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Carbs, Exercise and the Fountain of Youth

Cynthia Kenyon, Ph.D., of the University of California at San Francisco, recently conducted a study on genetic triggers of -lifespan. As reported in the March/April ’11 Well Being Journal, Kenyon and colleagues experimented with roundworm C. elegans and discovered two genes that control longevity and youthfulness.

The first was dubbed “Sweet Sixteen” because it made older worms behave like teenagers. The worms usually die around day 20 of their lives, but manipulating this gene had them living six to seven times longer—equivalent in human years to 450. Kenyon said, “The gene boosts compounds that make sure the skin and muscle-building proteins are working properly, and the immune system becomes more active.”

A second gene, nicknamed the “Grim Reaper,“ turns off the Sweet Sixteen gene and accelerates the aging process. One of the most interesting findings is that insulin helped activate the Grim Reaper gene.

From those findings the researchers determined that there are ways we can turn off the Grim Reaper gene without any genetic reengineering. Because it’s turned on by insulin, the first step is to avoid large meals and simple carbohydrates, both of which produce an insulin surge. Cut starches, sweets and processed foods from your diet.

Next is exercise, which increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin. It also bolsters the immune system.

The low-insulin/longevity connection may be the reason diabetics have shorter lifespans than nondiabetics—diabetics require frequent insulin injections. 

So, if you’re interested in a long, healthy life, try not to skip too many workouts, but do skip the big slices of chocolate cake as often as possible.

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