I recently attended the 22nd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas (Dec.10 to 14, 2014) and stem cells, telomeres, hormones and lifestyle were the highlights this year. Every year there seems to be something new to learn. There were a lot of talks about stem cell treatments, about how lifestyle changes can be healing and how telomeres are in the center of epigenetics. Epigenetics is anything a person can do with lifestyle to help the body work better. In the center of many talks were telomeres, the small caps at the end of the DNA. With every cell division telomeres get shortened a bit until at the end of our lives our telomeres are significantly shorter. In one talk a slide was shown where the measurements of white blood cell telomeres from blood tests of a population from 20 to 100 years were shown. At the age of 100 the average telomere length was only 40% of the average length of telomeres of the group at the age of 20.
In the past it was thought that our genes and how they function was something constant. Well, we have to rethink this both in positive ways as well as negatively. Using telomere blood tests it has been shown that certain diseases are associated with shorter telomeres. But on the other hand positive lifestyle changes and certain supplements can elongate telomeres by stimulating an enzyme called telomerase. Drinking excessively, doing drugs, smoking and even using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) shorten your telomeres. This is what epigenetics is all about. It is true that you cannot change your genetics, but you can change the epigenetics (meaning the length of telomeres).
As this topic is so large, I have decided to give an overview about the conference in this blog and in future blogs provide more details about some of the key talks.
A review like this is always personal. Other people probably would find other talks more illuminating. So here are my personal impressions about the topics that I found most fascinating.
There were several talks about stem cells. Dr. Joseph Purita talked about the rejuvenating effects of PRP (platelet rich plasma) on stem cells that are injected. This was a fairly technical talk, but pointed out how important it is to provide the appropriate growth factors to nurture transplanted stem cells for a long-term success. The sources of stem cells can be from fatty tissue around the “love handles” or the abdominal fat. A stem cell separator is used to separate stem cells from the rest of the tissue. This is combined with PRP coming from centrifuged blood and is combined with the stem cells and injected. The newest insight is that short-term exposure to red, green and blue soft lasers further activates stem cells. Another source for stem cells is the bone marrow, usually from the pelvic bone, particularly for orthopedic surgical problems like non-healing fractures or torn ligaments. Slides were shown of completely healed avascular necrosis following stem cell treatment. At other lectures on prolotherapy combined with stem cell therapy completely torn anterior cruciate ligaments in the knee and a complete rotator cuff tear in the shoulder in another patient were healed (MRI scan shown before and after treatment).
Dr. David Katz gave a presentation about “Integrative Medicine: A Bridge Over Healthcare’s Troubled Waters”. He pointed out that the first three things on the McGinnis list of actual causes of deaths in the US in 1993 were tobacco use, diet and lack of exercise. In 2004 the revised list no longer contained tobacco as the number one killer. All of the public campaigns had changed the culture of smoking so that the average American has changed the lifestyle. Stopping smoking has become desirable, and people know the devastating consequences of smoking. Dr. Katz stated that there is no magic pill to reduce mortality. However, if a healthy lifestyle were a pill, this is exactly what would reduce mortality by 80%. If you exercise on a regular basis, eat a Mediterranean type diet, and avoid sugary drinks you will prevent 80% of heart attacks, strokes and many cancers.
Dr. Sandy Chang gave a talk about “Telomere measurement as a diagnostic test in cardiovascular and age-related disease”. He pointed out that there is a large body of literature showing that telomere length is directly related to health. The shorter the telomeres are, the higher is the probability to experience problems: early menopause, infertility, diabetes, wrinkles, arthritis, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia, cancer, stress, a lack of stem cells. These are a number of factors that shorten telomeres: stress, poor diets, smoking, obesity, chronic inflammatory diseases, metabolic disorders like diabetes, over consumption of alcohol and lack of sleep.
Dr. Chang mentioned that there is a whole host of factors that can elongate telomeres by stimulating telomerase. It has been shown in humans that increased physical activity elongated telomeres. So did vitamin C, E and vitamin D3 supplementation, resveratrol, a Mediterranean diet and marine omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. In addition higher fiber intake, bioidentical estrogen in women and testosterone in men, relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation are also elongating telomeres.
Other speakers also talked about telomeres: Dr. Al Sears’ talk was entitled: “Telo-Nutritioneering: The latest generation of telomere modulators”. He mentioned that in his research he has identified at least 123 nutrients, vitamins and natural compounds that will elongate telomeres, often by stimulating telomerase. Vitamin C will significantly delay shortening of telomeres, which translates into delayed aging. In addition vitamin C has recently been shown to stimulate telomerase activity in certain stem cells. There is an herb, called Silymarin extract, which was recently found to increase telomerase activity threefold. N-acetyl cysteine is a building block for glutathione, a powerful anti-oxidant. In addition it has been shown to turn on the human telomerase gene. Other telomerase stimulators are green tea extract, ginkgo biloba, gamma tocotrienol (one of the components of the vitamin E group), vitamin D3 and folic acid.
Dr. George Rozakis gave a talk entitled “Nutrigenomics” where he mentioned that many diseases are due to methylation defects, a cellular pathway that required vitamin B2, B6 and B12. People with this defect have minor genetic variations that lead to elevated homocysteine in the blood. For instance migraine sufferers often have methylation pathway problems, which involves histamine overproduction and 92% of them can be helped with a histamine-restricted diet. Correcting a methylation pathway defect with the help of L-methylfolate can cure other diseases like depressive illness that does not respond to conventional antidepressant medication.
Hormone changes with stress
Dr. Thierry Hertoghe gave a lecture on “Burnout: A multiple hormone deficiency syndrome”. He said that burnout is a common condition where several hormones are affected, with the cortisol axis being the main one, but other hormone glands being stressed as well. As a result endocrine glands age prematurely. Symptoms are fatigue, exhaustion, gastrointestinal problems, anxiety, depression and aggressiveness. The underlying hormone abnormalities are a lack of cortisol, thyroid deficiency, growth hormone deficiency, testosterone and estrogen deficiency and oxytocin deficiency. Burnout is common in teachers and there is a questionnaire that has been developed for teachers (teacher’s burnout scale) to monitor them whether they are heading this way. Soldiers who return from combative situations often suffer from burnout or from PTSD. In suspected cases laboratory tests that measure hormone levels give concrete answers about deficiencies. Treatment protocols were discussed in detail. Multiple bioidentical hormone replacements are necessary, possibly for prolonged periods, if not life long. In addition supportive counseling sessions from a counselor or psychiatrist will help to tone down increased brain activity and help regain the internal balance. Why is this important? Because hormones are necessary on a cellular level and regulate the energy metabolism of every cell in the body.
This year’s conference was a very interesting combination of new information on stem cell therapy, telomeres and lifestyle intervention. As we age we lose hormones, which makes us age faster as the telomeres shorten faster. Shorter telomeres lead to inflammation in the body, which cause a myriad of disease processes. This aging process can be countered by adopting a healthier lifestyle with regular exercising, a Mediterranean diet and abandoning unhealthy habits like smoking, excessive drinking or taking illicit drugs. Vitamins and supplements, particularly resveratrol, CoQ-10 and omega-3 fatty acids will help to elongate and stabilize our telomeres. As Dr. Katz said: “A healthy lifestyle will reduce your mortality rate by 80%”.
Incoming search terms:
- (nutrigenomics OR nutrigenomics) AND (epigenetics OR epigenome) AND (ageing OR aging) AND anti-aging
- lifestyle changes epigenetics
- PTSD vitamin D3 deficiency