To Switch On Your ‘Youth Gene,’ Avoid Carbs

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Recently by Joseph Mercola: Stevie Nicks Confesses: Common Remedy Turned My Hair Gray and Molted MySkin…

     

Yahoo Shine notes that eating the wrong foods – or not eating the right foods – can result in symptoms that most people tend to assume are due to aging. Here are four tips they’ve assembled to steer you in the right direction:

Mistake #1: You avoid all animal protein

Vitamin B12, which is essential for energy, is found only in foods that are derived from animals. This nutrient helps regulate your metabolism, and it is an important part of maintaining a healthy brain and nervous system. Fatigue is a classic sign of B12 deficiency

Mistake #2: You’re not getting enough manganese and copper

Manganese and copper prevent joint pain, and are both essential for maintaining joint cartilage and flexibility. In many cases, getting enough of these nutrients reverses joint deterioration and eliminates joint pain.

Mistake #3: You avoid healthy fats

Omega-3 fats are part of your brain’s building blocks. If you’re not getting enough in your diet, the architecture of your brain becomes weak, and brain function, including memory, deteriorates.

Mistake #4: You favor packaged foods over whole

Most processed foods do not have enough potassium, which can result in high blood pressure. Eating better can correct the problem.

Source: Yahoo Shine May 11, 2011

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

Most of the time conventional media health commentaries are fairly seriously flawed so I was surprised to see this one that actually was on target for the most part. So I thought it might help if I provided my perspective on their important notion of diet mistakes as I do believe they left out the MOST important one and included one that is relatively irrelevant. It really doesn’t take a giant leap of intellectual understanding to realize the glaring omission, but like most “experts” they simply fail to appreciate the obvious even though it is staring them in the face. 

So what is it?

The number one source of calories in the US.

That would be fructose, but more generically all sugars which are, in my view, the single most important dietary variable that needs to be addressed. Please understand that this is a numbers game though and the only thing that is intrinsically toxic with fructose is the quantity that is being consumed.  If you take less than 25 grams per day you are in the safe range, but the AVERAGE intake is 300% more than that and the typical American consumes 75 grams every day.

Fortunately, the research that is now starting to see the light of day in every way, what I’ve been warning about for over a decade.

Interestingly enough, while sugar, and fructose in particular, acts as a toxin in and of itself, and as such drive multiple disease processes in your body, excess grain carbohydrates, which are broken down into glucose, has been found to detrimentally affect your genetic expression and contribute to accelerated aging that way!

The Role of Insulin in Health and Longevity

I have long said that the key to optimal health and longevity is reducing your insulin resistance, and this has been proven true again and again.

Unfortunately, for the past 30 years or so, the primary official health recommendations have been to reduce your fat intake and eat plenty of long-lasting complex carbohydrates (starches) to keep your body supplied with energy. This has been a prescription for health disaster, and we have skyrocketing disease statistics to show for it. By advocating heavy carb consumption, our health officials have made insulin resistance the norm rather than the exception, which in turn is driving a huge, expensive pharmaceutical machine…

Insulin resistance is in fact a MAJOR contributor to chronic disease and accelerates the aging process, all of which can impact your longevity.

For example, insulin:

  • Alters the expression of numerous hormones
  • Stimulates your sympathetic nervous system
  • Promotes vasoconstriction

Too much sugar, grains and processed foods in your diet, combined with insufficient exercise is a lethal combination, the “side effects” of which include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol

How Carbs Cause Insulin Resistance and Diabetes

Here’s a quick refresher on how carbs affect your insulin levels and how you develop insulin resistance, which sets you up for the health problems just mentioned.

When you eat carbohydrates (starchy foods such as grains, rice, pasta, bread and cereal), your digestive system breaks them down to simple sugars which cause an acute increase in your blood sugar. If your blood sugar where to continue to rise you would die of a hyperglycemic coma.

But your body wisely reduces this level with insulin and this works just fine. However, when you do it every day for many years, as most of the population does, this progresses into insulin resistance, especially if you are not engaged in appropriate exercises.

Switch on Your “Youth Gene” by Avoiding Carbohydrates

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.

Most people are seriously confused about the importance of exercise in optimizing weight and body fat.  It only has a 20% role, a vitally important 20% but nevertheless it plays a far subsidiary role to the importance of diet and the exclusion of sugars and grains. When you optimize your body weight and % of body fat you dramatically decrease your risk of chronic disease and radically improve your chance for living longer.

Aging is the result of a number of processes, including telomere shortening, which I’ve discussed before in depth. However, Kenyon’s groundbreaking research has found that specific genes also play a significant role. I’ve previously written about how your diet can over-ride genetic predispositions to disease, and this research further strengthens those claims, as the two key genes in question can be turned on or off as a consequence of eating carbohydrates.

Her research shows that decreased carb intake can lead to significant life extension and improved long-term health.

Professor Kenyon worked with C. elegans roundworms, but her findings have been successfully repeated in other labs around the world using other animals, including rats, mice, and to some extent, monkeys.  Humans also have these genes, indicating these results should apply to us as well.

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?

Previous research has shown that you can extend your lifespan by reducing your caloric intake, and I’ve written about this technique in the past. The problem is that most people do not understand how to properly cut calories, because in order to remain healthy, you have to cut out calories from a specific source — namely, carbohydrates!

Other Research Confirms Low Insulin is Imperative for Longevity

Previous studies have found that diets high in sugar and grains are the primary culprit of obesity, and that leanness itself is a key contributor to a long life. One such study was published in 2003 in the journal Science. This elegant study from Harvard confirms that insulin is the major mechanism through which this result is mediated.

Another study, published just last year, also illustrates how longevity is intimately tied to your insulin and leptin levels. It examined the effects of food on typical biological signs of advancing age. Typical signs of aging include elevated levels of glucose, insulin, and triglycerides. (Hence, your physical age may be younger or older than the calendar dictates.)

In this study, the participants were given a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet with an adequate amount of protein. This diet improved all of the measured factors related to the aging process, decreasing:

  • Insulin by 48 percent
  • Fasting glucose by 40 percent
  • Triglyceride by nearly 8 percent
  • Serum leptin by 8 percent on average

It’s highly unfortunate that so few physicians have embraced this knowledge, because a firm appreciation of insulin’s role in human health and disease is one of THE most important factors that can make or break your health!

Fructose – Even Worse than Grains

As I mentioned in the beginning, there are two primary dietary factors that contribute to insulin resistance and subsequent disease progression:

  1. Grain carbohydrates. This includes ALL grains, including organic ones, rice, pasta, bread, etc
  2. ALL sugars, including refined sugar, fructose (whether from corn, in the form of high fructose corn syrup, or whole fruits), honey, and agave.

Fructose, typically in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), is perhaps the absolute worst dietary culprit as it:

  • Radically increases insulin resistance , which is not only an underlying cause of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, but also most cancers
  • Metabolizes into fat far more readily than other sugars, which significantly increases your risk of obesity, decreased HDL, increased LDL, elevated triglycerides, elevated blood sugar, and high blood pressure
  • Causes glycation and inflammation, which promotes chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, and speeds up the aging process
  • Raises your uric acid levels, which increases your risk for a host of diseases, including:

Fructose Recommendation

As a standard recommendation, I strongly advise keeping your TOTAL fructose consumption below 25 grams per day.  The average American is consuming THREE times this amount, so this is a fairly substantial reduction for most people.

For most people it would also be wise to limit your fructose from fruit to 15 grams or less, as you’re virtually guaranteed to consume “hidden” sources of fructose if you drink beverages other than water and eat processed food. Remember, the average 12-ounce can of soda contains 40 grams of sugar, at least half of which is fructose, so one can of soda ALONE would exceed your daily allotment.

Fifteen grams of fructose is not much – it represents two bananas, one-third cup of raisins, or two Medjool dates. In his book, The Sugar Fix, Dr. Johnson includes detailed tables showing the content of fructose in different foods – an information base that isn’t readily available when you’re trying to find out exactly how much fructose is in various foods. I encourage you to pick up a copy of this excellent resource.

Here’s a quick reference list of some of the most common fruits that you can use to help you count your fructose grams:

Fruit Serving Size Grams of Fructose Limes 1 med. 0 Lemons 1 med. 0.6 Cranberries 1 cup 0.7 Passion fruit 1 med. 0.9 Prune 1 med. 1.2 Apricot 1 med. 1.3 Guava 2 med. 2.2 Date (Deglet Noor style) 1 med. 2.6 Cantaloupe 1/8 of med. melon 2.8 Raspberries 1 cup 3.0 Clementine 1 med. 3.4 Kiwifruit 1 med. 3.4 Blackberries 1 cup 3.5 Star fruit 1 med. 3.6 Cherries, sweet 10 3.8 Strawberries 1 cup 3.8 Cherries, sour 1 cup 4.0 Pineapple 1 slice (3.5″ x .75″) 4.0 Grapefruit, pink or red 1/2 med. 4.3 Fruit Serving Size Grams of Fructose Boysenberries 1 cup 4.6 Tangerine/mandarin orange 1 med. 4.8 Nectarine 1 med. 5.4 Peach 1 med. 5.9 Orange (navel) 1 med. 6.1 Papaya 1/2 med. 6.3 Honeydew 1/8 of med. melon 6.7 Banana 1 med. 7.1 Blueberries 1 cup 7.4 Date (Medjool) 1 med. 7.7 Apple (composite) 1 med. 9.5 Persimmon 1 med. 10.6 Watermelon 1/16 med. melon 11.3 Pear 1 med. 11.8 Raisins 1/4 cup 12.3 Grapes, seedless (green or red) 1 cup 12.4 Mango 1/2 med. 16.2 Apricots, dried 1 cup 16.4 Figs, dried 1 cup 23.0

The Four Cornerstones of “the Fountain of Youth”

Is there such a thing as a “fountain of youth”? I believe there is, symbolically speaking, and the four cornerstones of it are:

  1. Avoid sugar/fructose
  2. Avoid grains
  3. Exercise regularly and effectively
  4. Tailor your diet to your nutritional type

These four cornerstones have one thing in common, and that is helping you improve your  insulin sensitivity.

Aside from avoiding grains and sugars, exercise is one of the most effective ways to regain insulin sensitivity. And studies repeatedly show that regular exercise can help prevent or delay your onset of hypertension, obesity and heart disease, just to name a few of the diseases that significantly contribute to premature death.

Not to discourage you as in my mind it is impossible to ever be healthy without exercising, but exercise has a relatively minor role in health and it is only responsible for 20% of your improvement. Most people believe the opposite and believe that exercise produces 80% of the benefit. They work out like a maniac in the gym and are not as careful with their diet and they wonder why they don’t see any progress.

The KEY to exercising for optimal health and longevity in particular, is incorporating anaerobic high-intensity, interval training like Peak 8. These types of exercises also promote human growth hormone (HGH) production, which is yet another important aspect of the longevity puzzle.

Nutritional typing helps you modify your food choices to ensure you’re supplying your body with the exact fuel it needs to thrive, and in so doing, you give yourself the best chance of optimal health and naturally prevent diseases related to improper nutrition. This is such an important aspect of optimal health, I now offer my nutritional typing program for FREE so that everyone can benefit.

Nutritional typing is also becoming increasingly recognized as a foundational factor in the successful treatment of disease, including cancer.

The Anti-Aging Lifestyle

Of all the healthy lifestyle strategies I know of that can have a significant impact on your longevity, normalizing your insulin and leptin levels is probably the most important. There is no question that this is an absolute necessity if you want to slow down your aging process, and that means modifying your diet to avoid excessive amounts of fructose, grains, and other pro-inflammatory ingredients like trans fats.

That said, longevity is the result of an overall healthy lifestyle, so in addition to the four cornerstones just mentioned, these additional strategies can further help you stay young and vibrant, longer:

  • Learn how to effectively cope with stress — Stress has a direct impact on inflammation, which in turn underlies many of the chronic diseases that kill people prematurely every day, so developing effective coping mechanisms is a major longevity-promoting factor.

    Meditation, prayer, physical activity and exercise are all viable options that can help you maintain emotional and mental equilibrium. I also strongly believe in using energy psychology tools such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to address deeper, oftentimes hidden emotional problems.

  • Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels to between 60 and 80 ng/ml.
  • Animal based omega-3 fats — Correcting the ratio of omega-3 to healthful omega-6 fats is a strong factor in helping people live longer. This typically means increasing your intake of animal based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil, while decreasing your intake of damaged omega-6 fats (think trans fats).
  • Get most of your antioxidants from foods –Good sources include blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, beans, and artichokes.
  • Get your resveratrol naturally — Because resveratrol appears to be so effective at warding off many diseases associated with aging, it is often referred to as a “fountain of youth” that can extend lifespan. Good sources of naturally-occurring resveratrol include whole grape skins and seeds, raspberries and mulberries.
  • Use coconut oil — Another excellent anti-aging food is coconut oil, known to reduce your risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease, and lower your cholesterol, among other things.
  • Naturally increase your glutathione levels with high quality whey protein concentrate — Another exciting anti-aging discovery is related to the process of slowing down telomere shortening, as discussed in more detail in this previous article. There’s some evidence that this can be done nutritionally, by consuming high quality whey protein.
  • Avoid as many chemicals, toxins, and pollutants as possible — This includes tossing out your toxic household cleaners, soaps, personal hygiene products, air fresheners, bug sprays, lawn pesticides, and insecticides, just to name a few, and replacing them with non-toxic alternatives.
  • Avoid prescription drugs — Pharmaceutical drugs kill thousands of people prematurely every year — as an expected side effect of the action of the drug. And, if you adhere to a healthy lifestyle, you most likely will never need any of them in the first place.

Incorporating these healthy lifestyle guidelines will help set you squarely on the path to optimal health and give you the best shot at living a much longer life.

The Best of Joseph Mercola

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