It’s certainly true that we live in a youth-obsessed culture, but the desire to stave off aging is long-standing and universal. Remember Ponce de Leon’s search for the Fountain of Youth? Nowadays there are lots of products and programs aimed at holding back the years — but they’re not only unproven and expensive, many are also just plain unsafe. And, of course, we’ve been writing about strategies for longevity over the years — but it isn’t often that something truly new and effective comes along… until now.

You may recall that I recently interviewed Michael Aziz, MD, an internist who practices in New York City and author of The Perfect 10 Diet, a book in which he explains how the modern way of eating damages our hormones, thus causing extra weight. At that time we focused on weight loss, but Dr. Aziz’s book also provides helpful information on how to delay aging and I thought that information was worthy of its own article. It isn’t an approach that you’ve seen before — and some of it will surely surprise you.

According to Dr. Aziz, aging degrades our bodies in several different ways:

  • The “rusting” of our bodies through oxidation. While oxygen is vital to life, it’s also oxidation in the body that produces free radicals — molecules that damage, disrupt and destroy nearby cells. Allowed to continue unchecked, free radicals eventually accumulate and inflict damage on the body to the point that many healthy cells can no longer survive properly and aging takes over. As we age, our bodies tend to lose the ability to resist oxidative challenges due to improper diet (sugar, refined vegetable oil used in fast foods), nutrient absorption issues, accumulated stress and other causes such as toxins and air pollution.
  • Suboptimal hormone levels. Normal aging brings a steep decline in certain hormones, the ones that help maintain energy, skin elasticity, recovery from injury — both physical and biochemical — and resistance to disease and infection. These include sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone) and human growth hormone (HGH). Meanwhile cortisol, the hormone associated with stress, is the only hormone that naturally rises with age — which is especially a problem for people whose cortisol levels have been chronically elevated due to ongoing stress. Such hormonal changes accelerate the aging process.
  • Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs). AGEs result when sugars bind (glycate) to proteins when you cook at high temperatures without using water, such as when you grill meat. Evidence is rapidly building that AGEs are implicated in wrinkles and, more importantly, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and even Alzheimer’s disease.

The Doctor’s Plan for a Natural Anti-Aging Program

Dr. Aziz says that there are many lifestyle choices you can make that will diminish the impact of these three aging factors in your body…

  • Promote HGH production. HGH stimulates new tissue growth. It is produced when tissue is replaced due to normal recycling and response to injury. There has been some controversy around HGH supplementation, relating to a possible link to fast-growing cancer cells. But Dr. Aziz says that naturally produced HGH actually serves as a buffer against cancer by strengthening the immune system and increasing the size of the thymus gland, which ordinarily shrinks with age. Eating frequently suppresses HGH secretion. Dr. Aziz advocates three square meals a day, and limiting snacks to the days you work out. Since HGH also has fat-burning properties, it is no wonder that it is hard for overweight people to lose weight. Excess body fat lowers HGH — so lose weight! Another safe and easy way to bring up your HGH levels naturally without controversial HGH injections is an occasional fast. Dr. Aziz advises having a 24-hour vegetable-juice fast every two to three weeks, drinking just tomato juice or fresh vegetable juice (low-salt if you have a blood pressure problem). Fasting and reducing calories has been shown to promote longevity in insects… new research now shows it can do the same in mammals.
  • Sleep is important, too. The body produces HGH up until one or two in the morning, so if you tend to burn the midnight oil it’s best to go to bed a bit earlier to increase the length of time your body produces HGH.
  • Lift weights. Weight-training increases muscle mass and also ups HGH production — even if you train with only light weights.
  • Make protein at least 20% of your daily calorie intake. The body uses protein to manufacture hormones, so it is vital to consume it in sufficient quantity. Dr. Aziz thinks that the best proteins to consume are animal-based, as they are rich in vitamin B-12, which keeps your memory sharp, among other benefits. Many people turn to soy for a large portion of their protein, but too much soy reduces testosterone in men and raises estrogen in women, which is not good for natural hormone balance. Note: It’s best to eat your meat rare to medium rare (per FDA guidelines, rare is an internal temperature of 145.)