Sunday, November 25, 2007

Longer Life Or Better Life?

From the beginning of written history, man's quest for a longer life, if not immortality, has been a constant theme. In fact a longer life might have seemed like immortality for early man since the average life span through Roman times was about 22 years of age.

Some of the earliest recorded anti-aging literature came from the Egyptian papyrus, "Book for Transforming an Old Man into a Youth of Twenty." Written nearly 2,600 years ago, it promised to reverse the aging process, not to achieve longer life. Throughout Greek and Roman literature there are continued references to magic elixirs for living longer and, often equally important, improved sexual potency. The idea of immortality was something only to be found among the pantheon of the Greek and Roman gods.

While ancient Western thought viewed death as an inevitable process to make way for the next generation, ancient Eastern philosophy embraced the balance of opposing forces as the road to immortality. Yet both ancient Western and Eastern literature suggest that if one could only eat the food of the gods, immortality might be ensured. As we approach the new millennium, we now realize that the ancients had the essence of truth in their quest. While no one can ever become immortal, we can use food to balance powerful forces within our bodies to slow, if not reverse, the process we call aging. This food is not the property of the gods. It is in your own kitchen.

Anti-aging is not just a matter of simply living longer, but also living better. I personally don't want to reach the age of 120 if I am enfeebled and need constant assistance to take careof myself. I'd much rather live to a more modest age and enjoy a better quality of life. In essence, you want to maintain functionality (being able to take care of yourself) as long as possible before death. Although life expectancy was much shorter in the past, functionality was usually maintained until death. Today we have a greater life expectancy than at any time in history, but much of our extended time on earth includes a greater number of years of declining function before death. The concept of a slow death in a nursing home surrounded by nonfunctional people is a frightening picture. The baby boomers have seen this new face of aging and, frankly, they are scared. It is not a fear of death but a fear of declining physical and mental function.

A good way of describing anti-aging is that it is the process of dissociating biological age from chronological age. Chronological age is easy. Just count your birthdays. Biological age is a little more complex. Determining the biological changes (and therefore your functionality) that take place during aging has been one of the primary research areas of gerontology (the study of aging) over the past 30 years. During this time period, a number of biological markers of aging have been identified for humans. A true biological marker of aging must be universal. You can't call cancer a marker of aging since not everyone who ages gets cancer. On the other hand, loss of muscle mass in both males and females seems to be a universal marker. Reversing the biological markers of aging is the true goal of any successful anti-aging program.

By reversing these biological markers, your body can once more appear years younger even though it's not. Furthermore, you will maintain physical and mental performance at levels that you were accustomed to at an earlier stage in life. These biological markers provide you with a scientific starting point that can indicate whether or not your anti-aging program is actually working. After all, anti-aging is a science, not an art form. These biological markers of aging are ultimately governed by hormonal changes that take place as you age. Therefore the key to reversing aging is our ability to alter our hormones.

The first scientific evidence that the aging process could be reversed by hormonal modulation appeared in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The beginning of this new age began when Charles-Edouard Brown-Séquard, a member of the French Academy, reported that self-injections of ground-up animal testicles reversed the aging process with a corresponding increase in his sexual potency. Needless to say, his discovery was greeted with great enthusiasm. Nor could he be accused of being a snake-oil salesman because he gave his new youth elixir to other physicians at no charge with the provision that they not charge their patients. Unfortunately, Brown-Séquard's research was also met with great derision throughout Europe because his results couldn't be replicated by others. Yet a century later we now understand that he had indeed crossed the barrier and discovered that anti-aging was possible through hormonal modulation. In fact, aging revolves around hormones. The right balance of hormones will slow the aging process; the wrong balance will accelerate it. It's not necessarily the lack of certain hormones that is the fundamental cause of aging, but really how hormones lose their ability to communicate with each other to maintain equilibrium. The goal of this book is to present a new anti-aging manifesto: how to use your diet to improve hormonal communication and therefore reverse aging.

And more importantly for you is the fact that many of these biological markers can be reversed by the most powerful anti-aging drug readily available to everyone. What's the name of this drug? It's food, assuming you are willing to treat food with the same respect that you would treat any prescription drug. Food is a powerful "drug" because it alters hormonal responses. Used properly, food can improve hormonal communication. If you can achieve that goal, you will begin to reverse the aging process. On the other hand, the improper use of food can speed the aging process. Essentially, after each meal you want to ask yourself the question: "Did I reverse the aging process or did I accelerate it?"

Excerpted from

The Age-Free Zone
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