If scientists could increase levels of a hormone that makes you live longer, would you want it? Without a doubt, many of us would welcome the boost in the hopes of adding a few extra years to our lifespan. Whether or not this can be done, Yale University researchers aim to find out.
In recent studies conducted by the Yale School of Medicine, researchers isolated a hormone produced in the thymus gland that may actually extend the life of humans. The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Jan. 11, 2016 suggest that by boosting levels of the hormone, fibroblast growth factor 21, or FGF21 in the elderly, they may actually live longer. The hormone known for its ability to strengthen immune function stimulates T-cell production and induces weight loss in individuals as well.
How FGF21 Works
Special cells, known as T cells are developed through the body’s immune system as part of the functioning thymus organ. The hormone FGF21 aids in T cell production, which is used to fight infection in the body. The thymus, a lymphoid organ that eventually shrinks and is replaced by fat is largest in children. As we age however, the organ loses most of its ability to produce T cells. This reduction in T cells in an aging population leads to weakened immune function and susceptibility in the body to infection and disease.
By essentially “reversing” the aging process, Yale researchers worked to find out if increasing FGF21 levels might actually stimulate T cell production. Under the supervision of Vishwa Deep Dixit, professor of comparative medicine and immunobiology at Yale School of Medicine, a team studied the impact of increasing FGF21 levels on older laboratory mice, and the immune system. The results, (which found that the mice lived 40% longer), according to Dixit were promising for older individuals and those with stressed immune systems. “We found that FGF21 levels in thymic epithelial cells is several fold higher than in the liver — therefore FGF21 acts within the thymus to promote T cell production…Elevating the levels of FGF21 in the elderly or in cancer patients who undergo bone marrow transplantation may be an additional strategy to increase T cell production, and thus bolster immune function,” he said.
Dixit also notes that FGF21, produced in the liver as an endocrine hormone may help treat obesity and prevent type-2 diabetes. Because the metabolic hormone improves insulin sensitivity and increases with a lower intake of calories, fat can be burned when glucose is low. Furthermore, studies reveal that FGF21 works in the body to suppress appetite and may also help contribute to the protection of the cardiovascular system.
Far Reaching Effects For Longevity
Future studies will explore how FGF21 works to protect the thymus from aging, and whether boosting the hormone pharmacologically can extend the human lifespan by strengthening immune function in seniors. “We will also look to developing a way to mimic calorie restriction to enhance immune function without actually reducing caloric intake,” Dixit adds.
As early as 1934, scientists have known about the connection between a low calorie diet and longevity. By limiting the calorie intake of laboratory mice, early researchers found that the rodents could live twice as long as those fed a traditional diet. Present day analysis has discovered that the hormone FGF21 may be responsible.
As we age, our bodies are constantly changing. Many of our systems begin to function differently as the demand for energy and activity changes as well.
Systems affected by aging may include:
Circulatory System: The heart works less efficiently to pump blood that carries oxygen and nutrients through the body. Feelings of fatigue, shortness of breath, numbness and dizziness may occur.
Digestive System: The body loses important enzymes necessary for digestion. Bloating, gas, diarrhea, and feelings of fullness may result.
Skin and Hair Regeneration: Skin becomes wrinkled and hair loss occurs because of the body’s loss of collagen and other key nutrients. Environment and toxins breakdown hair and skin as well.
Cell Regeneration: Cells require proper nourishment and protection. Pollution and toxins from food, air, and water can cause damage to cells.
Supporting Nutritional Needs As We Age— Naturally
ZYMACTIVE DOUBLE STRENGTH – 30 TABS – NATURAL FACTORS
This unique formula promotes healthy digestion, joint health, and immune function through potent enzymes working systematically in the body.
AGED GARLIC EXTRACT FORMULA 105 DETOX & ANTI-AGING – 200 CAPSULES – KYOLIC
No odor aged garlic, green tea extract, and other vitamins combine to support healthy cholesterol levels, nerve function, and antioxidant protection.
VEINSENSE – 60 VEG CAPS – WOMENSENSE – NATURAL FACTORS
Supports the structure and integrity of veins with diosmin and other phytonutrients, ground finely for optimal absorption and utilization.
As research continues to uncover the secrets to longevity and wellness, maintaining a healthy lifestyle through proper diet and exercise is key. Supporting the body through natural nutritional supplements may slow some of the effects of aging.
Additional Reading: Thirsting for the Fountain of Youth – Myth and Reality