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Answering The Big Questions About Aging

Answering The Big Questions About Aging

Few of us question why we age. We want solutions and we want them now. How do we get rid of our grey hairs, treat wrinkles, and ease the pain in our aching joints? While it’s true we haven’t invented a way to time travel (yet), recent research shows the best way to understand what’s happening on the outside is to look within.

Answering The Big Questions About Aging

Can I stay feeling young even as I age?

Maybe this is obvious, but there’s no miracle pill that reverses aging. All the common advice we hear about staying physically active, mentally stimulated, and socially engaged is true. A large body of research indicates that healthy aging is a function of our genetic makeup and staying active. The jury is still out on whether staying positive helps. It definitely works for some people (while others seem to thrive with a bit of a chip on their shoulder).

That said, there’s no single type of activity that’s best for everyone. Exercises like dance, yoga, walking, hiking, running, swimming, and biking are all good. Certain supplements may help with muscle recovery (making it easier to stay active), or provide that extra energy boost we need to stay alert or get out of the house. But when it comes to healthy aging, it’s in the doing.


Do wrinkles mean I’m aging faster than somebody without them?

Aging of the skin has a great deal to do with our environment, which is why most dermatologists and skin experts recommend moisturizing and staying out of the sun. Skin wrinkles are caused by changes to the layers of the skin, and a decreased quality of those cells. In some layers, keratinocytes, a type of skin cell, are to blame for wrinkles. In other layers, collagen proteins are to blame. Either way, there is no evidence to support that skin aging happens at the same rate as the rest of our body’s tissues, but there isn’t much recent work done yet in this area.

Why do we age at all?

Researchers have identified several aging hallmarks, and if we can understand how they all relate to one another and what they have in common, it could help us age better. Here are three key hallmarks:

Put A Cap On It: Telomeres

If you follow the science around healthy aging, you’ve probably heard of telomeres. These tiny regions protect the ends of our DNA from damage. They function like little caps. But like the rest of our DNA, telomeres get old. This causes them to degrade, decline, or take on harmful behaviors. Our cells can only survive for as long as telomeres allow them to.

The Price Of Power: Oxidative Damage

Most of the energy our bodies produce depends on oxygen consumption in our mitochondria. But this energy is not without cost. These reactions also create what’s known as reactive oxygen species, which can damage our cells and tissues.

Stuff Happens: Genomic Instability

This aging hallmark is common in every organism. It’s a result of accumulated DNA damage from years of cells dividing and being exposed to environmental factors. Our innate ability to replicate and repair DNA is remarkable, but sometimes that damage goes unnoticed and gets passed onto new cells. This creates an imbalance, or genomic instability. But it’s our ability to protect DNA in the first place, before it replicates, that keeps our cells working well and helps prevent health problems.

Do we really start to die the second we’re born?

Nobody really knows for sure when we begin to age. One group of scientists reported that decline in cognitive function becomes noticeable in our early twenties, suggesting it may begin even earlier than that. Another measuring point is what the scientific community refers to as biological maturity, which happens after puberty. That’s when our bodies have completed our development into adults, and may begin to age. 

Most of the hallmarks of aging aren’t even measurable until mid-life or after. This isn’t to say there aren’t changes happening at a molecular level. But until a certain point, those changes go unnoticed.

Is there any way to age better?

It’s pretty clear now a certain molecule that is crucial to our health, also declines as we age. This molecule, known as NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), is one of the few compounds that connects all of these hallmarks of aging. NAD is not only required for things like controlling reactive oxygen species, but also promoting telomere function and genomic stability.

In 2004, Charles Brenner—our Chief Scientific Advisor—discovered nicotinamide riboside (NR) as a vitamin that increases NAD. He later discovered this vitamin encouraged NAD to continue promoting telomere function and genome stability, which extended lifespan in yeast. It stands to reason that maintaining youthful NAD levels may also help us maintain that youthful resiliency as we age.

When it comes to our health, it’s tempting to reach for temporary fixes. While some aspects of healthy aging are outside of our control, many of them are within our grasp. If we really want to age better, we have to view it like an investment. Putting in different amounts over time as needed, and collecting on it later. We don’t have to change everything overnight, but we can start somewhere and we can start soon.

8 Ways Your Body Makes Energy You've Probably Never Heard Of

8 Ways Your Body Makes Energy You've Probably Never Heard Of

Next time you’re feeling low on energy, don’t turn to caffeine, turn to ATP. 

Next time you’re feeling low on energy, don’t turn to caffeine, turn to ATP

Energy is life. Our bodies are an intricately complex system built for the essential work of generating and dispersing energy. And our mitochondria are these little energy-making machines inside almost every single one of our cells. But believe it or not, we’re the ones in control of how much energy they make. Our lifestyle habits have a huge effect on how much energy our cells create. The more active we are, the more energy our cells require, which then causes our mitochondria to increase its density to match those needs. But the reverse is also true. A sedentary lifestyle can signal to the body to create less energy, and actually inhibit our body’s natural production of its most vital energy resources.

Here’s a glimpse at what’s going on at a cellular level when it comes to energy. 

1. MitochondriaMitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell

You may remember these being referred to as the “powerhouse of the cell,” and it’s true. Without these little “organelles,” we couldn’t turn food or drinks into the energy we need to survive. 

2. The Matrix

This “mitochondrial matrix” is where we release stored energy.

The matrix is real, it’s a gel-like material, and it’s inside of every single one of your cells (with mitochondria). This “mitochondrial matrix” is where we release stored energy.  

3. Citric Acid Cycle

Citric Acid Cycle

This series of very fortunate chemical reactions is used to release some of that stored energy in the matrix. It’s so important, it goes by two names (aka the Krebs Cycle). 

4. Prokaryotic Ancestry

Even our cells have an ancestry, in this case specifically our mitochondria

Even our cells have an ancestry, in this case specifically our mitochondria. These leftover bits from the single-cell, simple organisms are the reason why mitochondria can divide and replicate themselves independently of the cells they’re in. This allows the mitochondria to adjust their shape and structure depending on our cell’s metabolic needs.

5. Fission

When mitochondria divide, it’s called fission - Tru Niagen

When mitochondria divide, it’s called fission, and it’s just one of the many ways they maintain our cells’ ability to create energy.

6. Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP)

Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP)

This molecule IS energy. Whenever you’re tired, you don’t need more caffeine, you need more ATP. Creating it is basically a highly advanced, microscopic game of hot potato. Our cells toss electrons from the carbs, fats, and proteins we consume over to oxygen molecules. Which allows the other essential ATP creation processes to complete. 

7. Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD)

This molecule is found in every living cell and helps generate ATP

This molecule is found in every living cell and helps generate ATP. NAD is an essential part of the process, but also changes in supply depending on our lifestyle habits and needs.

8. Cellular Respiration

This complicated multi-step process uses ATP, the Citric Acid Cycle, and NAD to continually break down sugar

This complicated multi-step process uses ATP, the Citric Acid Cycle, and NAD to continually break down sugar from our food and drinks and turn them into the energy we need to stay healthy. 

Energy creation begins and ends with our cells. 
Sure, daily exercise is great for that midday boost and sometimes we only have time for a caffeine rush. But if we really desire to feel more energetic throughout the day and for the rest of our lives, we shouldn’t settle for a quick fix. We need to pay attention to the parts of our bodies that create that energy and find better ways of giving them the resources they need to function at their best (so we can too). 

The Skinny On Muscles

The Skinny On Muscles

What's happening to our bodies before, during, and after exercise.

We all know exercise is good for us. We remind ourselves of it whenever we’re tempted to sleep in instead of work out or go home after work instead of to the gym. But what’s actually happening to our bodies during exercise? Does it really give us more energy or is that all in our heads? And does carbo-loading actually do anything for my workouts?

We looked behind the scenes at what’s really going on with our muscles when we exercise to address some of these questions and more.

What's happening to our bodies before, during, and after exercise

You really can’t control your heart

We have three kinds of muscles: skeletal, cardiac, and smooth. Our brains control our heart muscles and smooth muscles, but only subconsciously.

When we talk about exercising, we’re referring to our skeletal muscles, the ones we can control. And those muscles use different energy sources depending on how long and how intense your workouts are.

But monitoring your heart rate can help

A higher heart rate means more blood is pumping through our bodies. The whole reason our heart rate increases during workouts in the first place is to get more oxygen to our mitochondria (and remove CO2 waste). Monitoring heart rate during exercise can help track our exercise intensity, and whether we’re getting the most out of our workouts.

Plan time to digest

Trying to digest food while working out is hard. Plus, working out actually moves more blood to your muscles and less to your digestive organs. If you’re trying to use certain nutrients to give your workouts a boost, plan ahead by eating two hours before exercise.

Exercise and energy go hand in hand

Every exercise draws and uses energy in different ways. Aerobic workouts such as walking briskly, running, jogging, dancing, swimming, biking, or playing tennis, basketball, soccer, or racquetball, require more energy over a longer time. Your body uses oxygen to “burn” fats and sugars stored in muscle, liver, and fat tissue. It’s a process that takes longer to generate energy, but ultimately provides a long-lasting source of power.

Anaerobic workouts, such as weight lifting or sprinting, require short, intense bursts of energy.  This energy comes straight from the sugars and creatine phosphate stored in muscles themselves.

If you want to give your body the energy it needs, it helps to know where that energy is coming from in the first place.

If you want to give your body the energy it needs, it helps to know where that energy is coming from in the first place.

Weight training doesn’t burn fat

Fats aren’t metabolized during short burst, high-intensity workouts (anaerobic). That said, how much skeletal muscle mass we have is a big factor in how much “resting” energy we use. Which is why a combination of strength training and aerobic exercise is recommended, especially when trying to lose weight.

Aerobic exercises give you a better ROI

With aerobic exercises, you can draw energy from both fats and carbohydrates. And for every sugar molecule you metabolize, you can produce more cellular energy compared to anaerobic exercise.

Carbo-loading is real…sort of

Carbo-loading doesn’t help with high-intensity, short-term anaerobic workouts. That’s because carbo-loading is a process of saving up sugars to use later. By nature, anaerobic workouts are short-term, and you simply never get to tap into those reserves.

But regardless of how you feel about this trend, aerobic activities still rely on carbohydrates as fuel. So, carbo-loading before long endurance activities is helpful.

This molecule can help

Transforming this energy from food into something we can use only works if we have certain vital resources, like NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide). Without NAD, our bodies wouldn’t be able to make ATP, and ATP is cellular energy. When it comes to generating energy, NAD is just as important as the foods we eat.

When it comes to generating energy, NAD is just as important as the foods we eat.

But our supply of NAD can also change depending on our needs and lifestyle habits. So, in addition to monitoring our heart rate, and knowing where our muscles draw energy from during different kinds of workouts, it’s also worth figuring out a way to increase NAD. Whether you’re an occasional yogi or an every day runner, these elements can work together to help us maximize every kind of exercise.

How fast you run doesn’t depend on your muscles

Okay it does, but not as much as you’d think. No matter how much lifting or training we do, the main energy source our muscles need to move is a molecule called ATP. How quickly we can regenerate ATP determines how much energy we can use and how long we have before it runs out. This ultimately limits how long we can run at a particular pace.

You never “make” energy

Energy can’t be created or destroyed (first law of thermodynamics). There’s a constant amount of energy in the universe. All we’re doing when we work out is transforming one kind of energy (food) into another kind (cellular) which then powers everything we do, including moving our muscles.