If we walk the streets and ask people what they strive for in life and what is the ultimate goal of their daily work and efforts, the majority of answers could be the achievement of physical and mental comfort. The same old comfort zone that has become known over the past decade as the worst enemy of productivity and prosperity. During stressful rainy days, many of us can not wait to get back home, back to the comfort zone where we can sit in a comfy chair with a warm, soft blanket by the window, sip a hot beverage and read our favorite crime novel or watch a new episode of our favorite show. But guess what, this state of comfort, when you relax in your armchair and eat a warm cake or sandwich instead of working out at the gym, taking a cold shower or studying something, actually makes you older.               

 Let me explain what happens so that you know that comfort not only thwarts your plans, hopes and dreams, but also the epigenetic status of your cells. In the remainder of this text, I will briefly summarize the thoughts and research of Prof. David Sinclair, an expert and pioneer in the field of aging research, to illustrate my point. You can dive deep into his numerous publications and interviews, but here is a lay explanation of many of his and his colleagues’ findings.                                 

There are myriad theories of aging, ranging from DNA damage and mutation accumulation to telomere shortening, free radical damage, lipid oxidation, mitochondrial dysfunction, and several others. Most striking, however, is the theory of epigenetic changes, as they are so obvious that epigenetic markers can easily be used to determine a person’s biological age (tests used in criminal medicine, for example). In other words, the cells’ genes are still present without any special insertions or deletions. However, the cells cannot read this DNA properly and identify their place in the world and which differentiation path they should follow (are not we all like a senescent cell with altered epigenetics sometimes?)



In layman’s terms, epigenetic markers are blanks and punctuation marks that allow genes to be read like a book that makes sense and describes a particular story. Negatively charged DNA is wrapped around positively charged proteins called histones. When it is wrapped tightly, DNA is hard to read, but when it is loose, it is easy to read and understand. Tighter wrapping is provided by methylation of the histones (i.e., adding a positive charge to the histones provides a stronger attraction to the negatively charged DNA wrapped around them) and deacetylation of the histones (similar increase in positive charge). Increasing the availability of DNA for transcription is accomplished by acetylation of histones. Prof. Sinclair and other colleagues have found that senescent cells exhibit reduced global heterochromatin (tightly wrapped inactive DNA), changes in histone marks, global DNA hypomethylation with CpG island hypermethylation 3 Although research on this topic is quite complex and yields very multifaceted results, the main players involved in aging can be traced back to the three major players: Sirtuins, AMP – kinases and mTORs.

What does it all have to do with a soft chair and a cozy evening at home? I know you may have already lost track of the story. But just read a few more scientific facts.

All organisms on planet Earth, starting with ancient bacteria, can exist in two modes. The first mode, which can be briefly described as “protect and repair”, and the second mode “grow and reproduce”. Speaking of the analogies and patterns I discussed in the previous blog: this basically parallels our sympathetic (fight and flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous systems. The first mode can be thought of as a hungry and cold (or hot) animal or ancient human being loitering around trying to find some protein food (i.e., his prey) to bring home to his wife and offsprings, while suddenly encountering a danger he needs to escape. This is the full activation of the survival mode in action. Remarkably, it is under these conditions that the aforementioned epigenetic factors are activated in such a way as to reverse epigenetic marks and provide the body’s cells with a “younger looking” epigenetic methylation and acetylation profile! Interestingly, throughout the animal kingdom, from mice to humans, females tend to have a longer life expectancy than males. In my opinion, it may be an evolutionary gift to the females to even their odds with those of the males, since from an evolutionary and historical perspective, they have to spend much more time in a “rest and reproduce” mode than the males do.

Reducing calories intake, avoiding protein foods (go vegan, yeah!), cold or hot showers, physical exercise, and new exciting experiences can actually reverse the epigenetic aging pattern of your cells! 

So get out of your chair and your comfort zone! 

Go sailing!

Go running!

Jump in the snow!

Stay hungry!

Stay young!




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