Longevity Syndrome: A Condition You Actually Want!
Written By Dr. Millie Lytle, ND, MPH, CNS
Each year, new diseases are being discovered and uncovered. As diagnostic capabilities improve and new treatments become available, the market’s supply and demand challenges the interface of medicine versus disease. Although you welcome viable treatments options for your illnesses, most diagnoses are not good news. That is, until “longevity syndrome” came along. Longevity Syndrome is something you want, and millions of Americans are spending billions of dollars seeking it out, as its base may be the foundation to the fountain of youth.
What is Longevity?
Results from a Sicilian centenarian study showed that longevity is the result of an optimal performance of the immune system factors that overrule the inflammatory sequence variants of immune/inflammatory genes.2 Factors capable of overriding genes are one’s environment, genetics, lifestyle, and also, chance. In opposition to the mainstream evolutionary viewpoint that the longevity potential of a human being is pre-programmed and finite, the evolutionary biologist, JJ Mitteldorf hypothesizes that the length of the telomere is the true yardstick.3 Telomeres are the end-caps of chromosomes, whose shortening has been shown linked to a shorter life span and conditions of aging that lead to death such as cancer, inflammation, and sequestration of telomerase in humans. In a recent pilot study led by Dr. Dean Ornish, published in the Lancet Oncology, some basic dietary and lifestyle factors (including stress reduction, a whole-foods diet with low refined carbohydrates and less than 10% fat intake, as well as moderate exercise) have been shown to lengthen the telomeres of men with prostate cancer, over a 5-year period4.
The discovery of “Longevity Syndrome” has been the result of research on elderly individuals who have aged successfully. In order to understand how we age long and well, there has been increasing attention on centenarians. Each year, approximately 17 in 100,000 Americans - mostly women - turn 100 years old. It has been reported that approximately 1 in 1000 centenarians will live past 110 years old, making them supercentenarians. Centenarians and supercentenarians are being studied as to why they outlive their peers. A growing field of health research called epigenetics can allow us to defy susceptibilities traditionally thought impossible by altering the genome environment and tailoring the body’s natural defenses away from aging and towards youth. The field of epigenetics involves the quality and behavior of gene expression, as opposed to the presence of the gene to predict and treat disease.
Where is the fountain of youth? It could be in your cholesterol.
Americans are spending billions of dollars on anti-aging, along with spending billions of dollars on cholesterol medications. Statins (cholesterol lowering medications) increase your risk for diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, which ironically accelerate the aging process.
Most are aware of good cholesterol, or “HDL-c” and bad cholesterol, or “LDL-c”. What is lesser known is the function of small cholesterol molecules called apoliproteins. Apoliprotein A-1 is the major protein component of HDL in plasma. Longevity syndrome is an epigenetic-based condition whereby a person can expect to live 10 years longer than average due to a genetic mutation passed on from one parent to the next1. This mutation results in higher levels of HDL, greater than 75 mg/dL. This means that regardless of your bad cholesterol number, having a high HDL may prolong your life. Statin medications do effectively lower LDL-c, but they also lower HDL, thereby potentially increasing one’s risk for cardiovascular disease (CHD). Thus, Statins are not the solution to heart disease. While the medical community fixates on lowering cholesterol, some physicians, researchers and nutritionists are working on a more holistic approach to increase HDL.
One of the factors contributing to the increased risk of developing premature atherosclerosis is low plasma concentrations of HDL-c. Multiple potential mechanisms account for the cardio-protective effects of HDL-c and its main protein apolipoprotein A-I (apo A-I). Diet has an important role in modulating HDL cholesterol level. The widespread use of nutritional supplements may also alter the biology of HDL. In this review, we discuss the effect of select nutritional supplements on serum HDL cholesterol and apo A-I levels.
How HDL can reduce heart disease
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death and disability worldwide. Public health studies have confirmed that HDL-c is inversely and independently associated with the risk of developing primary CHD6. This means that no matter what your bad LDL-c number, if you’re good HDL-c is high, your risk of developing heart disease is lower! Several studies have documented the fact that people with high levels of HDL-c have a lower risk for developing CHD. Over a period of 12 years, healthy men and women aged 49 to 82 years old with the highest HDL-c levels were at 50 percent lower risk of cardiovascular events compared with participants with the lowest HDL-C levels (Framingham study)6. In the Prospective Cardiovascular Münster (PROCAM) study, researchers followed approximately 4,500 volunteers aged 16-65 for 6 years. Those with HDL lower than 35 mg/dl were found to have four times higher CHD risk than those with HDL higher than 35 mg/dl3. Gordon et al suggested that for every 1 mg/dl increase in HDL, there is a decrease of 2 to 3 % of overall CHD risk to an individual. Results from Veterans Administration HDL Intervention Trial (VA-HIT) showed that in patients with initially low HDL-C, a modest increase of only 6 percent reduced their relative risk of heart disease by 22 percent5.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is positively associated with a decreased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). As defined by the US National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III guidelines, an HDL cholesterol level (HDL-C) of 60 mg/dL or greater is a negative (protective) risk factor6. On the other hand, a high-risk HDL cholesterol level is described as one that is below 40 mg/dL. Randomized, controlled clinical trials have demonstrated that interventions to raise HDL cholesterol levels are associated with reduced CHD events. A prospective analysis by Mora et al investigated the link between cholesterol and cardiovascular events in women and found baseline HDL-c level was consistently and inversely associated with incident coronary and coronary vascular disease events across a range of low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-c) values.
The cardio-protective effects of HDL-c have been attributed to its role in reverse cholesterol transport, its effects on endothelial cells, and its antioxidant activity. Despite loads of research on increasing HDL, this factor is still not recommended as part of the National Cholesterol Education Program guidelines15. Some diet and lifestyle changes help boost HDL-c levels7. Here are some nutritional ways to increase HDL, whether you are on statin medications or not.
7 Ways to Raise Your HDL Cholesterol7
Move your body. Exercise and physical activity can boost your HDL level. Get at least 30 minutes a day of moderate activity, most days of the week. It is not necessary to over exercise.
Maintain a healthy weight. If you’re overweight, losing the extra pounds can help raise your HDL levels, as well as reduce your LDL-c (“bad”) levels.
Eat healthy fats. Have you heard the terms PUFAs and MUFAs? These are short for mono and poly unsaturated fatty acids. These need to be consumed in high quantities than saturated fats. Great sources are plants, nuts, and fish like wild salmon or anchovies. And, like everything you eat, keep your portion sizes at about the size of your palm. Too many fats will cause weight gain.
Reduce your drinking. Drinking 2 glasses of alcohol per day or less is linked to higher HDL levels, which means more than 3 alcoholic beverages per day decreases your protective HDL-c. Consuming high levels of alcohol damages your brain and liver and causes mal-digestion of food and malabsorption of nutrients, resulting in nutrient depletion. If you drink sugary and sweetened non-alcoholic drinks such as juices, sodas and sweetened teas, you are not off the hook. These drinks will also increase your triglycerides and lead to cholesterol build-up.
Kick the habit. When you quit smoking it can raise your HDL level because it reduces damaged fats and allows your body to establish healthy antioxidant levels.
Have daily bowel movements. If you’re constipated, you will not eliminate cholesterol properly and it will recirculate in your blood stream increasing a need for interventions.
Supplement properly. Some nutritional supplements may support the increase of HDL cholesterol levels. Multiple mechanisms are involved in the regulation of HDL levels, so changes in production and clearance of HDL may have different clinical implications. The clinical relevance of the changes in HDL and Apo A-I caused by nutrient supplementation needs to be tested in controlled clinical trials.10
- Krill Oil and Fish Oil: In large systematic reviews of the available literature, consistent reductions in triglyceride (TG) and increases of good cholesterol HDL levels following consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids have been proven. The net benefits of these changes have been disputed, although several large intervention trials show that Omega-3 fatty acids from fish and krill oils reduce mortality in patients with high risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD). In its guidelines for reducing CHD, the American Heart Association has included fish consumption and fish oil supplementation based on the acknowledgement that EPA and DHA may decrease the risk of CHD, decrease sudden deaths, decrease arrhythmias, and slightly lower blood pressure8,9.
- Black Seed: Black seed extract has been shown in clinical trial to alter gene expression. Black Seed specifically is a wonderful herb for lung and digestive health, and it also turns on Apo A-I gene expression. Therefore, black seed may have beneficial effects in treating high cholesterol and coronary heart disease10.
- Cordyceps: This study was conducted to investigate the hypocholesterolemic effect of the hot-water fraction (HW) from cultured mycelia of Cordyceps sinensis. In mice fed a cholesterol-free diet and those fed a cholesterol-enriched diet, body and liver weights were not significantly different from those of the controls. The serum total cholesterol (TC) of all mice groups administered HW (150 and 300 mg/kg/d, respectively) with the cholesterol-enriched diet decreased more than in the control group. Among the mice fed the cholesterol-enriched diet, HW also increased the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level, but decreased the very low-density lipoprotein plus low-density lipoprotein (VLDL+LDL) cholesterol level. The changes in HDL- and VLDL+LDL-c levels consequently decreased the risk of plaque buildup in the arteries (atherogenic value). The results indicate that even while fed a high cholesterol diet, rats that were administered a Cordyceps hot water supplement still decreased the plasma cholesterol level3.
- Plant Sterols, Probiotics and Fiber: Pubmed lists 417 studies related to HDL and plant or phytosterols. In one recent study, 30 subjects (8 men and 22 women) were randomized to treatment with plant sterols versus placebo. Reductions in plasma lipid levels significantly lowered LDL-c, non-HDL-c and total cholesterol, but not HDL cholesterol. These results support the efficacy of 1.8 g/day esterified plant sterols capsules, prescribed as an adjunct to the National Cholesterol Education Program Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet, to reduce harmful blood fats in individuals with high cholesterol and risk of heart disease12,13. In addition to plant sterols alone, several promising findings have come from combining probiotics, fibers, and phytosterols as therapeutic tools. Among the most important advantages of natural products in respect to traditional drugs are the lack of severe side effects and their low cost14. Nutritional interventions are based on the use of fibers, phytosterols, and probiotics act to block absorption and reabsorption of cholesterol by intestinal cells.
- The Free Dictionary by Farlex. Longevity Syndrome. http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Longevity+Syndrome. Accessed August 1, 2014.
- Balistreri C, Candore G, Accardi G, et al. Genetics of longevity data from the studies on Sicilian centenarians.Immun Ageing. 2012;9(1):8.
- Mitteldorf JJ. How does the body know how old it is? Introducing the epigenetic clock hypothesis. Biochemistry(Moscow). 2013;78(9):1048-1053.
- Ornish D, Lin J, Chan JM et al. Effect of comprehensive lifestyle changes on telomerase activity and telomere length in men with biopsy-proven low-risk prostate cancer: 5-year follow-up of a descriptive pilot study. Lancet Oncol. 2013;14(11):1112-1120.
- Sudeep Kumar, Himanshu Rai, Aditya Kapoor, Satyendra Tewari, and Nakul Sinha. Pharmacological measures to increase HDL-C among high risk isolated low HDL cases: A randomized study amongst north Indians. Indian J Med Res. Dec 2013; 138(6): 873–881.
- Kolovou G, Barzilai N, Caruso C, Sikora E, Capri M, Tzanetakou IP et al. The Challenges to Moving from Ageing to Successful Longevity. Curr Vasc Pharmacol. Dec 2013;
- Ulve SM, Kirkhus B, Lamglait A, Basu S, Elind E, Haider T, et al. Metabolic Effects of Krill Oil are Essentially Similar to Those of Fish Oil but at Lower Dose of EPA and DHA, in Healthy Volunteers 2010; Nov 2
- Ramprasath VR, Eyal I, Zchut S, Jones PJ.Enhanced increase of omega-3 index in healthy individuals with response to 4-week n-3 fatty acid supplementation from krill oil versus fish oil. Lipids Health Dis. 2013 Dec 5;12:178. doi: 10.1186/1476-511X-12-178.
- Mooradian AD, Haas MJ. The effect of nutritional supplements on serum high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and apolipoprotein a-I. Am J Cardiovasc Drugs. 2014 Aug;14(4):253-74. doi: 10.1007/s40256-014-0068-1.
- Koh JH, Kim JM, Chang UJ, Suh HJ.Hypocholesterolemic effect of hot-water extract from mycelia of Cordyceps sinensis. Biol Pharm Bull. 2003 Jan;26(1):84-7.
- Haas MJ, Onstead-Haas LM, Naem E, Wong NC, Mooradian AD.Induction of apolipoprotein A-I gene expression by black seed (Nigella sativa) extracts. Pharm Biol. 2014 Mar 17.
- Rai AK, Debetto P, Sala FD. Molecular regulation of cholesterol metabolism: HDL-based intervention through drugs and diet. Indian J Exp Biol. 2013 Nov;51(11):885-94.
- McKenney JM, Jenks BH, Shneyvas E, Brooks JR, Shenoy SF, Cook CM, Maki KC. A softgel dietary supplement containing esterified plant sterols and stanols improves the blood lipid profile of adults with primary hypercholesterolemia: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled replication study. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014 Feb;114(2):244-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2013.09.023.
- Assmann Gerd, Gotto AM. Atherosclerosis: Evolving Vascular Biology and Clinical Implications. HDL Cholesterol and Protective Factors in Atherosclerosis. Circulation 2004;109:III-8-III-14
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