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Contrary to popular belief, our genes are not the biggest determining factor towards living a long, healthy life. Here's why!

Long-term studies of twins in Denmark and the UK have estimated that approximately 20-30% of an individual’s lifespan is related to their genes. The rest is due to individual lifestyle (including dietary) choices, behaviours and environmental factors. These and many other recent studies suggest that our own choices determine as much as 70% or more of how healthfully we live.

Men Age Differently!

Not everyone ages in the same manner and there is a gender difference when it comes to longevity, health, and aging. Since the year 2000, worldwide stats indicate women outlive men. This is partially due to the earlier onset of certain age-related diseases, especially cardiovascular disease (CVD), neurodegenerative diseases (dementia, Parkinson’s disease) and prostate issues (prostate cancer & BPH) in men.

The earlier men start thinking about how they age, the better.

Already by early middle age, men can experience accelerated ageing. It is now recommended by longevity experts for men to start protecting their heart, hormones and other age-rated biomarkers early in life. Even in their 20s is not too early! Over the last few decades, there is significant research showing an alarming decline in sperm count and fertility rates for men have declined.

What Can Happen to A Man’s Virility?

Poor diet, heavy alcohol consumption, obesity, overexposure to environmental toxins, stress and lack of quality sleep and exercise take a toll on a man’s virility. This means his strength, energy, fertility and sex drive can be affected. These are all implicated in premature ageing and are caused by low-grade inflammation and oxidative stress

 Oxidative stress, or free-radical damage, plays a key role in damaging the mitochondria. Our mitochondria are the many little furnaces found in every cell. They are the powerhouse of our cells, producing about 90% of the energy being generated in the body. 

With ongoing inflammation and oxidative stress, the mitochondria become damaged — their energy output can be severely diminished. This is a hallmark of the ageing process, resulting in excess fatigue, decreased virility and onset of most chronic diseases including prostate issues. 

Age-related mitochondrial damage has been demonstrated in human muscle beginning at approximately 40-50 years of age. A reduction in male sex hormones also begins during this time. This suggests a relationship between male sex hormonal levels and mitochondrial health.

The Role of Testosterone (T) in Male Ageing

Testosterone is considered a mainstay of a man’s virility. It has been well established that a healthy level of testosterone provides much-needed energy and decreases fatigue. Recent studies show it is involved in the protection of neurons and brain cells by suppressing oxidative stress. 

As well, research indicates low T is a potential risk factor for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disorders and age-related dementia. It has been discovered by studying type 2 diabetic men that testosterone is necessary for the proper function of the mitochondria. Low levels of T are also associated with higher oxidative stress, enhanced inflammation and increased risk of cardiovascular events.

Yet, taking testosterone directly as therapy has demonstrated no significant benefit concerning cognitive decline or physical performance and mobility in aging men. Also, there are potential drawbacks to T therapy including for those with existing prostate disease, high CVD risk and obstructive sleep apnea.

How Can Men Age Better - Naturally?

The use of herbal formulas, as well as key nutrients (i.e., Vitamin B6 and zinc), can support prostate health and balanced testosterone levels, without harmful side effects. For example, saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) extracts can help preserve testosterone levels by decreasing the activity of the enzyme responsible for converting testosterone to another sex hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). 

According to one study, saw palmetto supplementation may be useful for alleviating the symptoms of andropause by both direct and indirect regulation of testosterone production, leading to improved body composition, libido, and mood. Another study in rats with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) found that saw palmetto decreased inflammation and improved oxidative stress. 

Saw palmetto is widely available in supplement form and is often combined with other ingredients that help enhance prostate health, such as pumpkin seed extract, stinging nettle root and pygeum extract. The most effective dose is 320 mg daily of a saw palmetto extract taken with meals.

Bioavailability: Key to An Effective Multivitamin

Certain nutrients and metabolic cofactors can help increase mitochondrial ATP production, bypass cellular defects, or remove toxic free radicals. The key macronutrients needed to support mitochondrial functions are optimized B vitamins, vitamins C, E, K and magnesium

A good men’s multivitamin/mineral supplement can provide these nutrients without the addition of extra iron. Look for a men’s multi with “optimized” bioactive forms of vitamin B6 and B12 (in the methyl form), and especially with the methylated form of vitamin B9 (folate) called 5-MTHF. This is the most bioavailable form of vitamin B9 and is particularly valuable for protecting the mitochondria. It is the only form of B9 which can cross the blood-brain barrier, thereby boosting mood and cognitive wellness.

The human body has an amazing ability to repair and heal depending on the dietary and other choices we make. It’s been proven that mitochondrial dysfunction is a major cause of accelerated ageing and essentially, all chronic diseases. A man’s commitment, early in life, to incorporate healthy and protective choices may prove to be a vital step towards promoting his longevity and quality of life.

RoseMarie Pierce, B.Sc. Pharm is a holistic consultant with more than 40 years of experience in both conventional and natural medicine. Currently, she counsels and lectures on holistic health and mind/body vitality, formulates new health products, as well as offers group workshops in community-building. Know more here!

References

  1. Longevity: Extending Life Span Expectancy Disabled World
  2. Gender gap in health expectancy Eur J Ageing 7, 213–218 (2010).
  3. Accelerated DNA methylation changes in middle-aged men define sexual dimorphism in human lifespans Clin Epigenet 10, 133 (2018).
  4. Reasons for worldwide decline in male fertility Curr Opin Urol. 2020 May;30(3):296-301
  5. Impact of age, clinical conditions, and lifestyle on routine semen parameters and sperm kinematics Fertil Steril. 2018 Jul 1;110(1):68-75.e4. 
  6. Mitochondrial Structure, Function, and Dynamics: The Common Thread across Organs, Disease, and Aging Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, vol. 2018, Article ID 1863414
  7. Testosterone Upregulates the Expression of Mitochondrial ND1 and ND4 and Alleviates the Oxidative Damage to the Nigrostriatal Dopaminergic System in Orchiectomized Rats Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, vol. 2017, Article ID 1202459
  8. Role of testosterone in cognition and mobility of aging men Andrology. 2020; 8: 1567– 1579
  9. Low testosterone levels are related to oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction and altered subclinical atherosclerotic markers in type 2 diabetic male patients Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 108, pp. 155-162.
  10. Examining the Effects of Herbs on Testosterone Concentrations in Men: A Systematic Review Adv Nutr. 2021 May; 12(3): 744–765.
  11. Standardized Saw Palmetto Extract Directly and Indirectly Affects Testosterone Biosynthesis and Spermatogenesis J Med Food. 2021 Jun;24(6):617-625. 
  12. Effect of Serenoa Repens on Oxidative Stress, Inflammatory and Growth Factors in Obese Wistar Rats with Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia Phytother Res. 2015 Oct;29(10):1525-31.
  13. Determination of the potency of a novel saw palmetto supercritical CO2 extract (SPSE) for 5α-reductase isoform II inhibition using a cell-free in vitro test system Res Rep Urol. 2016; 8: 41–49.
  14. Dietary Supplements for Primary Mitochondrial Disorders Fact Sheet for Health Professionals, Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health

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