Can Humans Live Longer?: The Missing Anti-Aging Hormone

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Can
humans really do anything to prolong life? A recent article by Christopher
Wanjek in the Washington Post said “Humans can reap no such
benefits from the continuing flood of anti-aging potions and precepts,
which are at best naively optimistic and at worst fraudulent and
harmful. Wanjeck goes on to say that “every book, powder or pill
that promises a fountain of youth….. is just plain wrong.”

“There
is no intervention that has been proven to slow, stop or reverse
aging. Period,” says Leonard Hayflick, professor of anatomy at the
University of California, San Francisco, a leader in the study of
aging. Even New Age physician Deepak Chopra chimed in by saying
legitimate anti-aging remedies can only keep a person from dying
young, but they don’t increase the life span.1

Human
growth hormone, widely extolled on radio infomercials across America
for its anti-aging properties, may produce side effects including
the elevation of growth hormones that trigger the growth of tumors.
Growth hormone is more appropriate for very old adults who have
lost muscle mass and can’t get up out of a chair any longer, not
for middle-aged adults fighting the first signs of aging.2

So
is there anything that adults can do to lengthen the human life
span? Scientists want you to wait (as if everybody has the time)
for gene therapy. The latest breakthrough is the so-called Methuselah
gene, a portion of DNA that confers healthy old age to those who
carry its active form.3 But don’t
wait around for genetics to prolong life. Gene therapy has yet to
cure any disease, is likely to be too costly for the average person
to afford and is more likely to be inserted in new genes in the
offspring of the next generation.

Why
wait for an antioxidant breakthrough?

Thomas
Johnson at the University of Colorado-Boulder, is looking in another
direction. Johnson found that by tweaking a certain gene in roundworms
he could create a super antioxidant gene that would double the worm’s
life span.4

But
while researchers conduct their antioxidant studies on roundworms,
what can we do? Actually youth seekers need look no further than
the vitamin shelf at local stores for a well substantiated. anti-aging
compound – vitamin C. While researchers attempt to make careers
out of their research and thus delay any conclusions indefinitely,
vitamin C may be the anti-aging miracle humanity can begin to use
today. The story is not new, it’s just not been widely told.

Humans
have the capacity to live for hundreds of years

The
good news is that there is scientific evidence that humans have
the capacity to lengthen their average life span by hundreds of
years. The evidence for vitamin C as a key anti-aging agent is compelling
and rooted in the genetic makeup of humans. All humans are mutants.
Homo sapiens, guinea pigs, monkeys, bats, some fish and many birds,
do not produce their own vitamin C. The rest of the animal kingdom
synthesizes their own vitamin C. For them, ascorbic acid is a hormone,
not a dietary-acquired vitamin. Animals employ different organs
to produce vitamin C. Some birds and reptiles use their kidneys
and perching birds and mammals make vitamin C in their liver.5

Humans
once made vitamin C in their liver by the production of four enzymes
which convert circulating sugars into ascorbic acid (vitamin C).
Humans today only make 3 of the 4 enzymes required to convert glucose
(sugar) into ascorbic acid. A progressive mutation at some time
in past generations deactivated the gene for the enzyme gulonolactone
oxidase and slowly as the mutation progressed the synthesis of vitamin
C came to an end in humans.

Mammals
who make their own vitamin C can live 8-10 times beyond their age
of physical maturity. Mammals without this ability have a difficult
time reaching 3-4 times. Researchers believe the reinstallation
of the gulonolactone oxidase enzyme in humans would extend the lifespan
to hundreds of years.

This
means that humans at one time in the past, prior to this gene mutation,
lived for hundreds of years. This doesn’t fit with the current evolutionary
scheme of biology which postulates that humans evolved from monkeys
and early man lived no longer than 40 years.

Darwinian
theory off the mark

In
1966 Irwin Stone, a chemical engineer, theorized that the mutation
of the gulonolactone oxidase enzyme in humans had been part of human
evolution. There had been a branching of the Prosimii and the Anthropoidea
orders of monkeys. The Anthropoidea developed the inactive gene
for vitamin C and that branch evolved into humans.6

Health
writer Jack Challem in 1997 also hypothesized that either a virus
or free radical attack caused the genetic defect that disabled the
enzyme necessary for vitamin C synthesis and that this in turn led
to mutations that propelled the evolution of monkeys to humans.7

Of
course, mutations are destructive and regressive, not progressive
advancements of the genome. According to Darwin’s theory of natural
selection (survival of the fittest), humans or monkeys who could
not produce their own vitamin C would have been less likely to thrive.
Of course these theories are based upon suppositions which depict
branch-like evolution from simple life forms to monkeys and finally
humans. With no intermediate species (no missing links), these evolutionary
tree charts are still nothing more than cartoons.

According
to paleontologists early humans lived for about 40 years and only
in recent times has the human life span dramatically shifted upwards.
But then again, we have that evidence that humans at one time in
the past made their own vitamin C. What evidence do we have, if
any, that humans at some time in the past lived for hundreds of
years?

When
did humans live for hundreds of years?

An
examination of the historical records of the Holy Bible reveals
that Adam was recorded to have lived for 930 years (Genesis 5:5),
and Noah for 950 years (Genesis 9:29). According to the Biblical
record the human genome was severely narrowed at that time, down
to just eight members of Noah’s family as gene carriers. Thereafter
the human life span was recorded to slowly dissipate. After the
Flood, Bible genealogies indicate Shem lived 600 years, followed
by Arphaxad who lived 438 years, and through other generations on
down to Abraham who lived 175 years and finally to Moses who lived
120 years (Deuteronomy 34:7). This description would fit the progressive
mutation of the gulonolactone oxidase gene. Humans still house this
gene, it is just defunct and called a pseudogene. Thus the Biblical
genealogies may not be far-fetched fairy tales.

Can
the enzyme to produce vitamin C be re-installed in humans?

What
if the gulonolactone oxidase gene could somehow be re-inserted into
the human genome?

We
know that guinea pigs who lack gulonolactone oxidase have been given
this enzyme by injection and are able to survive on a diet deficient
in vitamin C.8

Scientists
have taken the gulonolactone oxidase DNA from rat liver and successfully
tranplanted it into the tomato genome.9
The gulonolactone oxidase gene has also been successfully transferred
into a teleost fish (Oryzias latipes) via microinjection into fertilized
fish eggs.10

With
all of the widely heralded prospects for gene therapy there hasn’t
been a peep about the feasability of inserting the gulonolactone
oxidase gene into the human genome. Yet the profound impact of such
a development, if successful, would obviously be monumental. Diabetes,
blood vessel disease, cataracts, gallstones, to name a few age-related
maladies, would be eradicated. The breakdown of collagen with advancing
age would be slowed. The world human population jumped from 1.6
to 6..1 billion in the past century, 2 billion of that growth coming
since 1960, largely from improvements in sanitation, food fortification
and modern medicines.11 Imagine the
social, political and medical ramifications if humans could live
for hundreds of years?

Does
vitamin C supplementation work?

As
early as 1984 researchers knew that supplementation of drinking
water with vitamin C increased the average life span of mice by
as much as 20 percent.12

Nobel
prize winner Dr. Linus Pauling suggested humans supplement their
diet continually through the day to mimic what the liver would make
if the gene for the gulonolactone oxidase enzyme were still active.
Dr. Pauling advocated supplementation with mineral ascorbates, the
same alkaline form of vitamin C the liver produces in mammals, not
ascorbic acid which can sometimes be irritating to the stomach and
can even eat away tooth enamel.13

How
much vitamin C should humans ingest? If you want to get all your
vitamin C from foods, consumption of the recommended 5 to 7 servings
of fruits and vegetables a day is likely to provide 200-250 milligrams.
A mouse makes about 275 milligrams of vitamin C per day per kilogram
(2.2 lbs) of body weight. If a mouse weighed 154 pounds, about the
weight of a human, this would amount to about 19,250 milligrams
of vitamin C per day. A 160-pound goat produces about 13,000 milligrams
per day, and more under stress. A dog or cat will produce about
40 milligrams of vitamin C per kilogram of body weight per day,
or the equivalent of 2800 mgs per day if these animals were about
the same size as humans. So using animals as a rule of thumb, humans
may benefit from consumption of anywhere from 2,000-20,000 milligrams
per day. The only common side effect from high-dose vitamin C is
a transient diarrhea-like buildup of water in the lower bowel. Government
health authorities recommend only about 90 milligrams of vitamin
C a day for adults, but that’s just the minimum amount to prevent
scurvy and promote general health, not to achieve optimal health
and longevity. Studies indicate the vitamin C intake for Americans
is around 110 milligrams per day, but adequate vitamin C status,
even with food fortification, is still not guaranteed. According
to one study, about 1-2 percent of college students exhibited true
deficiency and marginal deficiencies were found in an additional
12-16 percent of students.14

Can
vitamin C prolong life?

Is
there any evidence that increased vitamin C consumption can prolong
the human life span? A study of 11,000 Americans over 10 years revealed
that individuals with the highest level of vitamin C intake, only
about 300 milligrams, suffered 35 percent fewer deaths than those
with the lowest intake, about 50 milligrams a day. This amounts
to about 6 added years of life to those who consume higher levels
of vitamin C. Since 300 mg of vitamin C is difficult to obtain from
dietary sources alone, the primary group that exhibited increased
life span were the vitamin C supplement users.15
A person would have to consume five oranges a day to get 300 milligrams
of vitamin C from their diet alone.

There
are other corroborating studies that back up the idea of vitamin
C supplementation and longevity.

A
study over a 12-16-year period showed that males with the highest
blood serum levels of vitamin C experienced a 57 percent drop in
their risk of dying from any cause compared to males with low circulating
levels of vitamin C.16

Among
men and women ages 45-79 years, just a 50 milligram increase in
vitamin C consumption was able to reduce the relative all-cause
mortality rate by 20 percent.17

Another
study published in 2001 also confirms a 25-29 percent decreased
all-cause mortality rate among adults with normal to high circulating
levels of vitamin C.18

It
is interesting to note that vitamin C acts as an agent in various
models of anti-aging. Vitamin C would be a key antioxidant in the
free radical theory of aging.19 Researchers
have demonstrated that vitamin C slows down telomere shortening
by 52-62 percent in a controlled experiment.20
Telomeres are the end caps of DNA that shorten with many generations
and limit the number of replications of DNA.

Is
high-dose vitamin C genotoxic?

However,
with all of this positive information about vitamin C, the news
media recently chose to widely circulate a misleading test-tube
study claiming high-dose vitamin C is toxic to DNA which could cause
cancer. Researchers recommended vitamin C supplements be restricted
to no more than 200 milligrams per day. This report caused the public
to temporarily pause regarding vitamin C supplements.21
However, the 200-milligram limit conflicts with government health
authorities who recommend consumption of 5-7 servings of fruits
and vegetables per day which would likely provide more than the
200 milligram amount. Virtually all evidence from dietary studies
confirm the health benefits of foods that provide high amounts of
vitamin C. Another earlier study published in Nature indicated 500
milligrams of vitamin C in humans may produce damage to DNA in lymphocytes,
a type of white blood cell.22 However, other
studies reveal that vitamin C actually protects against DNA damage
to lymphocytes but this protective effect is greatly enhanced when
accompanied by bioflavonoids which usually accompany vitamin C in
nature.23 Bioflavonoids are plant pigments commonly
found in citrus, berries, grapes and tea leaves. The better store
brands of buffered vitamin C powder (mineral ascorbates) include
bioflavonoids. Furthermore, five other subsequent human studies
were conducted using high-dose vitamin C up to 5000 milligrams per
day and could not find evidence that vitamin C induces gene mutations.24

Then
there is the aforementioned evidence from the animal kingdom where
animals produce thousands of milligrams of vitamin C daily without
evidence this induces cancer. A modern mountain gorilla living in
its natural habitat, that produces no vitamin C on its own, would
obtain 4,500 milligrams of vitamin C per day from native foodstuffs.25
A 15 pound howler monkey takes in 600 milligrams of vitamin C per
day and an 18 pound spider monkey consumes about 744 mg of vitamin
C per day.26 There is no evidence that these
levels of vitamin C from dietary sources induce any DNA mutations
or cancer in these animals.

Furthermore,
there are studies which reveal significant health benefits for humans
who consume vitamin C in excess of the newly established 90 milligram
reference daily intake. For example, human studies reveal that 300
milligrams of daily vitamin C appears to reduce the risk of blinding
cataracts, an otherwise inevitable consequence of aging, by 77-83
percent.27 A 500-milligram daily dose of vitamin
C has been found to significantly reduce blood pressure among hypertensive
patients who previously had to use prescription medications.28

Anyone
interested in anti-aging should begin with vitamin C, the missing
human hormone.

Part
II: What we can learn about anti-aging from mynah birds, fruit flies
and leeches

References

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    C, Time in a bottle, Washington Post, Jan 29, 2002
  2. Riedl M,
    et al, Growth hormone in the elderly man, Wien Med Wochenschr
    151: 426-29, 2001.
  3. McKie R,
    Discovery of Methuselah gene unlocks secret of long life, The
    Observer, Feb. 3, 2002.
  4. Fischer
    JS, The cells of immortality, US New Online, March 20,
    2000.
  5. McCluskey
    ES, Which vertebrates make vitamin C?, Origins 12: 96-100,
    1985.
  6. Stone I,
    The natural history of ascorbic acid in the evolution of the mammals
    and primates and its significance for present day man, Orthomolecular
    Psychiatry 1: 82-89, 1972; Stone I, Homo sapiens ascorbicus,
    a biochemically corrected robust human mutant, Medical Hypotheses
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  7. Challem
    JJ, Did the loss of endogenous ascorbate propel the evolution
    of Anthropoidea and Homo sapiens? Medical Hypotheses 48:
    387-92, 1997.
  8. Sato PH,
    et al, Treatment of a metabolic disease, scurvy, by administration
    of a missing enzyme, Biochem Med Metab Biol 35: 59-64, 1986; Hadley
    K, Sato P, A protocol for the successful long-term enzyme replacement
    therapy of scurvy in guinea pigs, J Inherit Metabolic Diseases
    11: 387-96, 1988.
  9. Tsuyoshi
    I, et al, The American Society of Plant Physiologists, Plant
    Biology ’97, Abstract 1545.
  10. Toyohara
    H, et al, Transgenic expression of L-gulono-gamme-lactone oxidase
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  11. Human population:
    fundamentals of growth, Population Reference Bureau, 2002.
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    30: 371-75, 1984
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    L, How
    to Live Longer and Feel Better
    , July 1996.
  14. Johnston
    CS, et al, Vitamin C status of a compus population: college students
    get a C minus, J Am College Health 46: 209-13, 1998.
  15. Cowley
    G, Church V, Live longer with vitamin C, Newsweek May 18, 1992
    and Enstrom JE, et al, Vitamin C intake and mortality among a
    sample of the United States population, Epidemiology 3:
    194-202, 1992.
  16. Loria CM,
    et al, Vitamin C status and mortality in US adults, American
    Journal Clinical Nutrition 72: 139-45, 2000.
  17. Khaw, K,
    et al, Relation between plasma ascorbic acid and mortality in
    men and women in EPIC-Norfolk prospective study: a prospective
    population study, The Lancet 357: March 3, 2001.
  18. Simon JA,
    et al, Relation of serum ascorbic acid to mortality among US adults,
    J Am College Nutrition 20: June 2001.
  19. Harman
    D, Piette LH, Free radical theory of aging: free radical reactions
    in serium, J Gerontology 21: 560-65, 1966.
  20. Furumoto
    K, et al, Age-dependent telomere shortening is slowed down by
    enrichment of intracellular vitamin C via suppression of oxidative
    stress, Life Sciences 63: 935-48, 1998.
  21. Lee SH,
    et al, Vitamin C-induced decomposition of lipid hydroperoxides
    to endogenous genotoxins, Science 292: 2083-86, 2001.
  22. Podmore
    ID, et al, Vitamin C exhibits pro-oxidant properties, Nature
    392: 559, 1998.
  23. Noroozi
    M, et al, Effects of flavonoids and vitamin C on oxidative DNA
    damage to human lymphocytes, Am J Clin Nutrition 67: 1210-18,
    1998.
  24. Sardi B,
    The two faces of vitamin C, Science 293: 5537, 2001.
  25. Bourne
    C, Vitamin C and immunity, British J Nutrition 2: 341,
    1949.
  26. Milton K,
    Eating what comes naturally: an examination of some differences
    between the dietary components of humans and wild primates, Dept.
    Antropology, University of Calif. Berkeley, 14th Intl’ Congress
    on Anthropological and ethnological Sciences, July 26, 1998.
  27. Jacques
    PF, et al, Long-term vitamin C supplement use and prevalence of
    early age-related lens opacities, Am J Clinical Nutrition
    66: 911-16, 1997.
  28. Duffy SJ,
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    354: Dec. 11, 1995.

February
13, 2002

Bill
Sardi [send him mail] , consumer
advocate and president of Knowledge of Health, Inc, San Dimas, California.
His website is www.askbillsardi.com.

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