Telomeres are a hot topic in aging research. With each cell division telomeres become shorter until, eventually, the cells can no longer replicate. Common sense lifestyle habits, such as regular exercise and refraining from smoking, prevent premature shortening. Astragalus, an herb with a long history of human use, activates telomerase (an enzyme that repairs telomeres), has gained the attention of the scientific community.
Geneticist Richard Cawthon and his colleagues at the University of Utah discovered that in people over 60 those with shorter telomeres were three times more likely to die from heart disease and eight times more likely to die from infectious diseases (Cawthorne, 2003).
Astragaloside IV improves tissue healing, immune response to viral infections, cancer resistance, nerve regeneration, and inflammation. These far-ranging benefits are likely due to telomerase activation. Cycloastragenol (CGA), another compound in astragalus, is an even more potent activator of telomerase. For this reason it has been investigated as a potential treatment for various degenerative diseases, including aging itself (Ren, 2013). In traditional Chinese medicine Astragalus is said to reinforce qi, promote the discharge of pus, and facilitate the production of new tissue (Wang, 2014).
Outside of the hippocampus and ventricles, in an adult brain cells generally do not divide – the debate about adult neurogenesis has only recently begun to settle (Avery, 2019). It would seem like a telomerase activator would have little effect on brain health. However, Bruno Bernardes de Jesus found telomerase activation not only delays aging and increases longevity, but also improved memory formation. They observed that the therapy “had remarkable effects on health and fitness, including insulin sensitivity, osteoporosis, neuromuscular coordination and several molecular biomarkers of aging. Importantly, telomerase-treated mice did not develop any more cancer than their control littermates” (de Jesus, 2012).
Even more exciting, another group discovered that telomerase reactivation reverses tissue damage in aged mice. They were skeptical as to whether it would have an appreciable effect on cognitive function, but found, as gauged by a smell test, that it did (Jaskelioff, 2011).
TA-65, a commercial derivative of CGA, costs $600 for 90 capsules. Astragalus is just one of the ingredients in Genesis, Allysian’s nutraceutical formulation used by thousands of people to clear mental fog, accelerate weight loss, and promote overall well-being. A matrix of green foods, EFAs, pre and probiotics, enzymes and herbal co-factors, it is a synergistic complex of ingredients. Each part has been selected to bring out the best of all the others.
On Allysian’s Elite Escape Caribbean Cruise it was announced that earlier this year 6,000 bottles of Genesis were discarded because a single ingredient did not meet the company’s potency standards. Herbs and supplements, which fly beneath the FDA’s radar, must be purchased with extreme caution. It is comforting to know that there are companies, like Allysian, that truly deliver on what they promise.
Works Cited and Further Reading
1. Avery, Nicholi, The Neurogenesis Debate, Lifeboat Blog RSS, Lifeboat Foundation (7 June 2018).
2. Bernardes de Jesus B., Vera E., Schneeberger K., Tejera A. M., Ayuso E., Bosch F., et al. (2012). Telomerase gene therapy in adult and old mice delays aging and increases longevity without increasing cancer. EMBO Mol. Med. 4, 691–704. 10.1002/emmm.201200245
3. Cawthon, Richard M., et al. Association between telomere length in blood and mortality in people aged 60 years or older. The Lancet 361.9355 (2003): 393-395.
4. Jaskelioff M., Muller F. L., Paik J. H., Thomas E., Jiang S., Adams A. C., et al. (2011). Telomerase reactivation reverses tissue degeneration in aged telomerase-deficient mice. Nature 469, 102–106. 10.1038/nature09603 [PMC free article] [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]
5. Ren, Shuang, et al. Pharmacological effects of Astragaloside IV: a literature review. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine33.3 (2013): 413-416.
6. Wang, Limei, et al. Natural product agonists of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ): a review. Biochemical pharmacology 92.1 (2014): 73-89.