Juvenon Health Journal 2014 – July 2014, No. 6
Cracking the code on aging remains one of the biggest challenges in science today. As recently as a decade ago, the general aging theory focused on the oxidative stress model. Basically, the idea was that aging is due to the sustained accumulation of cellular damage and a lifetime of reactive oxygen species and free radicals coursing through our veins.
However, the oxidative damage theory of aging has failed to provide a complete picture. Antioxidants alone don’t seem to do much in fighting the effects of aging. Today, most scientists think the reason why we age can be attributed to not only free radical damage, but also how our cells communicate, leading to chronic low-level inflammation, which builds over time. Scientists now refer to this process as ‘inflammaging.’
Cellular Communication Breakdown
All the unwelcome effects of aging, including metabolism slowdown, stiffness, frailty, aches, and pains, are caused by a profound change in how our cells communicate. The term cell signaling is all about biological information exchange. It includes not only cell-to-cell chatter, but also communication between a cell and its external environment.
Cell signaling is an extremely complex set of sensors and triggers in every cell and tissue in our body. Signal communication pathways are coded directly from our DNA, giving each cell a pattern for growth and development, as well as a set of activities, responses and behaviors that govern daily cell functions. Our bodies can adapt to any changes that are within the ability of the cell signaling pathways to build or repair.
But with age, several key pathways are altered and our typical adapt and repair mechanisms swing towards inflammation, damage, and the deterioration associated with aging.
The ABC’s of Inflammation
Scientists understand that cellular signaling mechanisms maintain immune function, including the process known as inflammation. However, many of us interpret inflammation as swelling as in response to injury.
In truth, inflammation is a complex cascade of information being passed from cell-to-cell. Inflammation helps your body physically isolate anything foreign or damaged within its tissues and targets it for either isolation or destruction.
Inflammation in a particular tissue is generally characterized by infiltration of the tissue by white blood cells looking for anything foreign or damaged.
The science of inflammation is so well characterized that researchers looking into the molecular aspects of aging started noticing a lot of similarities to inflammation models in their work. Aged cells show molecular markers of chronic, low-level inflammation. Even under a microscope, the tissue looks different.
Why does the immune system fight against itself during aging? Suddenly, aging appears to be similar to some of the autoimmune disorders you’ve heard of, e.g., rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis.
Attack of the Zombie Cells
The focus of age related inflammation seems to be targeted at the slow accumulation of what are known as senescent cells. These zombie-like cells no longer divide, but they also don’t die. Senescence may be a way of preventing age damaged cells from turning into cancer. These zombie-like cells accumulate and persist within our aging bodies, no longer contributing to the workload as they once did. These aging cells begin to look foreign to the marauding white blood cells of the immune system. So they’re attacked, isolated and destroyed. Unfortunately, the immune system is not precise, and healthy cells adjacent to the zombie cells are also destroyed in the attack.
The accumulation of these aging cells causes you to feel sore and old. But are you doomed to succumb to the attack of the zombie cells? Not necessarily.
We know about the roles of metabolism, nutrition and lifestyle in regard to our feeling of health and well-being translate directly to our cellular health and well-being. If we can prolong the inevitable progression of our cells towards senescence, we would limit the progression of inflammaging and possibly the feeling of aging.
Fighting Back With ALA and ALC
The opposite of a zombie cell is a metabolically active cell charged with strong mitochondria. The hallmark of strong, metabolically active mitochondria is efficient lipid (fat) fuel transport and consumption for energy production. The natural supplement duo — , lipoic acid (ALA) and acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR) — are unmatched in their ability to promote efficient transport and metabolism by the mitochondria. No other combination of products has shown such clinically significant improvements in metabolism and health.
While lifestyle and our genetics set the stage for how our bodies age, these supplements give us the ability to affect how efficiently our metabolism runs on a daily basis. The idea behind such an intervention against aging is that the longer we can keep our cells from aging, the less we accumulate the destructive effects of inflammaging.