Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh
Sceptics might think it just doesn’t cut the mustard. But, newer scientific research has made me to upgrade longevity from 100 to 120 years. That, in the near future, Manipur would be full of 120 year old people is no more a myth-tinged fairy story. It’s a paean to the sense of a joyous uplift. Manipur now has a few people in their late eighties. The world’s leading gerontologists have long been searching for the most effective ways to hold back the enhancing years. They are talking of people living now and not the future generations who would benefit from cutting-age technologies.
They talking about over-fed Europeans and Americans, with the scientific evidence that to live long and in good health, they need calorie restriction and exercise. In countries like India including Manipur, we don’t have enough calories to eat and there’s a lot of enforced exercise in search of food, while some people in countries like Venezuela and Africa are starving.
In the West, the slogan is beset with sadness as it lags behind in appreciation of the listening public. On the long haul, it seems, all that really helpful would be progress in the science of medicine, building new classes of therapy to repair and reverse the known root causes of ageing. The sooner these treatments arrive the more lives will be saved and some will continue to live to 120. It’s like someone suffering from tuberculosis can now be allowed to live a longer life. Unlike the famous Hollywood actress Vivien Leigh who played Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind (saw it in Bombay 1953) who died of tuberculosis at the age of 53.
Scientists believe it’s not a question of “if” but “when”. This is not utopian nor dystopian, but definitely prospective as a lot of money is being invested in research by bigwigs to find the way of how to be supercentenarians. A number of Silicon Valley billionaires have funnelled their own millions into the anti-ageing cause. Google’s Larry Page has directed 750 million dollars of the company’s funds into Calico. Its biotech research team PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel has also invested in Break-out Labs, a funding body dedicated to tackling ‘degenerative diseases’.
I used to think old age is an accumulation of a degenerative processes that become diseases, such as dying of brain cells, wear and tear of bones, damage to lungs and clogging up of heart arteries. Also, as we get older the secretion of natural hormones that keep us going, dwindles.
Wholesome youth is accepted as the quintessence of living. Older people spend so much time and money trying to look younger. Hair dyes, Botox injections in the face to remove wrinkles, and nip and tuck reconstructive surgery of face and tummy to get rid of shagginess, are common to fight ravages of time.
Won’t it be wonderful if scientists can find a way to slow down the biological ageing process? It would. A new research has shown how it might soon be possible just to do this. In June 2017, there was an international conference in Geneva, Switzerland – a country where you will find the world’s second highest life expectancy (82.9 years; average 70.4).
Claudio Franceschi, professor of immunology at Bologna University, Italy, described a large part of old age as an imbalance between inflammatory and anti-inflammatory networks, which the normal ageing fails to fully neutralise the inflammatory processes. He was convinced that we can modulate our bodies as they change. “The recipe is not easy but we will find it,” -quipped the professor.
Other scientists present at the symposium were affirmative in that, those who are living today, right now, can achieve a long life. Although they did not believe an “elixir of life” will be discovered in the near future, their advice was: “All we need is small nips in our life style, such as tweaks to our daily routines, from what we eat to the unguents we slather on our wrinkles. These are our best hope in the fight against the ageing process”. They have concluded that people in Britain for example, could live to 120 if they just exercised more, ate healthily and took beneficial drugs, such as statins [cholesterol lowering drugs].
Professor Vladimir Khavinson, past president of the European region of the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics said: “A clean environment, fresh food, physical activity and medical advances can allow people who are young today to live till 120.” Further he said: “If they lead a healthy life, they will have a good start. The main goal for us now is to allow people to stay healthy for as long as possible into their old age. So there are 5 things we can all do:
(1) Keep taking peptides (amino acids- organic compounds – building blocks of our body like skin). A few amino-acids combine to form peptides and many amino acids combine to form proteins. So proteins contain peptides that will only be released when proteins in your food are digested in your gut. Foods containing peptides are dairy products, such as milk, egg (best); and grains, such as rice, corn, wheat, soya beans etc. Khavinson’s ongoing research recently found that administration of peptides not only increased the life-span of lab animals, but inhibited their carcinogenesis (the initial stages of a cancer forming).
In recent years, the market is full of cosmetic products containing peptides, such as moisturisers, magic night creams, which have been shown to help skin cells to heal and stimulate new cell growth. There are many food supplements containing peptides, such as shrimp shells. Only a few weeks ago, Canadian Health Authorities became the first in the world to approve a large range of neutraceutical supplements containing shrimp shells (khajing in Manipuri). Many clinical trials have shown that they have a remarkable blood pressure lowering effect.
(2) Try the Okinawa diet. I have written about this in previous columns. It’s only possible in Japan. Yuriy Medzinovskiy, director general of Moscow’s longevity clinic said: “Making what we eat is crucial to the death-defying process. At 83.7 years, Japan has the longest life expectancy in the world and a greater number of centenarians than any other nation, largely credited to their adoption of the Okinawa diet that lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
(3) Wrap yourself in fir – Christmas trees [a figure of speech]. A recent research into a chemical terpenoids, a hydrocarbon found in Siberian firs, have shown that the compounds could defend against cancer and the ageing process. They are produced in bulk by conifers to protect against disease. Their genes have been found to play a key part in the transportation of complex proteins as well as in degrading unnecessary ones. Leading scientists believe that could be useful in the future.
(4) Drink gin. I think lots of people can comply with this business of staying young with pleasure. Despite long-standing health warnings, experts believe a dose of the mother of Gin (CollaGin) distilled in Midlands in England, with collagen, anise oil and orris root are said to have anti-ageing properties.
I won’t take it seriously. Until a few years ago, a lot of gin was drunk by pregnant British women ‘for easy delivery’ until it was found out that any alcohol drink during the first 3 months of pregnancy, produced babies with ‘fetal alcohol syndrome’ with a characteristic facial feature.
(5) Make more Melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced in the body by the Pineal gland in the centre of the brain. Pineal gland used to be “the seat of soul” and now in its absence, is rebranded as the “fountain of youth”. Melatonin is responsible for sleep cycles or circadian rhythm changes. It’s available for limited use though not over the counter, to treat insomnia or as a jet-lag in the UK. It’s licensed only in slow-release form to treat sleep disorders in the over 55s.
Melatonin production decreases with age. In recent trials, researchers have found increasing evidence that melatonin as a dietary supplement could help to slow down ageing process, claiming that taking the hormone in small doses (0.5mg) each night, can protect against heart damage and help to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by guarding against cell damage.
The best thing to help pineal gland to produce more melatonin is to consume more magnesium- containing foods, such as almonds, avocados and spinach. Also tropical fruits, such as pineapples, oranges and bananas are rich in melatonin. Americans use a lot of melatonin as food supplements.
Optimism has never sounded so good. You’d never know unless you start right now with lifestyle changes, such as walking regularly, cutting down on sugar, salt and fat, while taking advantages of drugs such as statins and blood pressure-lowering drugs, which already exist. They won’t help you to reach 120 mark, but they could extend your life in health. They say in Manipuri, “Aim for the sky and you will at least, reach the top of the bamboo.”
As a doctor I know the benefits of modern drugs on longevity, coupled with life style changes. My advice for Manipuris especially women, is to use peptide containing moisturisers and night creams to prevent wrinkling of face, and as middle age approaches, to watch your blood pressure and cholesterol.
The writer is based in the UK. Email:[email protected] Wbsite:www.drimsingh.co.uk