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