Theories of Aging: Anti-Oxidize Me

photo from Ostenser on

photo from Ostenser on

Every where you turn you hear about anti-oxidants. Red wine, green tea, and fruits that have just been discovered deep in a jungle all promise to slow aging. What is the link between anti-oxidants and aging?

In 1954, Dr. Denham Harmon proposed the Free Radical Theory of Aging. It holds that our own metabolisms cause us to age. When cells use oxygen, they leave behind free-radicals, charged particles that can go on to create chemical reactions that may damage a cell’s fats, proteins and even DNA. Anti-oxidants neutralize free radicals so they don’t cause damage. The Free Radical Theory of Aging holds that even though our bodies create natural anti-oxidants, damage accumulates and causes cells to age.

So all you have to do to slow aging is take in lots of anti-oxidants, right? Studies have shown limited success for eating foods high in anti-oxidants, but what if you could change a cell’s metabolism in the first place? That is what may happen in caloric restriction (click here for more), and a recent study that suggests a molecule produced in our own cells, α-KG, might turn down a cell’s metabolism and cause less oxidation from the start. When the molecule was added to culture dishes where nematodes lived, the small worms lived up to 70% longer. What if we could grow or implant more α-KG in our cells? It would be like an internal fountain of youth.

And what about the anti-oxidants we produce on our own? The protein Nrf2 in a cell’s nucleus responds to high levels of free radicals in the cell and ramps up the cell’s own  anti-oxidant production. But Broccoli, Turmeric, green tea, coffee and red wine also stimulate this protein. Those foods are not necessarily high in anti-oxidants but may work better than taking supplements and vitamin pills.

We’ve yet to study α-KG in humans and work still needs to be done on the role of miracle foods that could stimulate our inner anti-oxidant sources, but it seems the free radical theory of aging is here to stay. I have decided that characters in my novel who are biologically immortal must have slower, more efficient metabolisms, but as we’ve seen from my Theories of Aging post series, there is probably more than one cause of aging and I’ll continue to explore them in this series.


Cellular Compound May Extend Lifespan Without Need For Strict Dieting

Mitchell Leslie

Free Radicals: How They Speed the Aging Process

David Perlmutter

One response to “Theories of Aging: Anti-Oxidize Me

  1. Pingback: Antioxidants and Cancer-Too Much of a Good Thing? | The Phoenix Series·

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