The New Science of Staying Younger For Longer
October 28, 2008
If you are not sick of hearing me mention my recent stay at Canyon Ranch, stick around, I’m not done yet. Canyon Ranch is devoted to something they call UltraPrevention. They believe that much of the process of aging can be controlled by lifestyle, meaning that if you are willing to exercise and make careful selections about what you eat and drink (and what you don’t eat and don’t drink) that you can actually stay younger for longer. Pick me! Pick me!
Upon returning from Canyon Ranch, there’s usually a few memorable fitness or health tidbits that stick with me.
This year it was their simplified explanation of antioxidants and their evil counterparts, free radicals and how looking and feeling older (not to mention getting age-related diseases) are related to this battle.
Here’s my dummified explanation:
Free radicals form in our bodies as we process food and during other normal bodily functions. They also form from exposure to the sun, pollutants we breathe, eating processed foods, smoking, drinking too much, etc. They are also produced by stress.
Athletes, sadly, also can create free radicals through the additional stress they put on their bodies with long or intense bouts of exercise. This is known as oxidative stress. Just like a car that gets rusty from exposure to oxygen, some of us can get “rust”(arthritis) in our joints from overuse during exercise.
(I believe an excess of free radicals contributed to the early onset of arthritis in my hips from my decades of exercise and my body’s inability to get rid of free radicals.)
Free radicals sometimes weld molecules to each other – sort of like putting handcuffs on them – so they don’t function the way they are supposed to.
When free radicals weld molecules of the skin protein collagen together, the skin looses its elasticity and suppleness and becomes dry and wrinkled.
This explains where our wrinkles come from and why some people get more wrinkles, earlier than others.
This type of damage accelerates the aging process as tissues lose their function due to the steadily increasing number of free radical cells.
And it’s not just wrinkles that we get from too many free radicals in our system. It’s more serious diseases like cancer, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and Lou Gehrig’s disease. These illnesses all have a free radical component to their mechanism of development.
Lots of recent research has been devoted to fighting free radicals and the most famous free radical fighters of all, antioxidants, are my next point.
Simply put, antioxidants turn a free radical into a non-harmful cell. Antioxidants give the free radical the extra electron that it needs to balance it out.
Antioxidants are any substances that prevent or slow the oxidation process. Remember, free radicals cause oxidation – and antioxidants prevent oxidation. Antioxidants work by donating an electron to a free radical so it becomes a stable oxygen molecule.
Has your brain caught up with me yet? I know it’s complicated but stay with me.
Bottom line: Antioxidants stabilize free radicals so you are less likely to get diseases and you won’t age as fast.
There is a standard method of measuring antioxidant capacities of different foods. This capacity is called OXYGEN RADICAL ABSORPTIVE CAPACITY, otherwise known as ORAC (check out orac.org for more detailed food listings). Foods that have a high ORAC rating are things like purple fruits, fruits rich in Vitamin C, red wine and cruciferous veggies.
The higher the ORAC number – the stronger the antioxidant properties of that food.
The USDA recommends we consume 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC units daily. Probably 80% of the population is eating less than 1,000 ORAC units a day. The USDA recommends “5-a-day” fruit and vegetable servings. This consumption is an ORAC score of about 1,750 units.
Fruits and vegetables tend to have the highest ORAC values. Per 100 grams – Apples are rated a 218, Bananas a 221, blueberries 2,400.
But what fruit is the Tiger Woods of ORAC values? A newly discovered berry found in the Amazon rainforest called the Acai berry.
Acai has a 1027 ORAC score. More impressive, freeze dried Acai actually has an ORAC value of over 50,000 per 100 grams.
Why is the Acai berry such a super star antioxidant?
Fruits like the Acai berry that are exposed to strong sun face an extreme amount of ultra violet light stress. This UV light triggers free radicals to form in the fruit. Fruits, such as the Acai berry, develop high levels of antioxidant properties so they can halt the free radicals.
And this story gets better- studies have shown that the antioxidant properties are maintained even after they are eaten by humans.
One problem though is that the Acai berry goes rancid very quickly, within 24 hours after it is harvested so it must be freeze-dried there in Brazil. That’s why you will never see fresh Acai berries in our supermarkets.
Very few companies are able to maintain the ORAC values from the Amazon to your doorstep.
Anyway, I found all this out at the Ranch and came home wondering how to find myself a supply of Acai juice since I am living not so close to the Amazon rain forest.
Funnily enough my sister called the next day and described this new juice she’d been drinking that lowered her cholestoral by 30 points and took away some serious aches and pains that had plagued her for years. In two weeks!
Normally I would harangue her for jumping on this obvious juice hoax. But that was before hearing all that I heard at Canyon Ranch about the Acai berry and it’s through-the-roof antioxidant properties.
She shipped me a bottle the next day and sure enough, within one week, my knees feel less achy and my fingers, which had started to develop some stiffness, feel back to normal.
My theory is that the antioxidant capacity is so great that it immediately reduces inflammation, so you actually feel better right away.
I also need to mention that there is some strong research about Acai juice combating cancer!
A recent Acai research study found that Acai berries triggered a self-destruct response in up to 86% of leukemia cells tested in a test tube. To come to this conclusion, researchers prepared six different extracts from Acai fruit pulp, then prepared each extract at seven levels of concentration. Depending on the extract and its level of concentration, anywhere from about 56% to 86% of the leukemia cells died after 24 hours of exposure to the extract. (Del Pozo-Insfran D, Percival SS, Talcott ST. J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Feb 22;54(4):1222-9.)
No wonder Oprah featured this berry on her show a few months back!
The Anti-Aging Bottom Line: Since these results occurred in a laboratory setting more research needs to be done to determine whether they can be replicated in humans. In the meantime, know that Acai research indicates that this deep purple berry offers a rich source of antioxidants. So taking an Acai extract may help reverse the effects of free radicals in your body.
MonaVie is the one company I’ve found that has mastered the shipping of high quality Acai juice. It’s not cheap, $40 per bottle but you only need 3 ounces a day so one bottle lasts over two weeks.
Are you ready to start staying younger for longer? I am! Plus anything that makes my body feel better is immediately worth it.
MonaVie is only available through the mail so I am signing up now to distribute it. I’m convinced people will feel their aches and pains vanish!
Email me if you are interested in having an acai tasting party or if you’d like to try a bottle!