If an attentive observer looks at our society from the outside, he will certainly notice a widespread obsession with the fight against aging. Experts estimate that the anti-aging market will reach $271 billion over the next five years. Even today, consumers are offered a variety of anti-wrinkle products, including hair restoration services, their colors, as well as numerous cosmetic procedures. In the future, such goods and services will be even more. At the same time, such popular creams and anti-wrinkle products are focused primarily on the external aspects of aging and eliminate only its signs, and not on the internal key factors of aging. But what does science know about aging?
Researchers have put forward numerous theories of aging with the emergence of two main categories: programmed theories of aging and the theory of errors in DNA. The programmable theories are based on the idea that aging is genetically programmed in the body and can be a by-product for reproductive reasons. The error theories are based on the concept that metabolic pathway dysfunction and the accumulation of metabolic by-products such as active oxygen forms (AFCs) or free radicals gradually impair the body’s cellular and tissue structures, which leads to the possible loss of vital functions.
To better understand the theories of aging, let us recall an integral part of it – evolution through natural selection. It is no secret that each of us has a phenotype – certain genetic characteristics that can change due to genetic mutations. Some mutations have no effect on us, unlike others. Good mutations are passed on to the next generation, but bad mutations disappear over time. Experts believe that the whole point is that some mutations that lead to the development of diseases in older age, can have a positive effect on the body at an early age. Thus, a great example is the gene mutations that cause Huntington’s disease. They improve fertility, reduce the risk of cancer and protect against malaria. Also, mutations associated with cystic fibrosis improve fertility. And these are just a few examples of many of them. Thus, our knowledge of aging is based, as it was written above, on two basic theories. But have scientists advanced in studying the nature of aging?
In 2006, scientists put forward a new theory. According to it, we age because of the activity of certain proteins and genes that are responsible for their creation. The role of these proteins is to tell the body’s cells whether nutrients are available. At the same time, some proteins are also enzymes that contribute to the emergence of chemical reactions in the body. Among such enzymes, experts are particularly interested in one called TOR. This is necessary for the human body in the early stages of development and puberty. However, the need for TOR in later life and at an older age is eliminated. Today, scientists have learned that the increased activity of this enzyme is associated with the development of many diseases, including cancer. In the course of the research, experts have found that TOR accelerates cell growth, but at the same time reduces the work of protective mechanisms, such as antioxidants. This means that DNA damage can now be seen as the result of over-active work of some enzymes and genes that are responsible for them. However, it is only the result of aging, not its causes. Experts call this a new theory of hyperfunction aging.
Despite the fact that numerous scientists in laboratories around the world are trying to unravel the cause of aging, the fact that in the near future we will be able to reverse these processes does not go back. After all, aging is an incredibly complex process. Perhaps it is a kind of payment for the survival of our species. It is also possible that it is all about selfish genes – this theory was put forward by the British biologist Richard Dawkins. According to Dawkins, all living organisms are “gene survival machines.” This means that the main purpose of all living organisms is to transfer genes, not the lifespan of a particular living being.
Regardless of what theory of aging you agree with and which you don’t, it’s worth listening to what scientists already know. And this is a lot of data about healthy aging. After all, proper nutrition, sleep, exercise and taking care of your health not only today but in the future can make your life better.