There are several genes known as “longevity” genes. Specific variants of these genes have an association with an increased likelihood of living to be 100 or more. And…more importantly, these genetic variants have links to a longer ‘healthspan’.
The term longevity refers to lifespan. People in the US, on average, live to a little over 80 years of age, but some people live to 100+ and are still relatively healthy. You may immediately assume that everyone who lives longer did everything right- exercised, meditated, ate the very best diet, etc – but that isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, researchers estimate that about 25% of the variation in lifespan is due to genetics.[ref]
What does it take to live a long, healthy life? Avoiding smoking, not drinking too much alcohol, and not getting cancer are all important for the first 80 years. Beyond that, genetics becomes really important.
What if you don’t have the longevity gene variant? Understanding the genes involved in longevity points to some ‘lifehacks’ for increasing healthy aging for everyone. For example, there are supplements, such as green tea extract, that increase FOXO3.
What are the odds of living to 100?
Someone born a hundred years ago has less than a 1% chance of being alive today. In contrast, if you are female and born in 1973 (46 years old), your odds of living to 100 are 20%. (Here is a nice chart of your odds of living to 100 based on your birth year.)
Thus, if your odds of living to 100 are 20%, carrying a genetic variant that increases that doubles the odds is fairly significant! Retirement planning is a must.
Keep in mind, though, that while genetics does play a role in how long you live, there are lots of other health and lifestyle factors that are also important. This is just about statistics here.
What needs to go on at a cellular level for healthy aging?
Cells accumulate damage and their replacement happens all the time, at any age. The cells in your intestines turn over fairly quickly, with a cellular turnover rate of 2-6 days. Fat cells turnover every 8 years. In contrast, most brain cells never are replaced.[ref][ref]
When cells divide, the DNA needs to be copied correctly. Yep – mitosis, you learned about it in high school biology. Errors in the DNA copy mechanism occur, and if left uncorrected, the cell may need to go through apoptosis (cell death). DNA errors that occur in specific genes are what causes cancer…Avoiding cancer is important for longevity.
One way to increase lifespan in animals in a lab is to decrease calories. Numerous studies with lots of different types of animals have looked into calorie restriction — except for humans. A couple of the theoretical reasons for why calorie restriction increases lifespan include the changes to IGF1 (insulin-like growth factor 1) and autophagy.[ref] Autophagy is the cellular process of cleaning up damaged organelles and recycling cellular waste.
When it comes to the genetic variants linked with greater longevity, researchers show that genes involved in apoptosis, tumor suppression, regulating growth, and heart health are important.
Carrying the genes that increase my chance of living to 100 has changed my attitude and way of thinking about getting older. Planning for retirement suddenly became even more important!
Diets that increase FOXO3 and IGF1:
The Okinawan Diet is thought to promote healthy longevity, in part, by affecting FOXO3. The diet focuses on fresh vegetables, fish, lean meats, omega-3 fats, and unrefined carbohydrates.
Ketosis is theorized to decrease IGF1 and enhance FOXO3. Therefore, a ketogenic diet or intermittent/periodic fasting could increase longevity.[ref][ref]
Supplements that increase FOXO3:
Green tea polyphenols (EGCG) have found to increase FOXO3 levels.[ref]
Astaxanthin, naturally found in shrimp, salmon, and red algae can increase FOXO3 levels.[ref] If you aren’t getting enough astaxanthin from your diet, you can get it as a supplement.
Berberine, a supplement, is often used for blood glucose regulation. Research shows that it may enhance FOXO3A.[ref] You can get berberine as a supplement on Amazon or at your local health food store.
Genetic variants associated with longevity:
If you are interested in learning about your genetic variants, you can find them on GeneticLifehacks.com here…Longevity and Genetics: FOXO3, CETP, IGF1, and more
(Originally published on GeneticLifehacks.com)