Violet Brown, “Aunt V,” a 117-year-old Jamaican woman, had a lot of spunk before she passed. She didn’t quite reach the ripe age of 122, a record held by French woman, Jeanne Calment who died in 1997, but these are ages to scoff at, should we compare them to an Indonesian man who lived to be a whopping 146 years old. Is there a secret to living well past 100? It might be intermittent fasting, according to the latest research out of Harvard university.
A study just published in the journal Cell Metabolism describes research conducted at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. It outlines dietary restriction (or genetic manipulation which mimics dietary restriction or fasting) as a possible means to reduce age-related disease. Fasting may affect cellular metabolism by altering the mitochondrial network.
Mitochondria are the energy-producing structures in cells that work in networks, just like computers, to alter how energy is used in the body. For some time, scientists have been unable to discern exactly how these mitochondrial networks work to support health. However, per the Harvard study, intermittent fasting helps to promote the creation of compounds called DR and AMPK – an energy-sensing protein called AMP-activated protein kinase. Researchers showed a causal link between dynamic changes in the shapes of mitochondrial networks and longevity.
Free Radical Reduction
Fasting also seemed to preserve mitochondrial homeostasis and reduce fatty acid oxidation. Oxidation is the process by which cells are exposed to free radicals which causes them to become sick or stressed. The free-radical theory of aging states that aging only happens because cells accumulate free radical damage over time. It would follow that reducing free radical damage at the level of the mitochondria would therefore slow or stop aging.
The study used nematode worms which normally live only two weeks to conduct the study. This allowed the scientists to observe real-time again in lab conditions. They found that periodically restricting the worms’ diets caused them to live longer.
Mimicking dietary restriction through genetic manipulation of (AMPK), maintained the mitochondrial networks in a fused or “youthful” state. Additionally, the researchers noticed that these youthful networks increased the worms’ lifespan by communicating with organelles called peroxisomes to modulate fat metabolism.
Heather Weir, lead author of the study, who conducted the research while at Harvard Chan School said,
“Low-energy conditions such as dietary restriction and intermittent fasting have previously been shown to promote healthy aging. Understanding why this is the case is a crucial step toward being able to harness the benefits therapeutically. Our findings open up new avenues in the search for therapeutic strategies that will reduce our likelihood of developing age-related diseases as we get older.”
Mixing Ancient Wisdom with Modern Medicine
Intermittent fasting has been recommended by numerous ancient cultures to promote health, but modern day medicine was uncertain of exactly how this practice worked to do so.
For example, in Ayurvedic medicine, known to be at least 5000 years old, fasting is known as one of the best ways to detox the body. Ancient Judaic texts talk about fasting to increase the speed of healing. In the Islamic tradition, Muslims observe a fast from dawn until dusk during Ramadan. There are also multiple Hindu ceremonies that incorporate fasting, and in Native American traditions, fasting was incorporated into both public and private spheres, with the first fast often taking place at the time of puberty. Fasts could last from 1 to 4 days, and was thought to be a way to contact the supernatural. Shaman regularly participated in fasting to keep their spiritual channels open.
William Mair, associate professor of genetics and complex diseases at Harvard Chan School and senior author of the study said,
“Although previous work has shown how intermittent fasting can slow aging, we are only beginning to understand the underlying biology. Our work shows how crucial the plasticity of mitochondria networks is for the benefits of fasting. If we lock mitochondria in one state, we completely block the effects of fasting or dietary restriction on longevity.”
It isn’t uncommon to find Indian sages that live to be 120+ years old. Their stories litter ancient texts. Unsurprisingly, cultures who practice fasting or restricted diets may have the highest number of centenarians. You could join them if you learn from their sage advice, and Harvard’s scientific proof that fasting works.
Biden to Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Citing Health Impact on Youth and Black People
The Biden administration is reportedly planning to propose an immediate ban on menthol cigarettes, a product that has long been targeted by anti-smoking advocates and critics who claim that the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed to Black people in the U.S.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the administration could announce a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as soon as this week.
Roughly 85 percent of Black smokers use such menthol brands as Newport and Kool, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Research has also found that menthol cigarettes are easier to become addicted to and harder to quit than unflavored tobacco products, along with other small cigars popular with young people and African Americans.
Civil rights advocates claim that the decision should be greeted by Black communities and people of color who have been marketed to by what they describe as the predatory tobacco industry.
Black smokers generally smoke far less than white smokers, but suffer a disproportionate amount of deaths due to tobacco-linked diseases like heart attack, stroke, and other causes.
Anti-smoking advocates like Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, also greeted the move to cut out products that appeal to children and young adults.
“Menthol cigarettes are the No. 1 cause of youth smoking in the United States,” he said. “Eliminating menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars used by so many kids will do more in the long run to reduce tobacco-related disease than any action the federal government has ever taken.”
However, groups including the American Civil Liberties Group (ACLU) has opposed the move, citing the likelihood that such an action could lead to criminal penalties arising from the enforcement of a ban hitting communities of color hardest.
In a letter to administration officials, the ACLU and other groups including the Drug Policy Alliance said that while the ban is “no doubt well-intentioned” it would also have “serious racial justice implications.”
“Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction,” the letter explained. “A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”
Pollution Is Making Human Penises Shrink and Causing a Collapse of Fertility, Scientists Say
With many still scoffing at the idea of rampant pollution posing a threat to humanity, a new study could drastically change the conversation: the chemicals across our environment could be the cause of shrinking human penises.
According to a new book by Dr. Shanna H. Swan, conditions in the modern world are quickly altering the reproductive development of humans and posing a threat to our future as a species.
The argument is laid out in her new book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.
The book discusses how pollution is not only leading to skyrocketing erectile dysfunction rates and fertility decline, but also an expansion in the number of babies born with small penises.
While it may seem like good fodder for jokes, the research could portend a grim future for humanity’s ability to survive.
Swan co-authored a study in 2017 that found sperm counts had precipitously fallen in Western countries by 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. In her latest book, Swan blames chemicals for this crisis in the making.
“Chemicals in our environment and unhealthy lifestyle practices in our modern world are disrupting our hormonal balance, causing various degrees of reproductive havoc,” she wrote in the new book.
“In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” she also wrote, noting that men could have only half the sperm count of their grandfathers.
Swan blames the disruption on phthalates, the chemicals used in plastic manufacturing that also have an impact on how the crucial hormone endocrine is produced
However, experts note that the proper implementation of pollution reduction measures could help humanity prevent the collapse of human fertility.
Visualizing The World’s Deadliest Pandemics By Population Impact
Humanity has been battling against disease for centuries.
And while most contagious outbreaks have never reached full-blown pandemic status, Visual Capitalist’s Carmen Ang notes that there have been several times throughout history when a disease has caused mass devastation.
Here’s a look at the world’s deadliest pandemics to date, viewed from the lens of the impact they had on the global population at the time.
Editor’s note: The above graphic was created in response to a popular request from users after viewing our popular history of pandemics infographic initially released a year ago.
Death Toll, by Percent of Population
In the mid-1300s, a plague known as the Black Death claimed the lives of roughly 200 million people – more than 50% of the global population at that time.
Here’s how the death toll by population stacks up for other significant pandemics, including COVID-19 so far.
The specific cause of the Black Death is still up for debate. Many experts claim the 14th-century pandemic was caused by a bubonic plague, meaning there was no human-to-human transmission, while others argue it was possibly pneumonic.
Interestingly, the plague still exists today – however, it’s significantly less deadly, thanks to modern antibiotics.
History Repeats, But at Least We Keep Learning
While we clearly haven’t eradicated infection diseases from our lives entirely, we’ve at least come a long way in our understanding of what causes illness in the first place.
In ancient times, people believed gods and spirits caused diseases and widespread destruction. But by the 19th century, a scientist named Louis Pasteur (based on findings by Robert Koch) discovered germ theory – the idea that small organisms caused disease.
What will we discover next, and how will it impact our response to disease in the future?
Like this? Check out the full-length article The History of Pandemics
Republished from ZH with permission.