Longevity, Micronutrients and OPCs

The human body may succeed in overcoming deficiencies in vitamins and minerals for a short period by redirecting their use to the most critical bodily functions and laying a claim on those that are still available. This short-term gain in survival takes place at the expense of optimal longevity.
  • Excerpt

In 2006, the renowned American biochemist Bruce Ames (1928), noted that “inadequate dietary intakes of vitamins and minerals are widespread.” Deficiencies in micronutrients cause damage to your DNA, which leads to chronic metabolic disruption, including the decay of the mitochondria, the units in our cells that produce energy. Add to this the ensuing oxidative stress, cellular aging and you end up with an increased risk of diseases such as cancer. Ames proposed that “DNA damage and late onset disease are consequences of a triage allocation response to micronutrient scarcity.” Triage allocation means that the body will try to overcome a deficiency in certain micronutrients by selectively “allocating” them to the most critical biological functions and by laying a claim on those that are still available. Although this strategy does produce short-term survival, Ames hypothesized that “micronutrient deficiencies that trigger the triage response would accelerate cancer, aging, and neural decay […].”

Overcoming micronutrient deficiencies by Triage

In his famous article, “Low micronutrient intake may accelerate the degenerative diseases of aging through allocation of scarce micronutrients by triage,” the world-renownd biochemist Bruce Ames asked: “[i]s there an explanation for the observation that many micronutrient deficiencies are associated with chromosome breaks and cancer in humans, cause DNA damage in rodents or human cells in culture, and, where assayed, cause early senescence?” The best answer to this question, so concluded Ames, can be found in the idea that “DNA damage and late onset disease are consequences of a triage allocation mechanism developed during evolution to cope with episodic micronutrient shortages. For example, living creatures always have required ≈15 metals/minerals for their metabolism, which are distributed very unevenly throughout the Earth. Thus, episodic shortages probably were common, as probably also was the case for vitamins and other essential micronutrients.” (1) This aspect of the quest for survival is known to favor short-term success at the expense of long-term health when they are in conflict.

Ames provides various examples of the triage allocation of micronutrients in various fields of the bodily systems. In the realm of using food for energy and growth, enzymes involved in energy production would be favored over DNA-repair enzymes. In the bloodstream, red blood cells would be favored over white ones, thereby producing less resistance to inflammatory agents such as bacteria. In organs, the heart would be favored over the liver. The latter mechanism is well known. When oxygen delivery to the tissues is inadequate, which happens in conditions of severe shock, vital organ function is maintained by sending organ blood flow primarily to the heart, brain, and adrenal glands and away from other nonvital organs, such as the kidneys. Similarly, under conditions of micronutrient deficiency, organs such as the liver lose some of them first, before other more vital organs do so. These deficiencies may accelerate a breakdown of the energy-producing units in the cells (mictochondria) and thus increase the risk of premature aging and degenerative diseases, including cancer and neural decay. This mitochondrial breakdown is enhanced by oxidative damage to DNA, RNA and cell membranes. 

The list of adverse effects that occur in case of micronutrient deficiencies is endless, but we pick a few from the examples provided by Ames. Magnesium Deficiency has been associated with colorectal and other cancers, hypertension, osteoporosis, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, mitochondrial DNA damage, premature senescence, chromosome breaks, increased blood pressure, inflammation, and decreased resistance to oxidants. Vitamin D deficiency has been estimated to account for 29% of cancer mortality in males and has been strongly associated with colon, breast, pancreatic, and prostate cancer. It also has been associated with a variety of diseases with long latency periods, including cardiovascular disease. Calcium deficiency has been associated with chromosome breaks and diabetes in humans and colon cancer in mice. Selenium deficiency in mice was shown to induce DNA damage and oxidative stress. Potassium in table salt used by elderly men was associated with a 40% decrease in cardiovascular disease compared with normal table salt. Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency is associated with melanoma and other cancers as well as cognitive dysfunction. Vitamin B12 deficiency, which is common in the general population, is associated with cognitive dysfunction and multiple sclerosis, and induces chromosome breaks. Iron deficiency, which is the most common micronutrient deficiency in the world, increases the risk of anemia. Zinc inadequacy causes the release of oxidants, resulting in significant oxidative damage to DNA. Zinc deficiency also causes chromosome breaks in rats and is associated with cancer in both rodents and humans

Given the fact that in Western populations inadequate dietary intakes of vitamins and minerals are widespread, most likely due to excessive consumption of energy-rich, micronutrient-poor, refined food, Ames’ solution is quite simple. He recommends that a MVM [Multi-Vitamin-Mineral] supplement should be part of leading a healthy lifestyle. Since evidence is accumulating that a MVM supplement, or smaller combinations of vitamins and minerals, improves long-term health, reduces heart disease, cancer, and cataracts and improves immune function, this recommendation should most certainly be followed by those who consume inadequate diets. According to Ames, other useful supplements should provide fiber and omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA] and docosahexaenoic acid [DHA], which appear to be important for brain function and have potent antiinflammatory activity. Last but not least, “advice to take MVM supplements, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acid supplements should always be coupled with advice to eat a good diet, because we also need other nutrients and probably phytochemicals that may not be present in supplements.”

The case for MVM & OPCs

Yes, indeed, …., phytochemicals! Also known as botanicals or plant substances. Most certainly they form part of a “good diet,” but because it’s rather difficult to define and steadily maintain a “good diet,” many phytochemicals have been made available in the form of food-supplements. In fact, one of these phytochemicals has been around since the early 1950s. First in the form of herbal medicines and since the late 1980s also in the form of dietary supplements. Indeed, I’m talking about Masquelier’s OPCs, which are probably the first phytochemicals that were successfully isolated from plants and consistently proven to be highly beneficial in numerous clinical and dietary human trials. They rose to fame as vascular protectors and as such they make an essential contribution to your circulatory system, especially to the micro-circulatory system. It is there that micronutrients, vitamins and minerals, are transported from your bloodstream to the tisuess and eventually to the cells. So, when it comes to stressing the importance of MVM supplementation, OPCs must be mentioned as essential auxiliaries in the distribution of micronutrients throughout the body. And, in the case of Omega-3 fatty acids, OPCs protect these vitally important lipids against oxidation and rancidity.

Other than assisting your circulatory system in the distribution of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, OPCs play a role in longevity all by themselves. According to professor Masquelier, OPCs “do not overcome aging, which is a biological process programmed in the genes,” but they could very well “prevent, attenuate, or inhibit the harmful effects of aging caused by an excess of free radicals.” In other words, OPCs may prevent the premature onset of degenerative diseases and premature senescence. In 2008, putting Masquelier’s OPCs to the test, researchers at the Department of Cellular Architecture & Dynamics of the University of Urecht in The Netherlands measured the influence of OPCs on senescence by counting the number of times that (endothelial) cells that line the inner side of the vascular system spontaneously replicate. In this test, the researchers, found that the cells that were incubated with OPCs replicated 17 times while the untreated cells did so only 11 times. Moreover, the cells with OPCs were shown to be in a much better conditon than the untreated ones. When exposed to oxidative stress to induce senescence, pre-treatment with OPCs resulted in significant level of protection as indicated by a measurable smaller decrease in the number of cells that succumbed under oxidative stress relative to cells not pre-treated with OPCs. As in the previous test, the pretreated cells were in much better condition than the cells not pretreated with OPCs. 

MVM’s, OPCs and longevity

Let’s suppose that your body is genetically scheduled for a life of 90 years but succumbs prematurely of a heart attack at 70, you miss out on 20 years of a healthy lifetime that might still have brought you happiness, friendship, love and satisfaction. It is assumed that under ideal circumstances, the maximum human life span is 120 years. Will the daily intake of OPCs alone permit you to celebrate your 120th birthday? I wouldn’t bet on it and neither would Masquelier. But without a doubt, reducing oxidative stress plays a major role in lengthening our life span and so does dietary supplementation. As Bruce Ames observed, many of us survive “by micronutrient triage” and, as a result, we unnecessarily shorten our lives. Making a MVM part of your daily diet is the obvious and simple solution. Most certainly, reducing oxidative stress will delay premature senescence. Without a doubt, there are many antioxidants. But, as Jack Masquelier showed, with OPCs we can reduce oxidative stress and simultaneously optimize our circulatory system to enable an adequate and efficient distribution of micronutrients.

(1) Low micronutrient intake may accelerate the degenerative diseases of aging through allocation of scarce micronutrients by triage; Bruce N. Ames; Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2006 Nov 21; 103(47): 17589–17594. Published online 2006 Nov 13. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0608757103.