Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Real Cause of Aging

Scientists have offered a multitude of  reasons for why we age. The factors that are involved in aging range from a lack of sufficient antioxidant activity with the passing years, to a slow destruction of the cell’s power factories, the mitochondria. The various aging theories have in turn, fostered various products pitched to slow or even avoid aging. That few, if any, work shows that the aging process is far more complex than many believe. In a new study, published in the journal, Molecular Systems Biology, scientists think they have found the actual root cause of aging cells.Their research involved computer modeling, cell cultures, and genetically-altered mice.

What they found was that cellular aging begins when damage to vital DNA, which is required for cell repair and replication, is sensed. The stressed  cell sends out distress signals, which are picked up by the mitochondria of the cells.The mitochondria respond by increasing the release of free radicals, byproducts of oxygen metabolism. The free radicals then act to either force the cell to repair itself, or to self-destruct. This is actually a protective device of the body, since damaged cell DNA can lead to cell mutations or cancer.

Those people lucky enough to live to 100 or more do so because they have better cellular DNA repair systems. While this effect is genetic, one implication of this research is that if you can do everything needed to protect your cell DNA, you have a greater chance of living a longer life. One way to do this is to maintain fitness by exercising regularly. Eating a clean, nutritious diet is also essential. Ensuring a generous intake of dietary antioxidants may help prevent excessive DNA damage, too.

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