Ever feel as if your skin is aging faster than normal? or that your brain, lungs, joints, etc. just don’t work as well as they used to? Well, that probably is the case, and it might be caused by the hyper-accumulation of senescent cells in your body. In this post I want to highlight foods that have the ability to kill off senescent cells naturally and a few compounds that research have proven to be effective against these cells and aging.
What are senescent cells?
Senescent cells are dysfunctional cells — or aged cells — that have arrested cellular division and are mostly incapable of reverting back to normal dividing cells. In order to be destroyed, these cells must be targeted by the body’s immune system or intracellularly through a process called apoptosis (or programmed cell death). If neither elimination methods occur, senescent cells can accumulate in the body and dramatically accelerate aging, since they tend to secrete pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, growth factors, bioactive lipids and proteases; which together constitute the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP).
Causes of cellular senescence include:
- Accumulation of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) AKA oxygen free radicals
- DNA damage and telomere shortening
- as a result of free radicals, typically
- Oncogene activation
- Cell-to-cell fusion
Eliminating Senescent Cells
The scary thing about senescent cells is that, like cancer cells, they exhibit pro-survival networks that give them special abilities, such as resistance to apoptosis (programmed cell death).
In order to combat this, scientists have developed a new class of drugs called “senolytics,” which selectively target and kill senescent cells. Researchers of the Aging Cell publication titled “The Achilles’ heel of senescent cells: from transcriptome to senolytic drugs” found that both the prescription anti-cancer drug, dasatinib, and quercetin (a natural antioxidant) have potent senolytic effects in the body. The study showed that dasatinib was effective at eliminating senescent fat cell progenitors and quercetin was more effective at eliminating senescent endothelial cells. And of course, the combination of the two proved most effective at eliminating senescent cells throughout the entire body and also increased the lifespan of their mice subjects which served as models of human progeria (premature aging).
A class of compounds called tocotrienols, in a similar acting way to quercetin, has been shown to (source):
- induce senescence and apoptosis in several cancer cell lines
- rejuvenate some senescent cells
- delay senescence in primary cells
Of course, because dasatnib is a prescriptive drug for cancer patients, most individuals seeking to lower their senescent cell levels are left with quercetin and tocotrienols. Natural is my preference anyway!
Foods High in Quercetin
Dark blue or red fruits tend to have the highest quercetin content. Onions are another great source of quercetin.
Side note: onions are such powerhouses when it comes to health and longevity. Refer to the post in parentheses (link) to learn more about how onions can help with anti-aging.
Here is a list of foods high in quercetin in the form of isoquercitrin, (source):
- Red raspberry, raw (3.58 mg/100 g)
- Black grapes (2.17 mg/ 100 g)
- Red onion, raw (1.80 mg/100 g)
- Broccoli (1.80 mg/ 100 g)
- Red wine (1.14 mg/ 100 ml) [note: I don’t endorse alcohol consumption]
- Black tea, infused (1.13 mg/ 100ml)
In the Zhu, et. al study, the amount of quercetin used (in combination with dasatinib) to increase the healthspan of the aging mice was 50 mg. In humans, 500-800 mg of quercetin per day for 3 months (for an initial purge of senile cells) followed by a maintenance dose of 150 mg might be effective for senolytic effects (source).
Interesting Fact: “If a supplement provides 40 mg of quercetin as isoquercitrin per day, an individual would need to consume the equivalent amount of quercetin from food, by eating approximately 8½ cups of fruits or vegetables that have a quercetin content of 2 mg per 100 grams per day.” – Lauren Martin, MS, CNS
From the data in the quote above, acquiring not even half of the senolytic dosage of quercetin might be a lofty goal. So, additional supplementation might be necessary.
Foods High in Tocotrienols
I’m sure you’ve heard of Vitamin E. Well tocotrienols are renowned members of the this fat-soluble antioxidant family. It’s no wonder why Vitamin E gives the skin such a youthful glow! (source)
I’m a major advocate for fruits and vegetables, but sadly, most of these foods are not good sources of tocotrienols.
Tocotrienols are naturally found in plants, such as:
- Palm, red – see below
The richest natural source of tocotrienols is the oil of the red palm fruit (source). For people, like myself, who don’t endorse heavy consumption of grains, this is awesome news! Red palm oil can contain up to 800 mg/kg of tocotrienols and comprises approximately 80% tocotrienols.
This sounds promising, but there is current debate on whether obtaining tocotrienols through food is sufficient for senolytic effects. Because one has to consume around 80 grams of palm oil (which simply is a lot of oil) for biologically effective results, it might be better to include a palm oil-derived tocotrienol supplement. For senolytic effects, some recommend taking around 150 mg of the supplement for around 3 months and 100 mg thereafter for maintenance (source).
As I’ve explained above, research has shown quercetin and tocotrienols to be effective against senescent cells and aging. This indicates that consumption of these compounds could benefit longevity and health span.
While it is clear that supplementation might be necessary to achieve senolytic dosages for quercetin and tocotrienols, I firmly believe that obtaining these compounds naturally through food is equally important for not only senolytic effects, but also overall health and vitality.
I hope this post was informative and a worthwhile read.
PLEASE like and share if you took anything beneficial from this post. Feel free to comment below or message me via my contact page if you have any comments or questions. Let’s start a discussion!