Frame Magazine


HOW DO WE AGE?

According to latest science our DNA is not programmed to death, but is designed to repair itself and restore any damage inflicted upon us as a result of our interaction with all sorts of elements in the environment, whether diet, or pollution, or stress or lack of sleep. Each cell in our body is gifted with the genetic material that we call DNA. It has the capacity of producing all the proteins needed for the biological processes in the body, including repairing itself and reproduction. Each cell upon replication gives the daughter cells a true copy of its DNA. If the mother cell’s DNA is intact, then the daughter cells have an intact DNA, and the opposite is true. When we already have DNA damage, it is passed over to the daughter cells. This may mean abnormality in protein production that affects the biological processes, or may mean the repair mechanisms of the DNA itself are affected. When the damaging processes are in abundance and/or the repair mechanisms of the DNA are limited, this means a vicious circle has been established. There are 4 processes that could be identified that accelerate the aging process, each of them adding up to the effect of the other:

– Oxidation by free radicals: free radicals happen naturally during the biological processes, and have to be. However, nature has gifted us with natural antioxidants in the cells to neutralise these free radicals so that they do not reach the DNA. Most important to mention are Glutathione Peroxidase, Catalase and SOD. Any overload of free radicals will lead to ongoing inflammation and possibly damage to the DNA.

– Glycation: is the process of sugars getting bound to proteins and/or lipids in the absence of appropriate enzymes, rendering them non-functional. These molecules are very damaging to health, contributing to ongoing inflammation and a whole array of diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimers, and deafness. These ‘Advanced Glycation Endproducts’ can result internally in the blood stream, however, they can be produced externally through cooking by adding sugar to fat and meat for caramelization and browning of food.

– Ongoing Inflammation: whether it is due to inadequate supply of antioxidants, or abundance of free radicals, or supplying our body with too much sugar or eating inadequately cooked food, all this contribute to ongoing inflammation in the body which is the foundation of every disease known to man.

– Altered Methylation: As we are still embryos most genes are active. However, soon after birth, many of these genes are silenced by what is called ‘Methylation’ simply because they are no more needed. As we grow older, more genes are silenced especially after the age of 25. Accelerated Methylation means more genes of our DNA being blocked and this contributes to aging. With ongoing inflammation, the Methylation process of the DNA is altered and accelerated.

It is important to note that we have very powerful cells in the body called ‘Stem Cells’. These cells reside in many tissues of our body and have the capacity to re-differentiate and regenerate the tissues that are struggling with inflammation and damage. When the DNA of these Stem Cells is damaged, our body has lost a powerful tool to restore itself. Another point to note, that the mitochondria where energy is produced for all thinkable biological processes have DNA with limited capacity to repair itself. When the mitochondrial DNA is damaged, also our energy production is reduced. When we are still infants, we are exposed to environmental damaging effects on the body, however, the DNA is fully functional and the child can counteract these damages. However, the older the child grows and the more exposed they are to these damaging processes, either through diet or lifestyle or pollution, slowly but surely they will have DNA damage which results in reduced capacity of the DNA to repair itself. Slowly, slowly, aging manifestations kick in. The more the balance is tipped towards damage rather than repair, the closer we are to feel sick rather than healthy, and it is a vicious circle that needs to be taken care of actively. From here it lies close at hand that prevention is the best cure. When we relieve ourselves from environmental factors that increase the oxidation and pro-inflammation load, and supply ourselves with adequate diet and nutritional products, relieve ourselves from emotional and physical stress, do exercise, relieve our mind with relaxation exercises and meditation, PLUS enough sleep, we give our body the possibility to restore itself and get back to health. The sooner you do that, the better. (By Maggie Pimm)