Adult stem cells may hold the key to healthy aging. These important cells function as a cellular repair system, producing new cells when others become diseased or damaged. Research suggests that an age-related decline in brain stem cells is associated with signs of aging and mortality, but protecting your stem cells with healthy habits may help you live a longer, healthier life.

What are stem cells?

The average human body is made up of approximately 100 trillion cells. Even though your cells contain the same DNA, different cells throughout the body have different functions. For example, a skin cell functions differently than a blood cell.

Stem cells are cells that have the potential to develop into other cells. There are two different types of stem cells: embryonic stems cells and adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are found in embryos and have the potential to turn into any type of cell in the body, which makes them an area of particular interest for research scientists.

Adult stem cells exist throughout the body and are found in all different types of tissues, such as the brain, blood, bone marrow, muscles, skin, and liver. These stem cells act as a sort of repair system, and are activated by disease or tissue damage. They can divide to replenish other cells as long as the individual remains alive. When a stem cell divides, each child stem cell has the potential to remain a stem cell or turn into another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a skin cell or a brain cell. Every cell in the body is derived from a stem cell.

Stem cells and aging

Research indicates that rejuvenating stem cells may help slow signs of aging. Researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City have identified stem cells in the brain that are responsible for the aging process. These neural stem cells are involved in neurogenesis — the creation of new brain cells — and are located in the hypothalamus, a region of the brain that controls the nervous system as well as processes such as body temperature regulation, thirst, hunger, and pituitary gland function.

The number of stem cells in the hypothalamus decreases with age, and this decline accelerates the aging process. However, scientists have discovered that replenishing these brain stem cells can slow and even reverse various aspects of the aging process.

The researchers used mice to examine the role of brain stem cells. They observed that the number of brain stems cells in the mice began to decline when the mice were around 10 months old, which is well before any signs of aging began to appear. By the time the mice reached old age — about 2 years — all of their brain stem cells were gone.

Scientists also disrupted stem cell function to determine if stem cell decline was the cause of accelerated aging. As expected, the mice with disrupted stem cells aged much faster than the control group, whose brain stem cells were unaltered. The animals with disrupted stem cells also died earlier than normal.

In a separate experiment, researchers again disrupted the stem cells and then inserted new brain stem cells into both groups of mice. In all mice who received new stem cells, the aging process slowed down, and some aspects of aging were halted altogether. Scientists noted improvements in muscular endurance, cognitive abilities, and social behavior, among other factors.

How to protect your stem cells

Many of the same habits that help you live a healthy lifestyle and guard against disease may also help protect your stem cells:

  • Minimize your exposure to harmful chemicals and toxins such as air pollution as much as possible
  • Eat real food, not processed foods. Avoid artificial additives and ingredients such as artificial sweeteners.
  • Exercise. Regular exercise has been found to help maintain a larger, healthier population of stem cells in the brain as well as other organs
  • Minimize your exposure to DNA damage
  • Learn how to control and manage stress
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a diet high in anti-inflammatory foods and antioxidants
  • Practice fasting. Cycles of prolonged fasting have been shown to trigger stem cell rejuvenation. The same effects can be experienced with the ProLon fasting mimicking diet, which has been found to promote stem cell-based rejuvenation in the body. Learn more about ProLon and find out if it’s right for you.