Chili pepper is a culinary element consumed worldwide, especially in China, Mexico, and Italy. Capsaicin is a biologically active alkaloid produced by chili peppers that produce their spicy flavor. The irritation produced by these plants is probably a protective mechanism, evolved to deter animals (like us) from devouring them. But ironically, these compounds, which ostensibly emerged to harm us, may actually offer certain health benefits when eaten – like with respect to cancer.
In 1972, a compound was identified from a bacterial species (Streptomyces hygroscopicus) originally found off the coast of Chile on Easter Island. The compound was developed to prevent fungal infections but later was found to do other things like suppressing the immune system. In fact, a primary use for it currently is to prevent organ rejection in transplant patients. It’s possible, however, that its primary use may change in not-too-distant future to something very different due to another feature: This compound also limits cell division (antiproliferation effects) and promotes an intracellular clean up process, immediately raising interest in the field of aging sciences.
The compound is called rapamycin. All of its effects listed above happen through the suppression of a biochemical pathway that it’s named after – the “mechanistic target of rapamycin”, or mTOR for short. Let’s first discuss the mTOR pathway, why it’s so important for aging, and then we’ll take a closer look at the anti-aging properties observed with the compound rapamycin. We’ll also discuss whether this is something you can benefit from now.
The research on alcohol and its effects on long-term health in humans can appear confusing and seemingly paradoxical. Conventional health organizations recommend moderate drinking – if you drink at all – due to potential beneficial effects for cardiometabolic health. On the other hand, they do not encourage teetotalers to start drinking, on account of the possible risks associated with alcohol consumption.
One basic principle of toxicology to keep in mind is “the dose makes the poison.” This applies to literally all chemicals – including vitamins and minerals that are essential to our survival. Even water can become toxic when too much is absorbed into the body. So, whether or not a substance can be characterized as a toxin is not a simple question. It depends upon the dose, as well as the duration of exposure. Epidemiology and basic science have suggested that alcohol can actually be beneficial to health and longevity – however only in the right amounts. Ethanol appears to work its magic by improving, among other things, insulin sensitivity and lipid profiles. But these benefits are largely lost in the context of heavy drinking. But new research looks at how various levels of daily alcohol consumption influences biological aging. Read more to find out what they discovered.
In the previous article on aging, we looked at three forms of dietary restriction: caloric restriction, prolonged fasting, and alternate-day fasting. These interventions have played an important role in providing a framework for researchers to begin unraveling the molecular details of how aging happens. But these dietary restrictions are quite extreme and are simply not practical for everyone. In this article, we will look at two less extreme forms of dietary restriction: protein restriction, and the Daniel fast.
Can we improve how we age and how long we live by restricting what we eat? Nearly all signs point to yes. In this article, I will describe three major categories of dietary restriction that have been explored, the evidence of efficacy, and some of the limitations that stand in the way of our understanding of this topic.
Numerous studies on a diverse range of organisms, including bacteria, yeast, worms, flies, rodents, and primates, have shown that dietary restrictions, such as chronic or intermittent fasting, can slow down biological aging and increase maximum lifespan substantially, by up to 50% in some protocols. Some of the mechanisms by which these different dietary-restriction regimens work have been identified. Many of them are metabolic pathways that are shared across species, including humans. It is therefore reasonable to think that the beneficial effects on lifespan, in let’s say a worm or mouse, could also occur in humans. Definitively proving this, however, is difficult because longevity studies to utilize any type of intervention in humans inherently require decades of adherence to a protocol, along with decades of follow up by the research team. That’s why we love to do aging research in worms that have a twenty-day lifespan! But ultimately, in order to move from non-human intervention to safe and effective human application, we need to study promising interventions in humans. The good news is that human studies have been carried out, but instead of directly measuring lifespan, biomarkers are used. Biomarkers are biological characteristics that can be objectively measured today that can predict important health outcomes—in this case, biological aging. (Read More)
We age every moment we are alive. But the process of aging appears different depending on where one sits on the curve of life. When we are young, aging develops us. When we are old, aging diminishes our abilities. But aging begins before its effects are apparent. It’s just that we’re more likely to care about it when it’s evident. The desire within humans to avoid the perils of biological aging is as old as time itself, but now aging is a field of scientific inquiry, and the promise of extraordinary solutions is imminent. One big aim of this field is to find ways to extend lifespan. Just as interesting, if not more so, is to find strategies that preserve abilities for the duration of the lifespan. This article is the first in a series to address both.