Lt General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior (R) speaks with Dr David Sinclair after a lecture titled “Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To”, at Majlis Mohamed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Hamad Al Kaabi / UAE Presidential Court

Abu Dhabi: A leading epigeneticist has commended the UAE’s pioneering genetics data collection and analysis efforts, and also shared his learnings on how to delay aging.

Speaking yesterday during a Ramadan session of Majlis Mohamed Bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi, Dr David Sinclair, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School in the US and co-director of its Paul F. Glenn Centre for Biology of Aging Research, has also held up fasting as one of the key tools that are currently available to delay aging.

“Aging is not inevitable. It is a treatable medical condition. There is no law of biology that says we must age at the rate at which we do. This is what an increasing number of scientists are coming to believe, thanks to a better understanding of why we age and how to reverse it,” Dr Sinclair said.

Upcoming advancements

“I have no doubt, based on what I have seen in my life, and in companies now emerging around the planet, that soon, definitely within the next decade, we will start to see changes in what we can achieve in our lifetimes. So a 70-year-old will no long have to worry about heart disease and cancer, and an 80-year-old will look forward to beginning a new life, raising their great-grandkids and contributing to society, and even a 90-year-old can look forward to many decades ahead. That future is a certainty, and this change in medicine is coming,” the scientist said.

The genetics expert, and bestselling author of ‘Lifespan: Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To’ has spent three decades conducting research on aging, and he urged residents to stay healthy and alive until age reversal technologies actually ‘arrive’ through scientific advancement.

Emirati efforts

He also praised the Emirati Genome Project, which he said would play a big role in ensuring a healthy future for the population.

“I want to commend the UAE for being a centre for learning, the advancement of technology, and a role model for other nations around the globe,” Dr Sinclair said.

“[We can soon expect massive changes in medicine] through the development of genomic technology, which the UAE is very advanced in – probably the leading country in the world in genetics – but also advancements in artificial intelligence, and the ability to read the structures of the cell in atomic detail,” he added.

Majlis series

Majlis Mohamed bin Zayed is an ongoing series that aims to address topics relevant to those living in the UAE through conversations with leaders and experts. The third lecture in its 2023 Ramadan series was attended by Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, and Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence.

Theory on aging

Dr Sinclair, has attracted a lot of attention his theory, called the Information Theory of Aging, which proposes that aging is due to a loss of information, not cellular damage. Calling it epigenetic noise, Dr Sinclair says this effect causes DNA to get bundled up over time. As a result, cells read the wrong genes at the wrong time and lose their identities, becoming senescent “zombie” cells that cause aging.

According to Dr Sinclair, broken DNA drives the changes commonly thought of as aging. The researcher claimed that a recent discovery by another researcher in his lab has found that by turning on three embryonic genes – called O, S, and K – the age of tissues can be reversed by 75 per cent in six weeks. The finding has helped restore eyesight in aged mice, and current studies are focussing on results in non-human primates.

“Before we knew why cancer happens, for instance, we considered it just part of life. Now, we correctly call cancer a disease and fight against it with all our might. We don’t generally speak of, or think of, aging in this way. But we should. For what is a disease but a condition that prevents the body or mind from working normally? We refer to heart failure, dementia, stroke and diabetes as diseases, forgetting that 80 per cent is caused by aging. Reverse aging and these diseases will go away,” Dr Sinclair said.

Dr Sinclair advised attendees at the majlis to stay healthy.

“The goal for the rest of us should be to stay alive until age reversal technologies arrive. The best way is to put the body in a state of perceived adversity, by eating less often, eating the right foods, exercising, and taking supplements and medicines shown to retard the effects of aging,” he advised.

How to slow aging

• Fasting: This is one of the best ways to slow aging. It turns on the body’s defenses against aging.

• Plant foods: Plants, when they are stressed, make chemicals that turn on the body’s aging defenses, including molecules like NAD and sirtuin. You can find these molecules in olive oil and very colourful vegetables, so consume these.

• Adversity mode: Put your body in adversity mode. Today’s lifestyle is too easy, and it tells our bodies to bot fight gaining because everything is great.

• Eating: Don’t eat three big meals a day. Limit your eating window as well.

• Exercise: Exercise and stretch regularly. It makes the body fight against aging and turns on protective longevity genes. Aim for at least three sets of 15-minute high-intensity exercise three times a week, which is sufficient to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease by 35 per cent.

• Measure regularly: Measure your biological age, then make changes to optimise health. This process can be improved with regular testing.

• Supplement: Supplement your diet to boost helpful enzymes and molecules, and limit harmful ones. They help activate the body’s defenses against aging.

• Sugar: Avoid sugar and refined grains. Sugar is a real problem, and it binds to proteins, causing many diseases.

• Mediterranean diet: Opt for a Mediterranean diet that includes primarily plants and plant products. Alternatively, go vegan or vegetarian.

• Animal protein: Too much protein makes the body grow fast, but this does not fight aging.

• Snacking: Avoid snacks. Give your body a rest from food. If you feel puckish, have a tea or a coffee.

• Activity: Keep moving. Sitting is almost as bad as smoking for longevity.

• Muscle mass: Maintain muscle mass, especially as we lose a lot of it after a certain age.

What supplements to take

These do not replace exercise and fasting, but they work to enhance the age-defying effects of healthy lifestyles.

• NAD boosters like NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide), NR and NaR (1,000 milligrams a day)

• Berberine and metformin (1,000 milligrams a day)

• Resveratrol and fisetin (500-1,000 milligrams a day)

• Spermidine (3 milligrams a day)

• Vitamin D3 + K2 (10,000 units a week)

• Vitamins B6, B9, B12

• Alpha lipoid acid (500 milligrams a day)

• Omega 3-6-9 fatty acids (500 milligrams a day)