Why is it that some people age so much more slowly than others, retaining their vigour and energy into later life? The search for perpetual youth is not new, but today we are much closer to answering this timeless question. A mountain of research work, based on human and animal studies, has led to a better understanding of the ageing process, and in turn it is possible to draw from this a series of practical steps that we may take to encourage a slowing down in our own rate of ageing. Natural Life Extension describes these steps.
It goes without saying, of course, that there is little if any point in advocating strategies which would lead to a longer life span were this to be in anything other than a reasonable state of physical and mental health. The emphasis of all the evidence outlined in this book, the milestones and markers in the search for life extension, will therefore be on those methods which offer the greatest prospect for a healthy longer life.
The aim of 'more years to your life' appeals to many, but equally there are those who insist that they are more interested in adding 'life to their years'. I suggest that both of these aims can be met by the most proven of the methods which I will explain in later chapters - calorie restriction.
Evidence not recommendation
I want to make it clear, though, that the approaches which I outline and explain are not recommendations which you are being urged to follow. The concept of life extension and the evidence which has accumulated from the work of many researchers in this age-old quest will be explained, but any attempt to apply such methods must be a personal decision and should take into account those individual variables which make you unique, including your current health status and predispositions, as well as your individual biochemical, structural and psychological make-up.
During the ageing process there are a number of well researched interacting processes at work, some of which at least can be modified and slowed down by simple natural means.
What is natural in this context is hotly debated, not least by those conducting the research into methods of increasing life span. A working definition might be: 'anything which retards, modifies, improves, or in some way influences for the better, those processes which lead to ageing and death'. A course of action could be thought of as 'natural' if it were to involve the use of methods or substances which are a normal part of the body's economy (dietary modification or supplementation, for example) but which do not involve the use of synthetic materials, or approaches which cannot be applied in total saftey (surgery or hormonal treatment, for example).
A summary of current methods, so far used experimentally on animals in order to evaluate their effect on life extension, can help to highlight those methods which can reasonably be considered 'natural'
- Alteration of individual components of diet
- Increase of antioxidant nutrient intake
- Increase in vitamins and/or mineral intake
- Adequate nutrient intake accompanied by calorie restriction strategies
Drugs, hormones and/or specific nutrients used pharmacologically
- Various natural or synthetic hormones
- Various synthetic antioxidants
- Specific amino acids used pharmacologically* (e.g. arginine, ornithine)