levels of Vitamin D now recommended, especially in winter, there’s Vitamin D3 High Strength 3000iu.
- Also, don’t forget to exercise, get outdoors for at least half an hour a day, and apply a vitamin A and vitamin-C-rich skin cream such as Environ.
- Most of all, don’t worry, be happy! Stress ages you – while enjoying life, learning new things, talking to people and letting go of negative emotions helps keep you young.
I am confident that these four actions will add years to your life and life to your years.
Find out more about the Holford Health Club if you’d like to better understand your level of health and receive further support. There’s a one month FREE trial and a FREE Vitamin D3 3000iu on the first order at HOLFORDirect. You could also read The 10 Secrets of Healthy Ageing and take a look at the Ageing Topic on this website.
1. KT Howitz et al, Small molecule activators of sirtuins extend Saccharomyces cerevisiae lifespan, Nature (2003), vol 425(6954), pp191-6.
2. P Signorelli & R Ghidoni, Resveratrol as an anticancer nutrient: molecular basis, open questions and promises, The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry (2005), vol 16(8), pp 449-466.
3. JM Pezzuto, Resveratrol: a whiff that induces a biologically specific tsunami, Cancer Biology & Therapy (2004), vol 3(9), pp889-890.
4. B Kuzhuvelil et al, Resveratrol: a multitargeted agent for age-associated chronic diseases, Cell Cycle (2008), vol 7(8), pp 1020 – 1035.
5. Wei-Xi Tian, Inhibition of fatty acid synthase by polyphenols, Current Medicinal Chemistry (2006), vol 13(8), pp 967-977.
6. T Szkudelski The insulin-suppressive effect of resveratrol – An in vitro and in vivo phenomenon, Life Sciences (2008), vol 82(7-8), pp 430-35.
7. PJ Elliott & M Jirousek, Sirtuins: novel targets for metabolic disease, Current Opinion in Investigational Drugs (2008), vol 9, pp 371-378; SV Penumathsa et al, Resveratrol enhances GLUT-4 translocation to the caveolar lipidFats, oils, waxes and sterols are collectively known as lipids…. raft fractions through AMPK/AKT/eNOS signaling pathway in diabetic myocardium, Journal of Molecular Cell Cardiology (2007), vol 42(3), pp 508-16.
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