Aging – Are Our Genes Our Fate?

Think that just because your parents or grandparents died early, you will too?  Think again.

Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, a board-certified nutrition specialist and a nationally known expert on health and nutrition and author of The Most Effective Ways to Live Longer, says “Only about 5 to 20 percent of the aging process has to do with our genes, the rest has to do with how we treat our bodies, which determines whether, like a light switch, we turn the good genes on and the bad genes off.”

Bowden identified what he calls, “The Four Horsemen of Aging”.

1.  Decrease Exposure to Free Radicals.  Oxidative damage occurs when “free radicals”  attack your cells and DNA, damaging the body and aging you from within. Kind of like how rust attacks a car or bike.

Colorful fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of anti-oxidants that fight free radicals.  Eat organic or at least try and eat organically grown produce from the “dirty dozen list” (Peaches, apples, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, imported grapes, bell peppers, celery, spinach, kale and potatoes)  These are known to often carry excess chemical residues.

Also see, “Super Foods” below.

2. Reduce Inflammation.  Chronic inflammation is now considered to be a major contributor in many degenerative including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.  Diets based on fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, omega 3-rich oils, grains and little meat, such as The Mediterranean diet,  appear to reduce inflammation.  Other anti-inflammatory foods include turmeric and 70 % cacao dark chocolate.

Exercise also lowers inflammation.  Overdoing exercise or exercising to extreme fatigue is counter-productive, as too much can actually increase inflammation, at least temporarily.

3. Limit Sugar.  Excess sugar can actually combine with protein and fat to form molecules called Advanced Glycation End Products, or AGE’s, that promote aging. Limit obvious refined sugar-filled foods and hidden sugars from other forms including brown sugar, corn syrup, dextrin, honey, maple syrup, raw sugar, cane sugar, molasses and turbinado sugar, to name a few.   The American Heart Association now recommends that women consume no more than 100 calories (25 g) per day of added sugars, and men no more than 150 calories (roughly 35 g) per day.  Check your labels.  Less is more.

4. Lower Stress.  Think Stress = Less brain and more belly!  The hormone cortisol is released to lessen the effect of stress, but if stress is constant, and cortisol stays chronically elevated it can shrink a part of the brain called the hippocampus, essential for thinking and memory. It can also lead to the accumulation of belly fat, causing inflammation and insulin resistance.

Enter “Super foods” which protect and repair our DNA.  Controlling oxidation and inflammation and avoiding toxins are all central to protecting our DNA.  Aging or disease causes “unclear replications” of our DNA.  Think a xerox machine making copies of copies.  The final copies aren’t as clear.  We want “clear” replications.

Super foods include, but are not limited to salmon, cruciferous vegetables, garlic, onions, apples, berries, beans and lentils, grains like quinoa, buckwheat and oats, chia and flaxseed, seaweeds and algae, nuts and seeds, kefir and yogurt, green tea, tempeh and miso, olive oil, dark chocolate, spices such as ginger, turmeric and cinnamon, herbs such as dill and rosemary, and red wine in moderation.

It’s easy to include these fantastic food in your diet often enough.  If you are intimidated, go through the list above and try one new food per week.  Keep on reading my blog for even more ideas!

Cat Dillon

This blog is my journal, where I share everything wellness. From tips on healthy lifestyle to creating as much deliciousness in your life as possible.

Cat Dillon is the Cat in Caterpillar Nutrition and Wellness.

Caterpillar Nutrition and Wellness is a unique combo of nutrition, fitness and cooking coaching all in one pretty package. Read more about Caterpillar Nutrition and Wellness.


  1. Sofia       July 14, 2011 at 12:01 PM

    Every time I read your wonderful Blog, it inspires me to eat more of the foods that were meant to be in our bodies!
    I thank-you for always keeping Caterpillar followers on track!


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