Genetics have lots to do with who we are and what our health is like, particularly as we age. We tend to put up with arthritis, high blood pressure, a little weight around the middle, etc. because we see them as symptoms of age as determined by our genes.
Scientists are discovering more and more about our genetic makeup – and more importantly, how to control it, or at least limit the worst aspects of it as it applies to our health. One interesting aspect that has come out of this research is the ‘longevity’ genes or sirtuin genes which decrease chances of heart disease, diabetes and other inflammatory processes.
These longevity genes are turned on and off by certain factors in our diet and environment. The favorable condition is to have these longevity genes turned on and active. Calorie restriction has long been understood to increase the chances of a long and healthy life, and now has also been found to turn on certain longevity genes.
The exciting part of this research has focused on how to turn these genes on without starving. This does not mean that you can take these supplements and eat anything you want to. The longevity genes are turned off by certain factors such as smoking and eating too many refined carbohydrates, so a healthy lifestyle is still recommended.
Several of the super antioxidant nutrients such as green tea, co-enzyme Q10, alpha-lipoic acid, resveratrol, and vitamin E that is high in gamma tocopherol seem to turn on these genes. Supplements containing these ingredients help us age more gracefully, store less fat, decrease inflammation and decrease risk of heart disease and diabetes. One supplement specifically formulated to turn the sirtuin gene on is called Vasculo-Sirt – a multi-vitamin that includes the super antioxidants. Resveratrol has been the most important supplement in this research. It is naturally contained in fruit skins such as grapes – red wine contains small amounts of resveratrol. You would have to drink about 100 bottles of wine per day to equal the amount of resveratrol in a 100 mg. capsule.
The research of these longevity genes is big business. Pharmaceutical companies are now trying to create a synthetic resveratrol that will be more effective at activating the sirtuin genes. So far, the synthetic version has over-stimulated the gene, resulting in a increased tendency towards cancer. The natural version does not have the same negative effect, but it cannot be patented either, so drug companies do not promote the natural resveratrol.
As with any supplements you take for health, quality is of the utmost importance. Cheap, poor quality ingredients may be more affordable, but they do not have the specific components necessary to work as effectively as the higher quality, pure ingredients. Know your sources – especially when working on the genetic level. Only the highest quality ingredients have been shown to be active enough to repair DNA, while poor quality ingredients actually cause further damage to DNA.
Margaret Durst owns The Green House, a vitamin, herb and health food store in Mason, Texas.