Have you ever wondered why one person can seem markedly older than another person who is within the same age bracket? The answer may be that the one who appears to have aged faster has been exposed to more environmental toxins. New research concludes that avoiding these toxins may be the secret to slowing down the aging process.
The class of factors in the environment that accelerate aging are called gerontogens. In the study published in Trends in Molecular Science, scientists found cigarette smoke, ultraviolet rays from the sun, chronic HIV infections and chemotherapy definitely age people prematurely. Conversely, exercise was shown to protect cells and delay aging.
According to author Dr. Norman Sharpless, genetics accounts for only 30 percent of aging; therefore, 70 percent comes from the environment and from events such as injuries. Beth Shaw, renowned naturopath and founder of YogaFit, agrees, telling Live in the Now that environmental toxins age people biologically. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that they look older, but their biological age will increase, a condition that is determined by examining the health of the cells,” she says.
Gerontogens Can Be Identified With Glowing Mice
Sharpless compares the connection between exposure to gerontogens and aging to that of exposure to carcinogens and cancer. Just as our world contains many carcinogens and many are not identified, so also the environment is likely filled with gerontogens and many are unknown. However, scientists will soon be able to better test the effects of agents in the environment that they suspect may rob people of their youth.
In aging, the body experiences a phenomenon called senescence, a process where healthy cells are damaged and lose their ability to divide. Over time, these harmed cells build up in the body and release hormones that cause inflammation. As people age, these cells accumulate and contribute to aging as well as many maladies associated with it.
Senescent cells contain large amounts of a protein called p16. Sharpless’ lab has now developed a strain of mice that manufactures a glow-producing substance when their body makes this telltale protein. Moreover, the glow is easily quantifiable, an advantage that will make it easy to assess the effects of environmental toxins on the body. The mice glow when they get older and the number of senescent cells build up, but they also glow at a younger age when exposed to gerontogens.
Suggestions for Avoiding Gerontogenes
As more scientists use the glowing mice to identify factors that slow or accelerate aging, the public will be made aware of what agents to avoid along with what practices to incorporate into their lifestyle. Based on the recent study, people have one more reason to avoid cigarette smoke and engage in regular exercise.
Shaw provides some additional guidelines for limiting exposure to environmental toxins. “I always suggest that people change or clean their furnace or A/C filters at least once every two months. You would be surprised how a good filter will change the quality of air in a house. Also, try to avoid using fabric softeners, artificial air fresheners or other items that use synthetic fragrances. They can contaminate the air you are breathing and seriously impact your biological age.”
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.