What Science Says About the Keys to Longevity | Genetics, environment and the Mediterranean diet

For many, longevity is an aspiration: living decades beyond the average age of 75 or 80 is a dream. In fact, sometimes it is true, there are people who break records and pass the 100 barrier without major problems. What happens in the organisms of these people? Are they the exception? Does a genetic issue play a role, or does the environment (ie, your living conditions) weigh more? How can you live so long? It may seem like a miracle, but it is pure science.

It is backed by promising researchers that it is one of the most prevalent positions in the public space “Old age is a disease” and in this sense, it can be cured. Geneticist David Sinclair (Scientist at Harvard University and one of the 100 most influential people in the world, according to the magazine Time) is a layer of this approach. The aging of an organism is directly related to the aging of its cells; Therefore, it is hypothesized that if this event is delayed, the degeneration of organs and organisms may be delayed to some extent.

According to Sinclair’s contributions, aging depends on both DNA and lifestyle. Recommended formula? A familiar one: Eat less and better, add regular physical activity. But is that enough?

Genes, stress, diseases

“For example, the life expectancy of pets has increased dramatically over the past 30 years, not only because they have access to better medical care, but also because food improves their quality of life and prolongs it over time.” This is how the biochemist, a senior researcher at Konizet and a professor at UPA, begins his foundation. Alberto Kornblicht. In this sense, there are important environmental and genetic components to longevity.

“In genes associated with longevity, we can specify, for example, genes that participate in the pathway. Insulin and glucose metabolism. Individuals who carry a mutation that affects signaling in this pathway have been shown to live longer”, comments Fabian Nori, biologist and Conizet’s principal investigator. And he concludes: “There are also lipid metabolism genes that positively affect longevity.”

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From here, according to Nori, is an aspect to consider Oxidative stress. This theory was proposed in 1956 and suggests that “accumulation of damage to macromolecules induced by free radicals determines life span not only in humans but in any animal species”. An expert at the Institute of Ecology, Genetics and Evolution of Buenos Aires, free radicals are “highly reactive” molecules that are created, for example, when people breathe. Creates oxidative stress, which damages cells and tissues, ultimately affecting longevity.

Genetic factors, Kornblihtt concludes, have also been linked to the propensity to develop diseases such as cancer. “The older you are, the more likely you are to develop the disease. Therefore, some people are more susceptible to developing it, while others don’t develop it.“, he says. And he continues: “In centenarians, even though their cells age, they do not compromise any organ. They are lucky, because of diet or genetic background, they do not develop any malignant tumor that kills them.”

As additional information, it is also true that an individual’s immune system (which can destroy a tumor without even knowing it) works better in some people than in others. Security is silent but effective.

Eat (More) to Live (Well)

“People who saw very few visits to the doctor in their lifetime and lived to be 100 were favored by genetics and diet,” explains Kornblicht. Microbiota – or the microbes that colonize and live in the large intestine – produce substances that travel into the bloodstream and can act as positive or negative factors for health.

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There are many experts in longevity and aging who take every opportunity to reinforce the premise: A good diet is key to delaying aging. “All foods containing animal fat, i.e. saturated fat, contribute to increased cholesterol levels and lead to atherosclerosis (clogged arteries that cause heart attacks). The Mediterranean diet, which includes fish (animals that are low in saturated fat) and olive oil, represents a good and necessary option. Sometimes it gets confusing: it’s not necessary to reduce total fats, but to reduce saturated fats and replace them with unsaturated ones. Nori Notes: “A low-calorie diet contributes to longer life than a high-calorie diet.. A number of studies have been conducted on various species and found that the Mediterranean Sea is beneficial for increasing longevity.

A study conducted by researchers at Harvard University and published by the American College of Cardiology suggests that one of the keys is consumption. Olive oil. According to the arguments, consuming it instead of other products such as butter or mayonnaise will extend people’s lives. According to a study of 92,000 volunteers, those who did so were 34 percent less likely to suffer from fatal diseases. However, as expected, the work must be additional.

Hope and hopelessness of life

The story, in part, provides some justification for David Sinclair and his approach to thinking of aging as a disease. In the Middle Ages, on average, humans lived 35 years. If it did not depend on the environment (and possible access to drinking water, sanitary conditions and medicines) there would not be much explanation for this drastic change associated with the doubling of life expectancy today.

According to According to the United Nations Population Division, life expectancy in the world has increased from 46.5 years in 1950 to 71.7 in 2022. By 2050, this number is expected to continue to rise and reach 77.3. One thing to note is that, with the exception of Africa, the gap between different regions of the world seems to be closing: Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean are close to numbers that have long stood out only in Europe. North America. By the middle of the 21st century, both Asia and Latin America may have an average age of 80. Currently, Japan, Switzerland, Singapore, Spain and Italy are the top five countries with average life expectancy figures close to 84 and 83 years.

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According to Statista, at the end of July, the world’s longest living list was held by Spaniard María Prañas Moreira, who lived 116 years and 144 days. Followed by Japanese Fusa Tatsumi (116 years and 92 days), American Eddie Ceccarelli (115 years and 171 days), Japanese Tomiko Iduka (115 years and 64 days) and Brazilian Ina Canabaro (115 years and 48 days). .

The mindset of people like Sinclair can make some vertigo wonder what would happen if the entire planet, not just a few exceptions, defeated aging and indeed death. This question is still unanswered from science, although there are answers from literature. truly, Portuguese Nobel laureate José Saramago has already imagined it in his book Dead breakThere he lists with surgical sarcasm all the problems facing a world programmed not for death but for death.

In recent times, medicine has been fighting death with innovative treatments that try to improve humanity’s path on this planet. For others, on the contrary, the number of years does not change the quality, they await their end without any ambition. Meanwhile, death is a basic fixture in life and all human beings know that sooner or later they will culminate in the same fate.

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