It seems like some folks have just plain won the longevity gene lottery. They get to live to be a hundred because they inherited DNA from their parents that keeps them spry, alert and mentally sound no matter what their age.
I know a very lively 90-year-old man and also a 96-year-old woman who never bothered a whit about how they eat, the quality of their sleep, meditation or any of the other stuff we sweat over.
Well, even if you suspect that your genetic inheritance is a little below par, you can take heart: Researchers believe they are discovering the places in the human genome where the genetic influences on aging are hiding.
Better yet, they’re devising potential ways to awaken these “longevity genes” from their physiological stupor and put them to work extending our lives.
As a matter of fact, their research has revealed at least one easy, natural method you may be able to take advantage of right now.
This latest anti-aging research centers on what’s called the FOX03 gene – technically known as a forkhead box transcription factor of the class O (take notes, quiz on Friday).
FOX03 controls how several genetic factors in your DNA behave. It regulates the production of certain proteins and controls some cellular activities that powerfully affect your health and, in the long run, may help determine how long you live.
According to researchers at the University of Algarve, in Portugal, the FOX03 gene is involved in helping cells reduce stress, keeping mitochondria producing energy properly, regulating how glucose is processed and determining how long each cell survives.1
And there’s more – studies at Stanford show that the FOX03 gene is involved in what the researchers call “cellular quality control.” This gene helps run processes within the cells that clear out debris – digesting and eliminating damaged proteins and breaking down worn out cell structures called organelles that can no longer function.2
According to the Stanford scientists, this cleansing function helps avoid some of the cellular problems that lead to aging and also keeps the neurons in the brain healthier.
Tests conducted at the Brain Mind Institute in Switzerland, for instance, demonstrate that FOX03 helps clear away defective mitochondria in the brain that might otherwise make you more vulnerable to Parkinson’s disease.3
Turning on the anti-aging Gene
In many of us, the FOX03 doesn’t do all that it can do, but – good news — you can kick-start its activity with the right nutrient.
A study at the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine demonstrates that the natural pigment astaxanthin – a powerful antioxidant in the carotenoid family — can give the FOX03 gene a big wake-up call. The carotenoids are a group of chemicals that lend color to many fruits and vegetables. They make carrots and sweet potatoes orange and tomatoes red.
“All of us have the FOXO3 gene, which protects against aging in humans,” says researcher Bradley. “But (only) about one in three persons carry a version of the FOXO3 gene that is associated with longevity. By activating the FOXO3 gene common in all humans, we can make it act like the ‘longevity’ version. Through (our) research, we have shown that astaxanthin ‘activates’ the FOXO3 gene.”
In your meals, you can consume astaxanthin in seafood – it is found in salmon, shrimp and lobster. These animals get it by eating krill or algae which produce the pigment. It is also found in krill oil.
Scientists who have studied astaxanthin report that it’s a more powerful antioxidant than any other carotenoid. Its antioxidant capacity is much more potent than vitamin C and vitamin E.
Other benefits of astaxanthin include:
- Protecting heart muscle cells and coronary arteries from oxidative stress.4
- Defending the skin from damage caused by ultraviolet rays in sunlight.5
- Helping neurons in the brain maintain their functions more effectively as you age.6
All of these facts about astaxanthin would seem to make it a pretty reliable nutrient for those who want to age as slowly as possible. There have even been reports that taking astaxanthin supplements along with applying it to the skin can fight wrinkles.7
I don’t know about that, but whether or not it improves your outside appearance, astaxanthin looks like it can hold back some of the aging that goes on inside the body. It’s readily available from supplement companies.