If one visits various dictionaries, the definition of senescence typically includes reference to the process of aging and the degenerative loss of various body functions or processes. In brief,”one who begins to age”. Age-related loss of function is a trait of virtually all organisms that age. In humans, age-related degeneration gives rise to a host of well-recognized challenges: atherosclerosis and heart failure, osteoporosis, macular degeneration, pulmonary insufficiency, renal failure, neurodegeneration (for example Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases) and various others. These changes begin to show them typically mid-life beginning in the 50-60 years of age range. From a pathological standpoint it is typically about debilitating losses of tissue or cellular function.
Alternative thinking regarding the actual process of senescence began however in the late 1990’s proposing a paradigm shift. This shift in thinking is based upon the now known fact that senescence is actually a mechanism to eliminate unwanted cells and can be used as an approach to impact cell-killing diseases. It can achieve this though adjustment of cellular tissue environments where, for instance, cancer cells initiate. As senescent cells can inhibit their own proliferation, induce their own elimination by attracting cells from the immune system and even promote tissue regeneration, this “cellular senescence” has now become part of the definition. Solely thinking of senescence as an aging process is no longer appropriate.
As offered in lyrics of a song “Good Times” first published in 1990 by David Baerwald and Larry Klein, “The more I learn, I find how little I really know”.
How it is then that nutrition can support the physiology of aging and the newer more wide-scoped definition of senescence? When should we start using nutrition and diet to allow the beneficial effects on aging and senescence? Nutritional recommendations may be made to both older patients trying to maintain health and to younger patients seeking to forestall the effects of aging.
Human requirements for energy and specific micronutrients change during their lifetime as a result of altered metabolism, diminished energy expenditure and changes in behavioral patterns. Although the optimal adjustment in micronutrient intake for each age group, particularly in individuals older than 65 years of age, has yet to be defined, continued learning is occurring and new guidelines are regularly offered. Pharmacogenomics theory and research is just one of the approaches being utilized for evaluating and defining the optimal adjustments.
Although the process of aging is a very complex and controversial topic, three areas that mostly impact the process are cellular degradation, accumulated oxidative stress and the commonly accepted notion that there is a limit to DNA replicative capacity as we age. Although nutrient excess and deficiency is only one area that contributes to accumulated oxidative stress, nutritional balance appears to offset the other accumulated oxidative stressors associated with psychological stress, sleep quality and quantity, environmental toxins and also including infectious disease and trauma.
Regardless of age, metabolism of macronutrients and micronutrients can greatly impact the process of longevity and well-being. The macronutrients represented by carbohydrates, fats and proteins must be in balance with many micronutrients that include water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin-like substances, antioxidants, many macrominerals, trace elements, essential amino acids and essential fatty acids.
Many different approaches to food consumption can support the body’s appropriate age-related macronutrient needs of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. The quantity required on a daily basis is well defined.
Levels of required daily recommended levels of consumed micronutrients have also been defined. There are as many as sixty different micronutrients that are required for nutritional balance that must be gained from diet to support those other micronutrients that the body synthesizes. Whether the goal is regeneration or reducing debilitation of cells in the senescence process, nutrition and diet are components in the success equation.
Healthcare professionals who are nutrition-focused allow their patients, customers or clients to live longer, be healthier and advance active wellness.
It is possible many of those professionals who strive to implement this nutrition-based attitude in their practice may have embraced “the more I learn, I find how little I really know”.