If you go to a dermatologist or plastic surgeon because you want to look more youthful, you may end up spending hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars on treatments that will do more for your doctor's wallet than your skin!
That's because your doctor probably doesn't know the world's most powerful anti-aging secret: Your telomeres are the most important factor in determining how well your skin ages.
I saw this for myself not too long ago, when I was in Bogotá, Colombia, to speak at a Regenerative Medicine symposium. The audience was mostly dermatologists and plastic surgeons.
I told them about telomeres, and how they're the key to controlling your aging clock.
Out of about 100 doctors in the room, only 2 or 3 had ever even heard of telomeres!
Telomeres are those ticking "countdown clocks" attached to the end of each strand of DNA. They're essential for youthful cell function.
Every time your cells divide, your telomeres get shorter. And when your countdown clock hits zero, your telomeres disappear. At that point, cell division stops and the cell dies.
In other words, the shorter your telomeres, the older your cells are. That's the aging process in action.
Skin cells divide faster than any other cells in the body. They have to because they're exposed to daily wear and tear, thanks to constant exposure to a hostile environment.
Excess UV radiation, pollutants, dry air, cold, heat and wind all take a toll on your skin. And the way your skin revives itself is by constantly making new skin cells.
But after age 30, the renewal rate of your skin cells slows down up to 50%.1 Soon, older non-dividing cells outnumber younger, newer cells. When you stop producing youthful cells, your skin gets thin and starts to sag.
It gets harder for your skin to produce and retain moisture. Dryness sets in and fine lines and wrinkles appear. Especially around the eyes, forehead and lips.
But here's the great news… The secret to helping your skin look young and vibrant is to slow down the rate at which your telomeres shorten. By keeping your telomeres long, your DNA tells your body to keep producing youthful cells.
And that means younger-looking skin.
At the Sears Institute for Anti-Aging Medicine, I teach my patients a variety of ways to lengthen their telomeres. Here are two of the best telomere-boosting nutrients I've found:
1. Astragalus. This humble root is one of the most revered herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Astragalus extract contains two substances — cycloastragenolsand astragalosides — that activate telomerase to stop your telomeres from shortening.2 Telomerase is the enzyme that keeps telomeres long.
Research shows that when used topically, the extract stops cell aging and speeds up the healing of damaged tissue.3 I was so impressed with the science, I added the herb to my rejuvenating night cream.
I recommend two to three tablespoons of astragalus root powder daily (about 30-45 grams). You can usually find it already dried and ground at many health food stores or online. You can add the powdered form to various foods and prepared dishes. It has a pleasant, mildly sweet taste.
You also can take astragalus extract as a supplement. I suggest 500 mg three times a day.
2. Magnesium. Your body needs this mineral to activate telomerase. If you don't get enough magnesium, your telomeres shorten and cells age faster.4 And with 80% of the population deficient in this important mineral, chances are you're one of them.5
Good sources of magnesium are leafy greens like kale, spinach and Swiss chard. Other good choices include lentils, cashews, almonds, sesame seeds and spirulina.
But modern farming methods have depleted the soil of magnesium, so it's tough to get enough of it from your diet. And some medications, like acid blockers, antacids and antibiotics, can sap the magnesium right out of you.
You'll need to supplement. I recommend 600 to 1,000 mg per day, taken with vitamin B6 to increase absorption.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
1. Saxon SV, Etten MJ, Perkins EA. Physical change and aging: a guide for the helping professions. New York, NY: Springer Publishing; 2010:26.
2. Fauce SR, Jamieson BD, Chin AC, et al. Telomerase-based pharmacologic enhancement of antiviral function of human CD8+ T lymphocytes. J Immunol. 2008 Nov 15;181(10):7400-6.
3. Effects of topical application of Astragalus membranaceus on allergic dermatitis. Kim JH, Kim MH, Yang G, Huh Y, Kim SH, Yang WM. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2013 Feb;35(1):151-6. doi: 10.3109/08923973.2012.733708. Epub 2012 Oct 19.
4. Rowe WJ. Correcting magnesium deficiencies may prolong life. Clin Interv Aging. 2012;7:51-4.
5. Ford ES, Mokdad AH. Dietary magnesium intake in a national sample of US adults. J Nutr. 2003;121:2879-82.