Dr. David Andrew Sinclair is an Australian biologist who is a professor of genetics and co-Director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging at Harvard Medical School. He is known for his research on aging and has received numerous awards for his research, including the Australian Medical Research Medal and the Frontiers in Aging and Regeneration Award.
He recently wrote a book “Lifespan: Why We Age – and Why We Don’t Have To.” The book completely goes against what we’ve been conditioned to think about the inevitability of aging. In fact, the rate at how we age has a lot to do with the small choices we make every day. Dr. Sinclair’s research doesn’t just present how to slow down aging, but he also discusses how aging can be reversed. Here are his 5 key takeaways on longetivity:
1. We have more control over aging than we think
20% of our genetics dictate our lifespan determined by our parents. The rest is up to us! Our life span in the United States has increased by 25 years in just the last 50 years. So, this means if we have the option to eat healthier foods and implement exercise into our routines, we can improve the aging factor.
2. Longetivity is about living better, not necessarily longer.
Dr. Sinclair focuses not just on the numbers, he focuses on quality versus quantity.
“One misconception is that research like mine will keep people in nursing homes for longer because they imagine what it’s like to be ninety. But what we’re talking about is actually keeping people younger for longer so they will not have to go into nursing homes,” he shares. “People aren’t scared of getting old. They’re scared of losing their health, and their humanity.”
3. Being slightly deprived is not a bad a thing.
“We’ve realized that all life on the planet does better when it thinks we’re under threat of survival, or perceived adversity,” Dr. Sinclair shares. “In our lab, we call it hormesis. It’s the scientific term for ‘whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger—and live longer.’ What it essentially means is that we have these in-built protective systems, longevity genes, and they are only activated when we’re hungry, or exercising, or doing something that tricks our bodies into thinking times will be tough.”
4. Eat more greens and drink some good red vino!
“There’s a set of longevity genes that are helpful when you don’t have a lot of meat,” Dr. Sinclair explains. For example, a longevity pathway called nTor is sensitive to the number of amino acids that come into the body. In particular, to some of the branched-chain amino acids that are more abundant in animal products.
“What’s good about having low levels of branched-chain amino acids is, first of all, you’ll probably be less hungry. But second of all, you’ll turn on those nTor defensive pathways that, at least in the lab, extends lifespan of animals quite dramatically—even late in life when it’s applied.”
Plants have another great resiliency benefit: “They make molecules that turn on their own defenses,” he shares.
“We have a theory called xenohormesis and that’s the idea that stressed plants make molecules that help them, but also when we eat those plants we turn on our defenses.” In following this theory, eating stressed plants that have been exposed to a lot of sun before harvest can help activate our body’s natural defenses.
“The best example is resveratrol in grapes. We bottle that in red wine and we’ve found resveratrol activates a particular longevity pathway in the body. That’s in part why we think red wine over the long run can be healthy.”
5. It’s never too late
We can always start today to get a better outcome versus not trying at all. The earlier you start is always best, but it’s never too late.
Dr. Sinclair has the best example about his own father who is 80.
“He has small meals, he focuses on plants, he eats dark, green, leafy vegetables and isn’t looking back at all.” Even at his advanced age, his father is as physically fit as someone in their 20s or 30s.
“If we can eat the right things, and move a little bit, that’s already a big change in people’s lives. It’s all those simple things that we need to start with, and then add the science on top of that. That’s why I’m optimistic that it’s doable. The only thing that’s holding us back is the will to do it.”