Ok, I admit I lied – at least twice – as being 29 when being well passed twenty-nine. Twenty-nine is that magic age for woman when we are at our most attractive and charming with our still youthful, but acne free and not yet wrinkled complexion combined with our maturity, confidence, just enough wisdom gained through life, but not yet hardened by the hard living. We all have our regrets at 21, but 29 is perfect and pure magic!
If there is one thing that has the potential to stop or turn back the clock to help us be Forever 29, that would be the miracle herb Astragalus. As a herb used in China for thousands of years, Astragalus has the health benefits well researched and proven by modern sciences including boosting immune system through its polysaccharides compounds, strengthening cardiovascular system by relieving symptoms, lowering cholesterol levels and improving heart function, anti-bacteria and anti-viral, and counteracting oxidative damages through its anti-oxidants.
Astragalus shot to the fame in the western world in 2009 because of a research suggesting the herb’s anti-aging effect. In an article titled “Anti-aging pill targets telomeres at the ends of chromosomes,” Scientific American reported that extract from Astragalus is capable of activating the enzyme telomerase (hTERT). Telomerase is an enzyme in our body in charge of maintaining or lengthening telomeres. Telomeres are short DNA sequences that act as protective caps at the tip of our DNA. When cell replicates (as we grow and age), telomere shortens through each replication cycle. Eventually, the telomeres will get to the point that it is too short to support stable replication of the cells. That’s when we will see the increased incidences of age-related diseases. Of course, when most of our cells loss their ability to replicate, we die of old age.
Telomerase (hTERT) is usually inactive in adult cells, except in immune cells, egg and sperm, and in tumor cells. The enzyme is in fact the same enzyme that allows cancer cells to stop aging and become immortal. The Scientific American article suggested that, by maintaining or slowing down the shortening of telomeres, astragalus extract may have the potential to slow down and delay aging. Later research further suggested that two compounds from Astrataglus, astragaloside IV and cycloastragenol, strongly activate telomerase in various cell lines.
In Chinese medicine, Astragalus is usually taken in herbal extract form at an equivalent of 8-15 grams raw herb effective dosage per day. The common use of the herb in its extract form over thousands of years does not seem to indicate any significant side effect at the recommended herbal consumption level. Until the pharmacological and toxicological data prove the safe use of the isolated compounds, staying with thousands years of user experience would be wise especially considering the fact that, in addition to activating telomerase, the herb’s amazing health benefits on immune system, heart, liver, lung and spleen could synergistically contribute to maintaining the vitality of being Forever 29.
Dr. Connie Wan
We have all encountered that person in life who claims to be 49 and looks 35. Yes, some people do seem younger than their actual age. Ever wonder why? A study conducted by a group of researchers from the Brigham Young University, published in the medical journal Preventive Medicine, finds that people who have consistently high levels of physical activity are considerable younger, at least at the cellular level, than those who have sedentary lifestyles, as well as those who are moderately active. The exact number is 9 years younger.
The biomarker indicative of the cellular aging that the Brigham researchers studied is telomere. Telomeres are the protein end-caps of our chromosomes. They function to protect the integrity of our DNA. Like a cellular biological clock, they’re extremely correlated with age; each time a cell replicates, we lose a tiny bit of the end-caps. Therefore, the older we get, the shorter our telomeres. Eventually, the telomere gets so short that our DNA frays like a shoelace lost its protective plastic end-cap, our cells can no longer replicate, and our body can no longer renew and recover.
Brigham researchers analyzed data from 5,823 adults who participated in the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, one of the few indexes that includes telomere length values for study subjects. The index also includes data for 62 activities that participants might have engaged in over a 30-day window, which the researchers analyzed to calculate levels of physical activity.
The study found the shortest telomeres came from sedentary people — they had 140 base pairs of DNA less at the end of their telomeres than highly active folks. Surprisingly, the researchers also found there was no significant difference in telomere length between those with low or moderate physical activity and the sedentary people. The longer telomere in the people with the high physical activity levels translates to a biological aging advantage of nine years over those who are sedentary and a seven-year advantage compared to those who are moderately active.
We know that regular physical activity helps to reduce mortality and prolong life, and now we know that, at least in part, the advantage may be due to the preservation of telomeres. Although the exact mechanism for how exercise preserves telomeres is unknown, the researcher hypothesized that it may be tied to inflammation and oxidative stress. Previous studies have shown telomere length is closely related to those two factors and it is known that, over time, exercise can suppress inflammation and oxidative stress.
According to this study, “highly active” means at least 30 minutes of jogging per day for woman and at least 40 minutes for men, five days a week. So, yes, you can look nine years younger than your age too, you just have to really sweat for it.
Thanks for reading.
Dr. Connie Wan
Journal Reference: Larry A. Tucker. Physical activity and telomere length in U.S. men and women: An NHANES investigation. Preventive Medicine, 2017; 100: 145 DOI: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2017.04.027
Source: Informed Nutrition
Coffee and beer are polar opposites in the beverage world: coffee picks you up, and beer winds you down. It seems that these two popular drinks may also have opposite effects on telomeres — the end points of chromosomal DNA, implicated in aging. Working with a kind of yeast that shares many important genetic similarities with humans, the researchers from University of Tel Aviv and Columbia University found that caffeine shortens and alcohol lengthens telomeres.
Telomere marks the ends of the strands of DNA in our chromosomes. They are essential to ensuring that the DNA strands are repaired and copied correctly. Every time a cell duplicates, the chromosomes are copied into the new cell with slightly shorter telomeres. Eventually, the telomeres become too short, and the cell dies. Only fetal and cancer cells have mechanisms to avoid this fate; they go on reproducing forever.
The researchers expose the yeast cells to 12 environmental stressors. Most of the stressors — from temperature and pH changes to various drugs and chemicals — had no effect on telomere length. But a low concentration of caffeine, similar to the amount found in a shot of espresso, shortened telomeres, and exposure to a 5-to-7 percent ethanol solution lengthened telomeres.
To understand these changes, the researchers scanned 6,000 strains of the yeast, each with a different gene deactivated. They then conducted genetic tests on the strains with the longest and shortest telomeres, revealing that two genes, Rap1 and Rif1, are the main players mediating environmental stressors and telomere length. In total, some 400 genes interact to maintain telomere length, the researchers note, underscoring the importance of this gene network in maintaining the stability of the genome. Strikingly, most of these yeast genes are also present in the human genome.
This is the first time anyone has analyzed a complex system in which all of the genes affecting telomere length are known. It turns out that telomere length is something that’s very exact, which suggests that precision is critical and nature has decided to protect this precision from environmental effects.
More laboratory work is needed to prove a causal relationship, not a mere correlation, between telomere length and aging or cancer. Only then will we know whether human telomeres respond to the same signals as yeast. For now, suggested the lead research Prof. Kupiec, “Try to relax and drink a little coffee and a little beer.”
Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
Dr. Connie Wan
Gal Hagit Romano, Yaniv Harari, Tal Yehuda, Ariel Podhorzer, Linda Rubinstein, Ron Shamir, Assaf Gottlieb, Yael Silberberg, Dana Pe’er, Eytan Ruppin, Roded Sharan, Martin Kupiec. Environmental Stresses Disrupt Telomere Length Homeostasis. PLoS Genetics, 2013; 9 (9): e1003721 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1003721
Astragalus (Huang Qi, Astragalus membranaceus or Radix astragali) is a plant native to Asia. The part of the plant used medicinally is the root. Astragalus is one of the most important and commonly used herbs in Chinese medicine. Varieties of Traditional Chinese Medicines (TCM) formulations ranging from compositions for treating cold, cough, digestive illness, respiratory illness, to formulations for treating inflammation, uses Astragalus as one of the ingredients.
Astagalus, slightly sweet taste, has been prescribed for centuries in China for general debility, chronic illness, and to increase the overall vitality of the body. Astragalus is “warm” (i.e. “blood moving”) in nature and affects both the spleen and the lung meridians. The herb is useful in treating spleen deficiency symptoms such as diarrhea, fatigue, spontaneous sweating, and lack of appetite. Composed of more than 95% of lymphocytes, spleen is the reservoir of disease fighting immune cells and therefor the most important part of your immune system. By strengthening the spleen, Astragalus essentially boosts your immune system.
In addition, astragalus tonifies the lungs and is often used to treat cold, shortness of breath, sore throat, and respiratory inflammation. Systematically, the herb is often included in formulas for treating wasting disorders, night sweats, chronic ulcerations and sores, numbness and paralysis of the limbs, edema, and high blood sugar.
Astragalus is not only well studied and used in Chinese medicine; it is also well researched by scientists in natural product/pharmaceutical chemistry and medicine. Chemical composition wise, Astragalus contains polysaccharides, isoflavones such as formononetin, kumatakenin, astraisoflavan, astrapterocarpan, 2’-3’-dihydroxy-7,4’- imethooxyisoflavone, and isoliquiritigenin, triterpenodis such as astragaloside I,II,III,IV, and steroids such as calyxosin, cycloastragenol, daucosterol, beta-sitosterol, and soyasaponin I. In addition, the herb contains L-3-hydroxy-9-methoxpterocarpan, D-ß-asparagine, palmitic acid, choline, betaine, folic acid, and antibacterial ingredient.
According to modern pharmacological studies, astragalus polysaccharides are shown to boost immune system by increasing the amount of B cells, serum IgG level, and conversion percentage of lymphocytes. The isoflavones and flavonoids are important classes of anti-oxidants and have been shown to improve cardiovascular activity. In addition, the herb extracts have demonstrated antibacterial activity against various common bacteria.
What about side effects, you may ask. Astragalus has been used for thousands of years in China at a recommended dosage of 8-15 grams of dried herb (in its extract equivalence) per day. The herb is not only one of the most used herbs in medical compositions; it is also a common ingredient in Chinese diet. Go to any Chinese grocery store, you will see dried Astragalus slices sitting next to beans and grains on the shelf. Lots of restaurants in China offer soups and teas using Astragalus as an ingredient. Thousands years of use on billions of people has not shown any side effect from the use of the herb within the recommended herbal dosage.
Now, let’s recount the great things that Astragalus can do for you: it tonifies your body, boosts the immune system by strengthening the spleen, strengthens cardiovascular system, kills bacteria, and contains strong anti-oxidant. That’s right—if you don’t feel quite well or just want to maintain general wellness, you can’t go wrong with using Astragalus.
Thanks for reading!
Dr. Connie Wan