Longevity: The main causes of death for both men and women are cardiovascular breakdown and cancer. The main preventable causes of death are obesity, smoking, and lack of regular exercise (however, only 1 in 10 American has a consistent exercise program). Women who exercise 30 minutes a day cut their risk of having a stroke by up to 30%. A brisk walk is as effective as jogging. Twice as many women will die of lung cancer as of breast cancer. Aging is associated with glycation, free radicals, and inflammation, as explained below in my notes from Dr. Weil’s Healthy Aging.
Glycation: a chemical reaction between glucose and proteins, like carmelization of sugar, creates a brown and sticky gunk (similar to the Ayurvedic idea of ama, toxic sludge). It occurs whenever blood sugar is high, as caused by eating white flour, potatoes and corn syrup. The byproduct is called AGEs (advanced glycation end products) which can damage other proteins as well as DNA and RNA by fostering abnormal bonds between protein strands. This can result in cataract formation, arteriosclerosis and wrinkling of the skin, and perhaps neurogenerative diseases like ALS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. AGEs and cross-linked proteins can initiate inflammatory and autoimmune responses and stimulate cells to proliferate (p. 69), as well as contributing to age spots (deposits of waste materials), hypertension, diabetes complications, osteoarthritis, and kidney disease. Drugs are being developed as cross-link breakers; aspirin may be such a compound and therefore reduce risk of cataracts and certain cancers. [Research white willow bark, from which aspirin was originally derived.]
High levels of blood sugar enable AGEs. Sugar in the body is mostly a product of carbohydrate metabolism; insulin clears sugar from the blood; so it’s important to keep insulin sensitivity high (type 2 diabetes is the loss of insulin sensitivity/development of insulin resistance, via loss of receptors for insulin on cell surfaces). Our processed foods consist of too much sugar and pulverized starch (bread, chips, cookies, etc.) which is digested very rapidly. This causes spikes in blood sugar and surges in insulin secretion, which lead to loss of sensitivity to insulin in those with “thrifty genes.” (p. 70) Chronic stress response (in the sympathetic nervous system) elevates blood sugar. Chromium and alpha-lipoid acid (an anti-oxidant) help restore insulin sensitivity, as does exercise.
Free radicals: Oxidation is the process of removing electrons from an atom or molecule. Oxygen is very effective at doing this (as is chlorine). Oxygen itself is destructive as you can see in rusting of iron. Free radicals are formed when radiation interacts with water; it splits it, producing oxygen and the unstable intermediates called free radicals (p. 74). They have an unpaired electron, so they strip electrons from molecules, damaging cells in the same mechanism as radiation poisoning (from X rays or nuclear explosions) which breaks down water in our bodies. Oxidative stress stems from the production of free radicals in the normal course of metabolism, plus environmental radiation, toxins, and tobacco smoke (one of the most concentrated delivery systems of free radicals).
Health is dependent on the efficiency of antioxidant defenses. Defenses against free radicals include vitamins C and E that donate electrons to them, eating a lot of plants, green tea, Resersitol, turmeric, and Pycnogenol. Weil cautions, however, that there is not proof that supplements are effective, as when people take too much beta-carotene that proved unhealthy. We need the whole context of the fruit and vegetables. He recommend supplements only if they contain a balanced mix of arytenoids (including lutein, leucopenia, photogene, zeaxanthin, and alpha-carotene). Anthocyanin-rich fruit and vegetables protect against free radical damage, are anti-inflammatory, suppress cancer cells, and lower blood pressure. They include dark leafy greens, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, cherries, red grapes, pomegranates, red cabbage and beets.
Chronic inflammation: Oxidative stress increase causes activation of the immune system to deal with germs, marked by localized redness, heat, swelling, and pain at the site of the infection (p. 80) which are necessary to fight infection. However, chronic inflammation can cause diseases such as autoimmunity (lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, rheumatic fever), coronary heart disease, arteriosclerosis, and Alzheimer’s. Infection, toxic injury, and stress can initiate autoimmune reactions in susceptible people. Asthma is an inflammatory disorder, as may be irritable bowel syndrome. Anything that promotes inflammation through a hormonal mechanism has the potential