Juvenon Health Journal volume 8 number 10 october 2009
By Benjamin V. Treadwell, Ph.D.
Do you find yourself blaming your genetic make-up for your energy level, weight and susceptibility to disease? Feeling you weren’t born with the same healthy complement of genes as many other people? This concept of predetermined health is not uncommon. And research has found that genes do play a significant role. But there are things we can do to optimize our health no matter what gene profile we were born with. Let’s review some age-old advice and recent findings.
The 1903 Fletcher diet (Chew each bite 32 times and spit out what’s left.), the 1930’s grapefruit diet (fat-preventing superfruit), today’s cabbage soup diet…people continue to experiment with and write about quick, sacrifice-free weight loss. Although these plans may have encouraging results during the first few months, they don’t seem to be sustainable.
The most effective method for maintaining a healthy weight is pretty timeless and very logical: decrease calorie intake. How many calories should you consume? That varies by weight and activity level (personalized medicine). As a rough estimate, for someone weighing between 130 and 170 lbs., the number of calories per day ranges from 1600 to 2500.
Where should those calories come from? Although fat- and sugar-laden foods (Junk food, anyone?) are high in calories, they are low in nutrition. Studies show a healthy diet includes lots of vegetables, legumes, whole grains, berries (fresh or frozen blueberries, strawberries, cherries, etc.), other fruits and protein from lean meat, poultry and fish. For a convenient resource on the calorie counts of different foods, Search the USDA National Nutrient Database.
Studies have shown that maintaining a regular exercise regimen can also help enhance your genetic health profile. On the aerobic side, a walk, run, swim, hike, biking, or any activity that elevates the heart rate for 20-30 minutes a few days a week, tunes up the cardiovascular system.
Balance these exercises with resistance training, using light weights, elastic tubing, etc., to help maintain a strong musculoskeletal system, reversing age-associated osteopenia and sarcopenia, (bone and muscle loss, respectively).
Cellular Garbage Out
Just how essential are a healthy diet and exercise to optimum health? After all, some people seem to flourish while paying little attention to either. Not for long.
Recently published research, from several laboratories, has demonstrated that an animal’s cells literally become saturated with garbage when it is fed a high-fat, high-sugar, high-volume diet. The garbage consists of toxic miss-folded proteins, damaged (oxidized) proteins and rancid fats, as well as damaged genetic material (DNA/RNA).
The animal kingdom evolved with minimal food supplies, making overeating highly unlikely. In fact, periods of food shortage were normal. The restricted-calorie diets of lean times activate specific compartments in the cell, lysosome and proteasome, which digest old, worn-out cellular machinery (mitochondria, miss-folded proteins, etc.) into their component building blocks (amino acids and nucleotides).
These digested products are, subsequently, converted to energy and/or used to build new cellular structures (mitochondria, DNA, cell membranes). In other words, damaged cellular junk is removed, making space for fresh, healthy cellular components.
Bottom line? The members of the animal kingdom, including humankind, are healthiest when their intake of calories is kept to a reasonable level. A period of fasting during the day (a salad for lunch) may be all that is required to activate the cell’s “house-keeping machinery” and survival pathways. The demands of exercise can help sustain the process, as well as maintain a strong and sound body (musculoskeletal system). (See Juvenon Health Journal Volume 7, Cellular Housecleaning: The Anti-Aging Benefits, and Healthier Aging: Clues From the Youthful Liver of an Aging Mouse.)
Exciting side note: Preliminary evidence from a very recent clinical trial has even demonstrated the potential benefits of a restricted-calorie diet for cancer patients during and after chemotherapy. Caloric restriction appears to improve the health of the patient’s normal cells, but not the cancer cells, leaving the latter more susceptible to the toxic effects of chemical treatment.
Supplemental Omega-3s In
Besides eating plant-derived foods and lean proteins and getting enough aerobic and strength-training exercise, is there more we can do to optimize our health, regardless of genetic profile?
Researchers continue to demonstrate the value of supplementing our diets with certain vitamins, antioxidants and essential fatty acids, especially as we age. For example, a recent workshop, on establishing a dietary reference intake (DRI) for the omega-3 fatty acids (EPA/DHA), examined available evidence for the health benefits of supplementing with 250-500mg per day.
The workshop participants specifically reviewed findings related to the effects of dietary omega-3s on three major chronic diseases in the United States, coronary heart disease (CHD), cancer, and cognitive decline. They published the following conclusions:
1) A daily intake of 250-500mg EPA/DHA does not appear to have any negative side effects.
2) There is a definite positive correlation between this intake of EPA/DHA and a decrease in the incidence of CHD.
3) The support for a beneficial effect on cognitive decline (dementia) is encouraging, although not as definitive as for CHD.
4) The effects on cancer are not significant.
Fish Not Flaxseed
The authors also reviewed data on alpha linolenic acid (ALA), present in flaxseed for example, and the precursor of EPA/DHA, as a source of the fatty acids. Because of a demonstrated low conversion in the human body, it was not recommended.
Fish, on the other hand, especially cold-water fish (salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel), are an excellent source. Two to three fish meals per week are sufficient to obtain the optimum amount of omega-3s.
Supplement Instead of Seafood
Of course, some of us don’t care for the flavor or texture of fish. Unfortunately, fish may contain high levels of heavy toxic metals and pesticides, too. Consequently, eating fish too often may not be recommended (especially for pregnant women).
There is another option for achieving the reported benefits of more EPA/DHA. Taking the fatty acids in capsule form. Nearly all omega-3 supplements are formulated from fish oil that has been molecularly distilled to remove the toxic metals and pesticides.
Of course, nutritional health supplements are not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle (diet and exercise) or the antidote for what might be lacking in your genetic health profile. But, just as the name “supplement” implies, they seem to provide added support.
In a recent supplement to theJournal of Nutrition, participants in a June 2008 workshop, “Towards Dietary Reference Intakes for Omega-3 Fatty Acids,” reported on and summarized their conclusions. The workshop, held in Washington, D.C., was cosponsored by the Technical Committee on Dietary Lipids of the International Life Sciences Institute North America. Attendees from universities in the Untied States and Canada contributed to the article, “Towards Establishing Dietary Reference Intakes for Eicosapentaenoic and Docosahexaenoic Acids.”
With the increasing interest in the mitigating effects on chronic diseases of the n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), the workshop was organized to address the absence of dietary reference intakes (DRI) for eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Substantial new findings since 2002, when the Institute of Medicine had declined to define DRI due to insufficient data, supported the need for reassessment.
Workshop participants reviewed published data from numerous experimental and clinical studies, specifically focusing on results related to dietary omega fatty acids and coronary heart disease (CHD), cancer and cognitive decline. They reached the following conclusions regarding dosage and effects.
1) Protective tissue levels of EPA/DHA can be achieved only through direct consumption of these fatty acids.
2) Evidence from multiple studies demonstrates an inverse relationship between a diet containing EPA/DHA and the risk of CHD. It also supports a DRI of 250-500mg per day to achieve this protection.
3) Although studies suggest the omega-3 fatty acids protect against cognitive decline, more data is needed to establish a recommended dosage.
4) Consuming omega-3 fatty acids does not appear to reduce the risk of cancer.
The authors also noted that, based on research to date, a daily intake of 250-500mg EPA/DHA does not appear to have any negative effects.
Read article abstract here.
This Research Update column highlights articles related to recent scientific inquiry into the process of human aging. It is not intended to promote any specific ingredient, regimen, or use and should not be construed as evidence of the safety, effectiveness, or intended uses of the Juvenon product. The Juvenon label should be consulted for intended uses and appropriate directions for use of the product.
Dr. Treadwell answers your questions about Juvenon™ Cellular Health Supplement.
question: Just read your article that related to organic produce (Juvenon Health Journal Organic vs. Non-Organic: A Case for the Higher-Priced Produce, Volume 8, 9/09). You didn’t touch on the findings of Bruce Ames back in 1990, about apples and other organic crops that produce carcinogens when put under stress from insects and other problems. Dr. Ames wrote, “One cup of coffee contains 10 milligrams of known (natural) rodent carcinogens, about equivalent in weight to the potentially carcinogenic synthetic pesticide residues one eats in a year.” He estimates that 99% of all pesticides, by weight, are generated naturally. Monsanto, Dow and Uniroyal are amateurs, compared to “Mother Nature’s” pesticide factory.
I make my living in the crop production industry. I feel that anything other than “organic,” in my field, gets the short end of the stick when it comes to public sentiment, brought on by the biased opinions of people who overlook some of the basics. – J
answer: Your question is an excellent one and worthy of further consideration. Plants do continuously produce carcinogens, apparently whether they are under stress or not, as Dr. Ames has described. But, as discussed in last month’s Health Journal, plants under stress also synthesize beneficial phytoalexins. These compounds, in turn, act on biochemical pathways that help the plant survive.
It turns out that animals that consume the stressed plant, containing the stress-induced phytoalexins, also benefit as the animals’ health-promoting biochemical pathways are activated. So, the real question may be whether the stressed plants have more or fewer carcinogens relative to the non-stressed plants. Based on animal studies, to date, the answer seems to be fewer, as results indicate less cancer in animals fed extracts of stressed plants.
Benjamin V. Treadwell, Ph.D., is a former Harvard Medical School associate professor and member of Juvenon’s Scientific Advisory Board.