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By Dr. Mercola
If you had a choice and could either age well, enjoying your "golden years" with energy and vigor, free from disability and illness – or age poorly, and be straddled with health issues that keep you from fully living the later years of your life … which would you choose?
You do actually have a choice, or at least can choose to use strategies that will greatly sway your chances in one direction or the other. And I'm sure most everyone reading this would rather experience healthy aging than the alternative…
4 Key Strategies to Ensure Healthy Aging
New research has found four key behaviors that lower your risk of disability, chronic disease and mental health problems as you age.1
- Not smoking
- Moderate drinking
- Exercising regularly (at least 2.5 hours a week of moderate activity or 1 hour a week of vigorous activity)
- Eating vegetables and fruits daily
Now here's what's interesting. While each of these was moderately beneficial on its own, increasing the odds of "successful aging" by up to 50 percent, the best rewards came from following all of them simultaneously. Those who practiced all four of these tripled their chances of avoiding disability and disease over a 16-year period, and experienced good cognitive, mental, physical, respiratory, and cardiovascular functioning.
"Although individual healthy behaviors are moderately associated with successful aging, their combined impact is substantial," the researchers said.
6 Additional Healthy Aging Strategies to Add to Your Arsenal
The bottom line is, the more healthy habits you embrace, the higher your chances of aging "successfully" becomes. And while the strategies listed above are all important, there are several others that I believe can benefit most people greatly as well.
1. Avoid Sugar/Fructose
Limiting sugar in your diet is a well-known key to longevity, because of all the molecules capable of inflicting damage in your body, sugar molecules are probably the most damaging of all. Fructose in particular is an extremely potent pro-inflammatory agent that creates toxic advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are associated with the development of chronic degenerative diseases associated with aging.
Excess fructose consumption also promotes the kind of dangerous growth of fat cells around your vital organs that are the hallmark of diabetes and heart disease. In one study, 16 volunteers who ate high levels of fructose produced new fat cells around their heart, liver and other digestive organs in just 10 weeks!2
Sugar/fructose also increases your insulin and leptin levels and decreases receptor sensitivity for both of these vital hormones, and this is another major factor in premature aging and age-related chronic degenerative diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Keep in mind that while it's perfectly normal for your blood sugar levels to rise slightly after every meal, it is not natural or healthy when your blood sugar levels become excessively elevated and stay that way.
Unfortunately, that's exactly what will happen if you're eating like the average American, who consumes a staggering 2.5 pounds of sugar a week on average! And when you add in other low-quality carb foods such as pastries, cookies, candy and starchy "complex carbs" such as bread and pasta, which also break down to sugar (glucose) in your body, it's not so difficult to see why so many Americans are in such poor health.
Further, according to Professor Cynthia Kenyon, whom many experts believe should win the Nobel Prize for her research into aging, carbohydrates (glucose) directly affect the genes that govern youthfulness and longevity. So, you may actually be able to extend your life and stay fit throughout your old age with a simple dietary change that switches on your "youth" gene.
Kenyon's research with C. elegans roundworms showed that decreased carb intake can lead to significant life extension and improved long-term health. One of the most interesting details of her findings is that not only did the roundworms live up to SIX TIMES longer than normal, but they kept their health and youthful vigor until the end—and isn't that what "healthy aging" is really all about?
As a standard recommendation, I strongly advise keeping your TOTAL fructose consumption below 25 grams per day. However, most people would be wise to limit their fructose to 15 grams or less, particularly if you have elevated uric acid levels, which can be used as an indicator of fructose toxicity. (For more information on this, please see this recent article.)
2. High Intensity "Anti-Aging" Exercise like Peak Fitness
Even if you're eating the healthiest diet in the world, you still need to exercise to reach the highest levels of health, and you need to be exercising effectively, which means including high-intensity activities into your rotation. A recent study published in the journal Mechanisms of Aging and Development3 confirmed the "anti-aging" effect of high-intensity training, such as Peak Fitness.
High-intensity interval-type training also gives a natural boost to your human growth hormone (HGH) production, which is essential for optimal health, strength and vigor. I've discussed the importance of Peak Fitness for your health on numerous occasions, so for more information, please review this previous article.
3. Stress Reduction and Positive Thinking
You cannot be optimally healthy if you avoid addressing the emotional component of your health and longevity, as your emotional state plays a role in nearly every physical disease -- from heart disease and depression, to arthritis and cancer. It's simply no coincidence that many centenarians mention positive thought and emotional wellness in their advice on how to stay healthy. As 114-year-old Walter Breuning said before his death:
"Tell yourself that every day is a good day, and make it that way."
Effective coping mechanisms are a major longevity-promoting factor in part because stress has a direct impact on inflammation, which in turn underlies many of the chronic diseases that kill people prematurely every day. Meditation, prayer, social support and exercise are all viable options that can help you maintain emotional and mental equilibrium. I also strongly believe in using simple tools such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to address deeper, oftentimes hidden, emotional problems.
4. Take High-Quality Animal-Based Omega-3 Fats
Animal-based omega-3 fat is a strong factor in helping people live longer, and many experts believe that it is likely the predominant reason why the Japanese are the longest lived race on the planet (as their diets are naturally high in omega-3s). In the United States, many are deficient in omega-3 fats.
According to Dr. William Harris, an expert on omega-3 fats, those who have an omega-3 index of less than 4 percent age much faster than those with indexes above 8 percent. Therefore, your omega-3 index may also be an effective marker of your rate of aging.
Although this research is preliminary, I would suggest that optimizing your omega-3 levels above 8 percent would be a good strategy if you're interested in delaying aging. (Your doctor can order the omega-3 index test from a lab called Health Diagnostic Laboratory in Richmond, Virginia.)
5. Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels
In one study of more than 2,000 women, those with higher vitamin D levels were found to have fewer aging-related changes in their DNA, as well as lowered inflammatory responses.4 Additionally, people with low levels of vitamin D have been found to be more likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure, and diseased heart muscle -- and are three times more likely to die from any cause compared to those with normal levels.5
We have long known that it is best to get your vitamin D from sun exposure, and if at all possible, I strongly urge you to make sure you're getting out in the sun on a daily basis. If you can't get out in the sun, a safe tanning bed is the next best option. It is also important to make sure you get enough vitamin K2 to balance your vitamin D levels. The best way to get the vitamin K2 is from fermented vegetables that are created from special starter cultures that use bacteria that make vitamin K2.
6. Intermittent Fasting
There's a growing body of research showing that fasting has a beneficial impact on longevity in animals. There are a number of mechanisms contributing to this effect. Normalizing insulin sensitivity is a major one as insulin sensitivity is critical for the activation of the mTOR pathway, which plays an important part in repairing and regenerating your tissues including your muscles and thereby counteracting the aging process. The fact that it improves a number of potent disease markers indicates that fasting can have an overall beneficial effect on your general health. For example, modern science has confirmed fasting can help you:
- Normalize your insulin sensitivity, which is key for optimal health as insulin resistance (which is what you get when your insulin sensitivity plummets) is a primary contributing factor to nearly all chronic disease, from diabetes to heart disease and even cancer
- Normalize ghrelin levels, also known as "the hunger hormone"
- Promote human growth hormone (HGH) production, which plays an important part in health, fitness and slowing the aging process
- Lower triglyceride levels
- Reduce inflammation and lessening free radical damage
On intermittent fasting, the longest time you'll ever abstain from food is 36 hours, although 14-18 hours is more common. You can also opt to simply delay eating, for example skipping breakfast, or stop eating earlier in the day. The issue of fasting is a major shift from my typical recommendations. I've not been a major advocate for it in the past, but as many of you who have been reading this site for years know, I am always learning.
To that end, I've now revised my personal eating schedule to eliminate breakfast and restrict the time I eat food to a period of about six to seven hours each day, which is typically from noon to 6 or 7 pm.
One caveat: the same genes that promote human longevity also appear to suppress female reproductive capacity. Hence fasting and intense exercise protocols, both known to promote longevity, also lower estrogen levels, thereby modulating body composition in women and suppressing female reproductive capacity. So this may not be an ideal strategy for women of reproductive age who wish to have children.
Healthy Aging is a "Package Deal"
There is no "quick fix" or magic bullet when it comes to aging well. Generally speaking, the better you treat your body throughout your life, the better your aging experience will be.
Most people do not revel in the thought of getting older because for many "aging" is synonymous with aches and pains, forgetfulness and loneliness. It certainly is inevitable that you're going to get older, but I can tell you from personal experience that this does not have to be a bad thing.
Now, in my late 50s, I am the fittest I have ever been in my life, and I also live out every day to its fullest potential. I may have been able to run faster when I was younger but I would never trade that for the muscle strength, flexibility and knowledge that I have today. You too can achieve wellness on both physical and mental fronts, and you can do so at any age. In fact, in many respects life only continues to get better as the years go by.
Six "Grow Younger" Nutrients I Take Every Day
5 Ways to Age Gracefully and Healthfully
By Dr. Mercola
Do you ever find that eating breakfast – even a “solid” breakfast like steak and eggs – makes you hungry?
You start your day off right, re-fueling after sleep, then sometime around 30 minutes to 2 hours or so later you’re hungry again, as though you never even ate. It’s not all in your head, and you’re not alone.
Many experience a similar reaction to breakfast, and in the featured article nutritional consultant and personal trainer Martin Berkhan may have the answer to why post-breakfast hunger occurs, and what will get you on the right eating track.
This might sound surprising at first, but it actually begins with omitting breakfast altogether.
Why Eating Breakfast Might Make You Hungrier
The interesting aspect about eating first thing in the morning is that it coincides with your circadian cortisol peak, that is, the time of day when your cortisol (stress hormone) levels rise and reach their peak.
The circadian cortisol peak has an impact on your insulin secretion, such that when you eat during this time it leads to a rapid and large insulin release, and a corresponding rapid drop in blood sugar levels, more so than when you eat at other times of the day. If you’re healthy, your blood sugar levels won’t drop to a dangerously low level (such as can occur with hypoglycemia) but they can drop low enough to make you feel hungry.
“In the “glucostatic theory”, Jean Mayer in the 1950’s proposed that low blood sugar served as the primary hunger-triggering signal that prompted us to feed. Later studies have taught us that appetite regulation is way more complicated than that, but there is clearly a role for blood glucose in this equation.
Building on Mayer’s theory, Campfield has proposed a more complex and refined theory, in which he – briefly summarized – suggests that falling blood glucose levels might serve as a hunger signal. This has been echoed elsewhere, in the sense that the speed of which blood glucose falls can serve as an alarm signal in a sense – while a prompt lowering of post-prandial blood glucose levels is desirable, too steep of a decline can be interpreted as danger, and trigger a hunger signal.”
This is more commonly experienced in people who are not insulin resistant (such as those who are overweight or have type 2 diabetes), but rather are lean and “insulin sensitive.” Because the circadian cortisol peak adds another insulin-boosting effect on top of an already insulin-sensitive individual, the low blood sugar, and subsequent hunger, can be more pronounced.
Although this idea goes against the conventional idea of making sure to never skip meals, especially breakfast; Berkhan says that once he ditched breakfast he found it was much easier to control food cravings and hunger throughout the day.
Why I Stopped Eating Breakfast
I have revised my personal eating schedule to eliminate breakfast and restrict the time I eat food to a period of about six to seven hours, which is typically from noon to 6 or 7 pm. Our ancestors rarely had access to food 24/7 like we do today, and it makes sense that our genes are optimized for intermittent fasting.
It takes about six to eight hours for your body to metabolize your glycogen stores and after that you actually start to shift to burning fat. However if you are replenishing your glycogen by eating every eight hours, you make it far more difficult for your body to actually use your fat stores as fuel.
On the days that I exercise in the morning, I will have two scoops of Pure Power Protein about 30 minutes after the workout to provide nutrients, especially leucine, for muscle growth and repair.
Interestingly, since adopting this approach for the past few months I have lost two inches from my waist size and gained three pounds, which means I have lost body fat and gained muscle mass. This has been a personal experiment of mine to see if I can get back to my high school waist size of 32 inches, even though I weighed 20 pounds less back then. A growing body of intriguing research is, in fact, showing that intermittent fasting may be a key weight loss tool.
The Link Between Intermittent Fasting and Weight Loss, Health Benefits
When researchers from the Salk Institute fed mice the same high-fat, high-calorie diet but altered when they were able to eat, some striking results occurred. One group had access to food both day and night, while the other group had access to food for only eight hours at night (the most active period for mice). In human terms, this would mean eating only for 8 hours during the day.
Despite consuming the same number of calories, mice that had access to food for only eight hours stayed lean and did not develop health problems like high blood sugar or chronic inflammation.1 They even had improved endurance motor coordination on the exercise wheel. The all-day access group, on the other hand, became obese and were plagued with health problems including:2
- High cholesterol
- High blood sugar
- Fatty liver disease
- Metabolic problems
Another recent animal study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology showed a beneficial glycemic effect from fasting that resulted in a lower gain in body weight than in non-fasting animals.3 Other research suggests fasting triggers a variety of health-promoting hormonal and metabolic changes similar to those that occur when you exercise.
Fasting is historically commonplace as it has been a part of spiritual practice for millennia. Modern research has also confirmed there are many good reasons to fast intermittently, including:
- Normalizing your insulin sensitivity, which is key for optimal health as insulin resistance is a primary contributing factor to nearly all chronic disease, from diabetes to heart disease and even cancer
- Normalizing ghrelin levels, also known as "the hunger hormone"
- Promoting human growth hormone (HGH) production, which plays an important part in health, fitness and slowing the aging process
- Lowering triglyceride levels
- Reducing inflammation and lessening free radical damage
There's also plenty of research showing that fasting has a beneficial impact on longevity in animals. There are a number of mechanisms contributing to this effect. Normalizing insulin sensitivity is a major one, but fasting also inhibits the mTOR pathway, which plays an important part in driving the aging process. Fasting has even been linked to a dramatic rise in human growth hormone (HGH)—1,300 percent in women, and an astounding 2,000 percent in men!4
HGH, commonly referred to as "the fitness hormone," plays an important role in maintaining health, fitness and longevity, including promotion of muscle growth, and boosting fat loss by revving up your metabolism. The fact that fasting improves a number of potent disease markers also contributes to fasting's overall beneficial effects on general health.
Exercising while in a fasted state has also been shown to produce many beneficial changes, and it works particularly well to exercise first thing in the morning and delay your first meal until later in the day. To learn more about this strategy, please see this previous article by fitness expert Ori Hofmekler.
Is Skipping Breakfast Right for You?
There’s no cut and dry answer to this question, as everyone responds differently to intermittent fasting.
For example, there is good evidence supporting the recommendation to eat a protein-heavy breakfast if you want to lose weight, and even more so if you exercise first thing in the morning to optimize muscle growth and recovery. But there may be times when you feel like you've hit a plateau, and while your diet and exercise routine may be good, the simple act of skipping breakfast and exercising on an empty stomach could be just the thing that will kick start you onto that next level.
Certain health conditions should make you think twice about fasting, including if you're hypoglycemic or diabetic. Hypoglycemia is a condition characterized by an abnormally low level of blood sugar. Ideally, you should avoid fasting if you're hypoglycemic, and work on your overall diet to normalize your blood sugar levels first. Then try out one of the less rigid versions of fasting before even considering a full 24-hour fast.
As for pregnant and/or lactating women, I don't believe fasting would be a wise choice. Your baby needs plenty of nutrients, during and after birth, and there's no research supporting fasting during this important time. There are several studies on fasting during pregnancy, and all suggest it might be contraindicated, as it can alter fetal breathing patterns, heartbeat, and increase gestational diabetes. It may even induce premature labor.
If you’re healthy and you do decide to give intermittent fasting a try, do so gradually (don’t try to do a 24-hour fast on your first day). Ultimately, you can opt for a 16-, 20-, or 24-hour fast once or twice a week, or try fasting every other day, or simply delaying certain meals, such as skipping breakfast and exercising on an empty stomach.
There are many options, and you can discover what works best for you by listening to your body, and going slow; work your way up to longer fasts if your normal schedule has included multiple meals a day. You can also start out by ending your meals earlier in the evening or late afternoon and fasting overnight while you sleep.
Your body will let you know whether you’ve found the right combination of intermittent fasting for you, as you should experience a boost in energy and likely weight loss, if necessary, once you get started. If you feel weak, lightheaded, very hungry or fatigued while fasting, these are signs that you may be fasting for too long and it’s time to tweak your program.
Burn Away Fat Cells With This Simple Eating Trick
New Discovery May Safeguard Your Brain from Dementia
By Dr. Mercola
Nearly half of people with epilepsy are also vitamin D deficient,i but despite this well-known association, only a single study has been published on the effect of vitamin D for seizure control in the last 40 years.
That study revealed that treating epileptic patients with vitamin D2 ? the far inferior type of synthetic vitamin D ? reduced the number of seizures, and in 1974 researchers concluded that ?the results may support the concept that epileptics should be treated prophylactically with vitamin D.?ii
Now, nearly four decades later researchers have again revealed that ?the normalization of serum vitamin 25(OH)D [vitamin D] level has an anticonvulsant [anti-seizure] effect.?iii
Improving Vitamin D Levels Reduces Seizures by 40%
In the latest study, researchers administered a one-time 40,000-200,000 IU dose of vitamin D3 to patients with epilepsy in order to bring their vitamin D levels out of a deficiency state.
The participants, who ranged in age from 10-42, had vitamin D levels ranging from 4 ng/ml to 34 ng/ml, with a median level of 11.8. This is an absolutely dangerously low level. As you can see in the chart below, anything below 50 ng/ml is a deficiency state.
After the treatment dose of vitamin D, the participants? vitamin D levels did improve to a range of 23-45 ng/ml, with a median of 38 ng/ml. It?s important to note that this is still low according to the latest science ? but the improvement still resulted in a decrease in their number of seizures. If their levels were optimized further, it?s likely the results would improve even more.
After increasing their vitamin D levels, the results showed:
- 10 of the 13 subjects had a decrease in number of seizures
- Overall, there was a median seizure number reduction of 40%
- A seizure reduction of greater than 50% was experienced in five patients
The most revealing result, however, occurred among the person whose vitamin D was a dangerously low 4 ng/ml at the start of the study. This person had 450 seizures in a three-month period, but after raising vitamin D level to 43.1 ng/ml, the seizures dropped to 30 in three months! The study did have some limitations, namely the small number of subjects and the lack of a placebo to compare to, but it still highlighted the importance of correcting vitamin D deficiency in epilepsy patients.
Epilepsy Patients are at Increased Risk of Vitamin D Deficiency
The findings are even more important given that people with epilepsy face an even greater risk of vitamin D deficiency than the general population (and even the general population is vastly vitamin D deficient). The reasons are two-fold, with the first being that having frequent seizures may interfere with your ability to get outdoors and stay active.
If you spend most of your time inside, you?ll miss out on regular sun exposure, which is key for the natural production of vitamin D. Even exposing your skin to sunlight through a windowpane will prevent the entry of the UVB rays, which are the specific wavelength that produces vitamin D in your skin. So, it is crucial that you get outside and experience direct skin contact with the sunlight instead of sunning in a sunroom, for instance.
Second, anti-epileptic drugs that are often given to epilepsy patients can interfere with vitamin D metabolism, leading to deficiency. If you take these drugs, it is especially crucial that you actively monitor your vitamin D levels to avoid this side effect.
Why might vitamin D have such a significant impact on epileptic seizures? Epilepsy is a disorder of the central nervous system, particularly your brain. Vitamin D is not "just" a vitamin; it's actually a neuroregulatory steroidal hormone that influences nearly 3,000 different genes in your body. Vitamin D receptors can be found in your brain, spinal cord, and central nervous system, and may enhance the amount of important chemicals in your brain needed to protect brain cells, for starters.
The Study Used Supplements, But Sunshine is Better
Researchers used a one-time large dose of vitamin D3 to boost the participants? vitamin D levels. If you?re going to supplement, vitamin D3 is certainly far superior to the vitamin D2 researchers used back in the 1970s.
Today, however, vitamin D2 is still the form typically prescribed by doctors, so be aware of this if you?re taking this nutrient in prescription form. A meta-analysis of 50 clinical trials looking at mortality rates for ?doctor recommended? synthetic vitamin D2 supplements versus natural vitamin D3 shows a 6 percent risk reduction among those who used D3, compared to a 2 percent increased risk among those who used D2.
Research also shows vitamin D3 is approximately 87 percent more potent in raising and maintaining vitamin D concentrations and produces 2- to 3-fold greater storage of vitamin D than does D2. D3 is also converted into its active form 500 percent faster. So by all means use vitamin D3 if you?re going to supplement, not D2 ? but even better, simply get out in the sun, or use a safe tanning bed.
The IDEAL way to optimize your vitamin D levels is through appropriate sun or safe tanning bed exposure. While your skin does create vitamin D3 in response to sunlight, which is theoretically the same as the D3 you get from an oral supplement, there's cause to believe that the vitamin D created from sun exposure may have additional health benefits. Plus, you cannot overdose when getting your vitamin D from sun exposure, as your body has the ability to self-regulate and only make what it needs. You do, however, need to be cautious and avoid burning.
If you cannot get your vitamin D requirements from sun exposure, I recommend using a safe tanning bed (one with electronic ballasts rather than magnetic ballasts, to avoid unnecessary exposure to EMF fields). Safe tanning beds also have less of the dangerous UVA than sunlight, while unsafe ones have more UVA than sunlight. If neither of these are feasible options, then you should take an oral vitamin D3 supplement. It will certainly be better than no vitamin D at all, but you will need to monitor your levels via blood testing to ensure you stay within the therapeutic range.
You can learn more about maximizing your vitamin D from safe sun exposure in the video below. If you have epilepsy, it?s possible that doing so could help you decrease seizure drugs (a very good thing, since all seizure drugs can increase your risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and some of these drugs can make you lose your memory and your hair).
- i American Epilepsy Society 61st Annual Meeting: Abstract 3.337. November 30-December 4, 2007.
- ii Br Med J. 1974 May 4;2(5913):258-9.
- iii Epilepsy & Behavior April 11, 2012
If You Take Oral Vitamin D You MUST Avoid Making This Serious Mistake
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By Dr. Mercola
Honey bees are the angels of agriculture, but they're disappearing at a startling rate in a mysterious phenomenon dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
Since 2007, North American honey bees are literally disappearing without a trace. There are no massive dead bee bodies appearing in or around the hives?the bees are simply GONE, bewildering beekeepers and scientists alike.
In fact, serious honey bee die-offs have been occurring around the world for the past decade. The U.S. and the U.K. both reported losing a third of their honey bees in 2010.
Italy lost half of theirs.
The die-offs have spread to China and India, in addition to many other countries. Environmental scientists are concerned that CCD reflects a far more serious problem than pollination?that it's an ominous sign of severe environmental crisis.
Bees provide pollination for crops, orchards and flowers, and make honey and wax for cosmetics, food and medicine. One of every three bites of food you eat depends on the honey bee. They pollinate at least 130 different crops in the U.S. alone, including fruits, vegetables and tree nuts.
Without honey bees, farmers would have to resort to pollinating their crops by hand.
According to a recent British report, replacing the pollination of food crops that bees do for free with hand pollination would cost the UK