Like many Australians over the New Years period I found myself isolating due to contracting Covid. What started as a bit of a scratchy throat turned into headaches, sore eyes, lethargy and a wracking cough that was all in my chest. My 3 weeks I had taken off work to spend with family in Newcastle and down south was thwarted. At first, I felt angry and ripped off, I could of stayed with these feelings or I could make the best of a testing situation and use it in my favour. I started cleaning and decluttering my house, I read books that I had been setting aside for months and I also started listening to podcasts.
One particular podcast caught my attention by Dr. David Sinclair a Professor of Genetics at Harvard University. His research and findings around “The Biology of Slowing & Reversing Ageing’ (Huberman Lab podcast) left me intrigued and thirsty for the secrets of longevity and anti-ageing. If seeing is believing, David Sinclair who is 52 years old, not only looks like, but says he feels like someone who is many years younger than his biological age. Approximately 20 % of this can be contributed to somewhat good genetics but 80% or more comes down to our epigenetics (outside behaviours and the environment) which can cause changes with how our DNA work. This so called ‘fountain of youth’ investigating led me on a mission to find out exactly what are David Sinclair’s secrets to turning back the clock and how if any of these hallmarks I could apply to my own life.
Firstly, who is David Sinclair?
David Sinclair is a Sydney born Professor of Genetics at Harvard University. Sinclair has been a popular commentator on the Joe Rogan and the Huberman lab podcasts and has just released his own 8 series podcast called “Lifespan”. Lifespan looks at the science of ageing and why you can be healthier at any stage in life. Sinclair exploded into the U.S. celebrity circuit due to his 2019 book ‘Lifespan: Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To” and since then is a popular keynote speaker and expert around the topic of ageing.
Sinclair is also more famously known for being a key member on the scientific board advising 43-year old NFL star Tom Brady on how to stay young. Tom Brady, who is still winning super-bowls at the age of 43 attributes a lot of his success to the advice he has received from Sinclair calling him ‘someone who really can provide a lot of deep scientific information on the choices that we can make to really live healthier’.
In a nutshell, Sinclair’s research has scientifically looked at how our genomes (complete set of DNA in a cell) can be damaged (think of an old school CD that get scratches on it) and how as a result due to this damage (scratches) the message to the cells is altered. His research specifically looked at ways in which you can reverse this damage.
This very topic was proven in Sinclair’s lab studies at Harvard where he was able to reverse vision loss in old mice. Cells in the mice’s optic nerve were reprogrammed to become younger and regrow again. This was a massive break-thru for Sinclair as he proved that living cells could be made to revert to a younger state, potentially providing a cure for ageing. He found that, if you reset the epigenome to a younger version of itself, it starts to express the genetic code without the mistakes and incredibly, makes the cells young again.
Sinclair’s what he refers to as ‘hallmarks’ for longevity are as follows:
- Fasting – Going back 6 million years our bodies were designed to respond to adversity and we have largely removed this from our lives, this adversity includes going hungry. Sinclair explains, ‘if you never go hungry, your body never has to worry about survival, it relaxes which makes these genes lie dormant so to speak’. By decreasing our feeding window by either skipping breakfast or dinner these longevity genes have the opportunity to switch on.
There is no perfect best practice for this it really depends what works for you and how this can work into your lifestyle. Rather than throw yourself into a 16 hour fast, try just reducing your portions at either breakfast or lunch, then when your body adjusts to these smaller portions try taking out a meal altogether. Allow yourself to drink plenty of fluids, coffee, tea or a tablespoon of yoghurt or olive oil if you take supplements of a morning and need to line your stomach.
- Exercise – we all understand the significant impact that exercise has on our physical and mental health but it also plays a vital role in keeping us young. The proteins found in our genes are stimulated thru exercise by promoting new blood vessels, improving our heart and lung health and extending telomeres (found at the end of our DNA which protect our chromosomes and affect how our cells age). These telomeres are shortened when we age but can also be shortened thru stress, smoking, obesity, lack of exercise and a poor diet.
Sinclair’s exercise of choice for improving longevity genes is HIIT (high intensity interval training) saying ‘it engages the greatest number of health promoting genes”. From his book ‘Lifespan’ he explains that ‘the right type of intensity is one whereby you should feel challenged and breathless. Your breathing should be 70-85% of your maximum heart rate. Getting to this state is enough to create a hypoxic response and to produce enough stress to activate your body’s defences against ageing without doing any permanent harm’.
- Cold Water Therapy: includes things like having a cold shower, Cryotherapy treatment and ice water plunges. By being cold this turns on Sirtuin’s which are proteins in a cells genetic code to control things like cell division, metabolism and also responsible for repairing DNA damage. These longevity genes get turned on when we are cold and even when we are hot.
The research around being cold according to Sinclair, suggests that when the body is cold it starts producing more brown fat which is packed full of mitochondria (battery packs). This brown fat is metabolically active so it burns energy even at rest, it also secretes proteins which signals to the body to stay young. Remarkably, you can turn normal fat into brown fat by including cold water therapies into your daily routine.
- Supplements (Vitality molecules): Whilst Sinclair is reluctant to tell people what to do, he does discuss what he does on a personal level that works for him. Again, he reiterates everybody is different so the following may not work for everyone and these dosages may need to be adjusted to the individual taking them. According to Sinclair it is possible to activate longevity genes with what he calls ‘vitality molecules’. These are available as supplements which help Sirtuin’s do their job.
Sinclair takes the following supplements:
NR – Nicotinamide riboside which can be found in trace amounts in milk.
NMN – Nicotinamide mononucleotide which can be found in avocados, cucumbers, broccoli and cabbage.
Resrvatrol – found in red wine
Metformin – diabetes drug
David Sinclair’s Anti-Ageing Routine
Fasting until 1pm drinking plenty of fluids like water, coffee, tea.
Cut out mostly bread, pasta, processed sugar
1g of NMN every morning
1g of metformin
Vitamin D and K2
Mixed in with some yoghurt or olive oil of a morning
In order to put these longevity hallmarks to the test I have for the past 2 weeks overhauled my own daily routine. I have swapped a warm shower of a morning for a cold 3-minute shower. I have incorporated the fasting into my day most days of the week. I delay drinking caffeine for at least 90-120 minutes upon waking and I try to view direct sunlight for 10-30 minutes in the am.
From these changes I feel I am better focused, more alert, less sluggish and I have lost weight from not always keeping my blood sugars peaking all day. It is ok to feel hungry sometimes!
I have just ordered a whole bunch of NMN and Resveratrol so will report back whether I notice a difference in how I feel after taking these for some time.
Whether some of these effects I am experiencing are psychosomatic or not, I feel better for having put them in place.
I also feel had I not done some of the above then my recovery from covid would have been way worse. I felt zero symptoms 5 days post from contracting the virus and back to my normal self.
For more information on David Sinclair’s work you can find him on:
Podcast: Lifespan with Dr David Sinclair (Spotify)
Book: Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To – David A Sinclair PhD
Joe Rogan Podcast – #1670 David Sinclair
Huberman Podcast – Dr David Sinclair: The Biology of Slowing & Reversing Ageing
This is the season where the temperature starts to drop and flu season starts to well and truly kick in. Colds, runny noses, sore throats are par for the course so during this time it is important to try and keep our health and improve our immunity. The Corona virus outbreak had us all googling ways in which we could ‘boost our immunity’.
So what exactly is ‘your immunity?’
Your immune system is made up of your bodies defence against infection and illness. It basically operates like a defence system that fights off an unfamiliar germs, bacteria or parasites. These cells operate best when they are in balance and harmony!
Can we boost our immunity?
Whilst this is an enticing idea there has been no scientific evidence to suggest we can improve the number of immune cells (white blood cells) in our body (lymphocytes and phagocytes). We can rather bolster our protection against harmful viruses and bacteria by adopting some healthy living strategies such as:
– Eating a diet high in fruit and vegetables
– Not smoking
– Maintaining a healthy weight
– Exercising regularly
– Drinking alcohol in moderation
– Practicing proper hygiene such as hand washing and cooking meats thoroughly
– Getting enough sleep
– Trying to minimise stress
1. Fresh fruits and Vegetables:
What we do know is that the greater our intake of brightly coloured fresh fruits and vegetables, the better our health, weight and immune function. Fresh fruits and vegetables are packed full of vitamins and minerals, many of which play crucial roles in our daily immune functioning. Some nutrients such as vitamin C, have specific roles in fighting off bugs and keeping our cells healthy.
To optimise our immune system we need at least 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit each day for good health, but when it comes to optimal immune function, 10 serves a day is a good target. Ten is the magic number of 80 gram serves of fruit and vegetables you should eat every day to most dramatically lower your risk of disease and death, says the Imperial College of London. That adds up to 800 grams per day of the healthy stuff!
When it comes to our meals and snacks every main meal should contain a palm size amount of whole protein (meat, fish, eggs, dairy, beans or lentils), a healthy fat (nuts, olive oil or avocado) and a variety of colourful vegetables . Mix up your colours as well as enjoying both fresh and cooked options to ensure you get a range of different nutrients from different foods. Try to incorporate a range of salads or fresh juices and grab a piece of fruit as a snack. Eating at regular times throughout the day will also support your adrenal health and balance your hormones.
Broccoli: is packed full of phenolic compounds, powerful anti-oxidants and anti inflammatories that reduce the risk or coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and asthma and keeps your cells young.
Vitamin D: you get from the sun, fatty fish, eggs or supplements. Studies have found that it does everything from improving strength in muscle and cognitive function to benefiting gut flora and preventing respiratory infections.
Fish Oil/Omega 3: can reduce the effects of a high fat diet by fighting the inflammation this causes by, spread the clearance of waste from the brain and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Magnesium: great for heart health like arrhythmias and hypertension to atherosclerosis and endothelial dysfunction.
Tumeric: an anti inflammatory and anti-oxidant that makes it a potent protector against cancers and ageing free radicals. It also improves brain function and lowers the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s and depression.
Walnuts: high in vitamin B, fibre and omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts are packed with phenolic acids, tannins and flavonoids. They boost brain power, reduce cardio vascular problems and help prevent Type 2 diabetes, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease.
Vitamin C: foods which are packed full of vitamin C include oranges, kiwi fruits, berries, tomatoes and red capsicums. They are full of anti-oxidants which offer positive nutritional benefits.
Garlic: helps to stimulate the production of macrophages (immune cells) in conjunction with vitamin D.
Iron and Zinc: are required to support proper immune function, and a deficiency may impair the ability of the immune system to ward off illness. Iron regulates cell growth and differentiation and is a structural component of many proteins and enzymes.
2. Exercise Regularly:
Just like a healthy diet, exercise can contribute to general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system. According to ‘Harvard Health Publishing’ (2014)
“it may contribute even more directly by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently’.
Studies have also been conducted into whether there is a link between elite athletes undergoing intense physical exertion and whether they are susceptible to a weakened immune system. For now, even though a direct link has not been established, it’s important to recognise that moderate regular exercise is the best course of action of healthy living and keeping your immune system in check.
Australia’s physical activity guidelines according to “The Australian Government Dept. of Health’ website states that adults between the ages of 18 to 64 should be active on most days preferably everyday of the week. Accumulate 150-300 minutes (2 ½ hours to 5 hours) of moderate physical activity and or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intense activity, or an equivalent combination of both vigorous or moderate activities each week. Try to incorporate muscle strengthening activities at least 2 times per week.
Try to include incidental exercise like taking the stairs, walking to work, getting up from your desk every 30minutes and walking around. This makes a big difference to our health and wellbeing.
3. Stress and Immune Function:
Chronic stress or long term stress has been proven to depress the immune system and increases the risk of several types of illnesses such as digestive problems, increased heart rate, hypertension, and elevated cholesterol levels. Chronic stress raises the level of catecholamines. According to Everydayhealth.com (2015):
“These hormones are released in response to physical or emotional stress. Catecholamines are hormones produced by the adrenal glands, which sit on top of the kidneys. … Catecholamines are released into the bloodstream when you’re physically or emotionally stressed”.
Being stressed out leads to increased levels of suppressor T cells, which suppress the immune system. When this branch of the immune system is impaired, you are more susceptible to viral illnesses including respiratory conditions like colds, flu, and the novel coronavirus infection. Stress leads to the release of histamine, a molecule involved in allergies. In order to manage our stress mindfulness techniques need to be practiced everyday even if it is just for 10 minutes. Try things such as yoga, meditation, breath work, stretching or if you are having trouble switching off download an app on your phone that can take you thru a guided meditation.
We all feel the benefits of a good nights sleep we wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world. Whilst more sleep won’t necessarily stop you from getting sick, skimping on it could adversely affect your immune system, leaving you susceptible to a bad cold or case of the flu.
Without sufficient sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, effectively creating an immune response. According to ‘The Sleep Foundation.org’,
“Cytokines are both produced and released during sleep, causing a double whammy if you skimp on shut-eye. Chronic sleep loss even makes the flu vaccine less effective by reducing your bodies ability to respond’.
To stay healthy during the influenza season get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep per night. This will help keep your immune system operating at it’s optimum and also protect you from other health issues such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
5. Personal Hygiene
It goes without saying that practicing good personal hygiene is one of the most effective ways to protect ourselves and others against nasty viruses and bacteria. Ensure you wash your hands before and after preparing food and going to the toilet. Sanitise your hands after going to public places or gyms and cook meat thoroughly before eating.