by Nils Osmar – Updated September 16, 2022 – Medical Disclaimer
Can we really reverse aging? I think so. The photos (and video) below show the progress I’ve been making in this direction.
I’m currently 69 years old. I’ve been on the Rekindle Protocol for about three years. The biggest changes have occurred in the past two.
Before and after
My recent changes
As shown in the photos, during this time period I’ve lost some fat around my belly and gained some muscle. I’m often told that I look younger.
My LDL cholesterol and triglycerides have gone down, my HDL (“good” cholesterol) has more than doubled. My A1C (blood glucose) has gone down, while my testosterone has more than doubled. (Sex is better than ever at the age of 69.)
I had memory problems a few years ago, mainly with my short term memory. They’re all fixed now. Both my short term and long term memory are fine. I’m as sharp and clear mentally as I was in my twenties. I have no memory glitches at all.
What I’m doing
The basics of what I’ve been doing are:
- Eating a healthy, high-nutrient diet, rich in high-quality protein and aminoacids, vitamins and minerals, and healthy fats.
- Avoiding sugar and other highly processed foods.
- Fasting and other “hormetics” (such as cold showers and saunas) (i.e., things that stress the body in a beneficial way).
- Taking anti-aging supplements.
- Prioritizing sleep and managing stress more effectively.
What I’m not doing
- I’m not taking testosterone or hGH injections — though I may start doing so in the future if my “natural” approach ever stops working. (I have nothing against taking hormones, I just don’t feel that I need them yet.)
- I’m not eating a vegan diet or restricting calories, protein or leucine. I don’t believe there’s any need for such approaches.
Is what I’m doing really age reversal?
As we age, we lose muscle, shrink in stature, develop porous and brittle bones, lose our sex drice, and we eventually lose our minds and memories. If those things represent aging, anything which reverses them (such as gaining muscle, strengthening our bones, or raising sex hormone levels) can be considered anti-aging. So I would call what I’ve been doing “age reversal”.
“Anti-aging” and “life extension” aren’t identical. Reversing aging doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll live longer. But it seems likely that we will, since aging is a major underlying cause of death. I’d love, of course, to live forever. But a more immediate goal is being fit and healthy as long as I’m in the world.
My goals include:
- Extreme longevity (in a state of ideal health) That could mean living to be 100, 150, 200 or more – as long as I’m healthy, I’d be happy to be in the world.
- Slowing the aging process – or doing away with it completely.
- Compressing morbidity. Human being are usually healthy for their first few decades, then begin a gradual decline into ill health as the years go by. My goal is to stay compress this period of decline into a few weeks at the end of life (or prevent it completely if possible).
- Having strong muscles, bones and joints as long as I’m around.
- Having long telomeres (the protective end caps on our chromosomes).
- Having a healthy brain and a sharp, clear mind and memory. (So far so good.)
- Having healthy glands and organs (with particular attention to the health of my thymus gland, which is central to immunity).
- Having a strong, well-functioning immune system. I used to catch colds and flu bugs; I almost never do anymore.
- Having smooth unwrinkled skin with good resilience and elasticity.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Having healthy mitochondria.
- Having good sexual health.
- Having good eyesight.
- More about my goals
How to get there?
We know how to extend both lifespan and health-span in animals. There’s evidence that many or all of the same principles may work in human beings. The most important things to focus on, in my opinion, are:
- Eating optimal, high-nutrient diets – with particular attention to high quality fats and proteins. Whether we’re eating vegan, carnivorous, omnivorous or pescatarian diets, we need a large number of nutrients to support health.
- Doing intermittent and prolonged fasting. We need food, but we also appear to need breaks from eating once in a while.
- Taking anti-aging supplements. When we’re young, we have high levels of NAD+, glutathione, nitric oxide, alpha ketoglutarate, human growth hormone, sex hormones, and other important biological compounds in our bodies. As we age, they go into free-fall. I take supplements including NAD Boosters, Testosterone Boosters, hGH boosters, Glutathione Boosters; AMPK boosters and others, with the aim of restoring them to youthful levels.
- Exercising. Exercise is essential for brain health, heart health, and maintaining strong muscles. HIIT, resistance training and cardio have particular anti-aging benefits.
- Optimizing sleep. Somewhere around 7-9 hours per night may be ideal.
- Optimizing blood health. “Old blood factors” age us; “young blood factors” are associated with longevity. I donate blood regularly (forcing my body to make new/young blood cells to replace those I’ve donated), do fasting (which cleans debris out of my body and blood cells), and take enzymes like serrapeptase to clean protein fragments out of my blood.
- Balancing mTOR and AMPK. mTOR is a growth pathway. It helps us build muscle and stave off sarcopenia and dementia. AMPK is the longevity pathway. When it’s activated in lab animals, they tend to live much longer.
- Activating our anti-aging genes. The sirtuin genes facilitate gene repair and are associated with better healing and longevity. SIRT1, SIRT 6 and others.
- Dealing effectively with stress. In my case that means taking breaks when I need them, taking walks in the wilderness, and remembering not to hold emotions inside. (When it’s time to laugh or cry… ya gotta laugh or cry. Best not to hold it all inside.)
You’ll find advocates in the life extension community for eating vegan, ketogenic, omnivorous, carnivorous, and pescatarian diets (and every other diet with a popular following).
I’ve tried many of these, but ended up moving on from them. My current diet is high in nutrients, partly raw, all-organic, and minimally processed.
I avoid sugar and processed foods. I eat lots of seafood (from low mercury sources). My current diet is similar in some respects to the diet used in this study, which was found to reverse epigenetic aging.
I’ve incorproated some elements of the Acciarolin diet (eaten by the villagers who live in Acciaroli, Italy). The Acciarolins have almost no Alzheimer’s or dementia or heart disease. They have the highest rate of centenarians in the world (Acciaroli has 75 times as many centenarians as people elsewhere in the world, and 30 times the number of centenarians as people in the so-called “blue zones”).
Like others in their part of the world, the Acciarolins eat a Mediterranean diet including lots of greens and home-grown vegetables, and use olive oil liberally. They also raise and eat their own rabbits and chickens — and eat them — and eat the eggs their chickens lay. They eat “astonishing” amounts of sardines and anchovies. They grow their own rosemary and use it to season almost all of their foods. What I’ve borrowed from their approach is to eat sardines and anchovies — and olives (for oleic acid) — and season my meals with rosemary every day.
My current diet has foods from all three food kingdoms (plants, animals and fungi). It includes:
- Foods from the ocean (such as sardines, anchovies, wild Pacific sockeye salmon, mackerel, oysters, shrimp and seaweed)
- Foods from land animals (such as grass fed/organic beef, organ meats, chicken, turkey, lamb, pork, eggs, and some dairy products)
- Leafy greens (such as kale, spinach, parsley, and romaine lettuce)
- Root vegetables (such as beets, carrots, parsnips, yams and turnips)
- Cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower)
- Legumes (such as beans and lentils)
- Foods high in sulfur (such as egg yolks, garlic and onions).
- Fermented foods (such as sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, yogurt and kefir).
- Fruit and berries (including blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, pomegranates, apples and grapefruit).
- Foods high in spermidine (such as aged cheese, mushrooms, lentils, corn and peas)
- Herbs and spices (including rosemary, parsley, and other plant compounds with anti-aging properties)
- Fungus-based foods (such as a wide variety of mushrooms)
- Foods high in healthy fats (such as avocados and olives, which are rich in oleic acid, and egg yolks, which are rich in lutein and zeathanthin)
- Raw and cooked foods (I eat about 75% raw)
- Heavily processed foods
- Unfermented soy
- Non-organic produce
- Meat from factory farms (which I dislike eating for ethical reasons)
- Meat from animals given hormones and antibiotics;
- Chemical, non-caloric sweeteners.
- For more details about what I eat and why, see this page.
When I say “supplements”, I’m not talking about vitamins and minerals, which I think it’s possible to get largely from food. I’m talking about taking herbs and other nutrients that may help slow or reverse the aging process.
- I take over forty different anti-aging supplements. However, I don’t take them all every day.
- Some of the most important supplements, in my opinion, are NMN (to raise NAD+ levels), AKG (to compress morbidity), SIRT6 Activator (to extends our lifespans and healthspans), and GlyNAC, made up of N. Acetyl Cysteine with glycine (to raise glutathione); glucosamine (to activate AMPK, the longevity pathway), and creatine (to assist with muscle building).
- I’m not suggesting that anyone else should be taking as many as I do, but, rather, saying the ones I take have made a tremendous difference in my health, and are a key part of my anti-aging program.
The types of supplements I take include:
- NAD boosters and sirtuin gene activators
- Glutathione and nitric oxide boosters
- Testosterone boosters
- hGH boosters
- AMPK boosters
- More info
Intermittent and prolonged fasting
Just as we need food, we appear to need breaks from eating — balancing periods of food intake with short or long periods without food. The benefits of fasting are hard-wired into our physiology. They are “highly evolutionarily conserved”, meaning that they have existed in complex organisms since the beginnings of life on Earth.
Fasting activates AMPK (the longevity pathway) and clears debris from our cells, Prolonged fasts or fasting mimicking diets of 3-5 days clear senescent cells from our bodies (which cannibalize them for fuel when no food is coming in), raise hGH and testosterone levels, and trigger the creation of new stem cells.
I became interested in fasting a few years ago, and have tried a number of versions, including intermittent and prolonged fasts. In 2016 and 2017, I did some long (4-5 day) water fasts and fasting mimicking diets. They helped me resolve some health problems. In 2018, 2019 and 2020, I did intermittent fasting, eating within an 8 hour window.
In 2020-2021, I got more serious about fasting, partly because I wanted to build muscle while losing weight. I started fasting three days a week. I would eat as much as I wanted on my workout days (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday); eat freely also on Sunday; but fast – all day, usually- no food at all – on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
I’m currently doing two “day long” fasts per week, usually on Tuesdays and Sundays (fasting 24 to 36 hours). On these days, I either eat no food (for example, fasting from Monday night till Wednesday morning, or skip eating until dinner.
My regimen is based around trying to keep AMPK activated most of the time. (Remember that AMPK also becomes activated at night when no food is coming in. There are 7 days and 7 nights a week, i.e., 14 time slots. So if AMPK is activated 7 nights and 4 days, that’s 11 time slots out of 14; it’ll be activated most of the time.
- Mondays – mTOR day. I work out (doing HIIT and resistance training) and eat high-protein, more animal-based meals.
- Tuesdays – AMPK day. – Zero calories. I do water fasting (36 hours) from Monday night till Tuesday morning
- Wednesdays – mTOR day. I work out (doing HIIT and resistance training) and eat high-protein, more animal-based meals.
- Thursdays – AMPK day. I fast till noon. Lower protein, more plant-based meals.
- Fridays – mTOR day. I work out (doing HIIT and resistance training) and eat high-protein, more animal-based meals.
- Saturdays – AMPK day. Zero calories. I do water fasting (36 hours) from Friday night till Sunday morning
- Sundays – AMPK day. Lower protein, more plant-based meals.
- I also plan to do three 3-5 day fasting mimicking diets this year.
Less Extreme Fasting
If anyone wants to follow a similar protocol but is wary of doing two 36 hour fasts a week, doing two 24 hour fasts a week is an alternative. A 24 water fast (for me) means eating no calories between 7 pm on Friday and 7 pm on Saturday, then having a low protein, low-carb plant-based meal (such as a fasting-mimicking smoothie). A 36 hour water fast means fasting between dinner on Friday and breakfast on Sunday… no food at all.
My supplements are different depending on whether it’s a workout day or a fasting or recovery day.
Monday, Wednesday and Friday (mTOR-workout days)
- As I noted above, these are my workout days.
- I get up in the morning –– have a cup of coffee –– then take a calcium AKG (Ca-AKG) supplement. (Ca-AKG works best if taken apart from other supplements)
- A while later, I drink a fasting mimicking smoothie (which has almost no protein or carbs), and take my NAD-boosting supplements (NMN, SIRT6 Activator, and several compounds). The smoothie and supplements are designed to keep AMPK activated and postponing activating mTOR until after my workout.
- I take a hot shower to warm up my muscles, then do a resistance training workout in my home gym.
- At the end of the workout, I eat a high protein, animal-based meal such as scrambled eggs with sardines, oysters, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions and broccoli.
- I take my testosterone boosters (such as tongkat ali and DHEA) along with this meal.
- I take my hGH boosters and glutathione boosters with a later meal.
- I sometimes take AMPK activating supplements (such as metformin, berberine and milk thistle) in the later afternoon or evening.
Tuesday and Saturday (AMPK-fasting days)
- I get up in the morning — have a cup of coffee — then take a Ca-AKG supplement.
- About an hour later, I take my NAD-boosting supplements (NMN, SIRT6 Activator, and several compounds).
- If I’m doing a 36 hour fast, I don’t take any other supplements.
- If I’m doing a 24 hour fast, ending the day with a meal, I’ll sometimes take AMPK activating supplements (such as metformin, berberine and milk thistle) in the later afternoon or evening along with the meal. However, the meal itself is usually low protein and vegan, so I’ll sometimes skip them.
Thursday and Sunday (AMPK days)
- On these two days, I usually have a fasting mimicking smoothie in the morning, along with my NAD-boosting supplements (NMN, SIRT6 Activator, and several compounds).
- I eat moderate-protein, moderate-carb, high fat meals.
- I take my testosterone boosters (such as tongkat ali and DHEA) along with lunch.
- I take my hGH boosters and glutathione boosters with a later meal.
- I take AMPK activating meds or supplements (such as metformin, berberine and milk thistle) in the later afternoon or evening.
- I take AMPK activating supplements (such as metformin, berberine and milk thistle) in the later afternoon or evening on these two days.
Part 4: Exercising
- Exercise helps us maintain bone, muscle, cardiovascular and brain health and to build a foundation for healthy longevity. There are numerous types, including HIIT (high intensity interval training), resistance training, dance, aerobics, climbing, swimming, walking and running..
- The types that appear to be most beneficial for longevity and healthy aging are HIIT (high intensity interval training), aerobics, and strength (resistance) training.
- I’m currently doing HIIT once a week and doing strength/resistance training three days a week. The HIIT exercise is aimed at getting me seriously out of breath (creating a temporary oxygen deficit so my sirtuin genes will kick in).
- I do HIIT on a stationary bike. I keep the resistance very low on the bike; I’m not trying to build muscle on my HIIT days. My only concern is the hormetic benefits of getting out of breath.
- On my strength training days, I do exercises aimed at building stronger and larger muscles (pushing back against the loss of muscle mass which “naturally” occurs with aging). I currently exercise on a power tower, a Marcy stack weight gym, and a Weider ultimate fitness machine.
- From an anti-aging perspective, exercises that either gets you out of breath or builds muscle have the most benefit. But of course it’s good to choose a types of exercise you love, whether it’s cycling, running, dance, sports and games, yoga, weight training, or something completely different.
- More about my exercise regimen
Part 5: Optimizing Sleep
- Sleep is essential. If you’re doing everything else right but sleep isn’t going well, it’ll be harder to benefit from the other elements of the protocol.
- I try to get to bed by 10 pm in order to optimize growth hormone.
- I know this is easier said than done for some people, but it appears to be beneficial to get somewhere between 7-9 hours of sleep at night. I usually “crash out” around 10 and get up around 6 a.m.
- I sometimes take some serrapeptase (an enzyme that clears breathing) or some NAC (which thins mucus and also supports better breathing) at night. I sometimes also take some glycine, because it both raises our glutathione levels (when taken along with NAC) and helps promote deep sleep.
Step 6: Optimizing our Blood Health
- “Old blood factors” are associated with advanced age; “young blood factors” with a more youthful state. There are things we can do to clean out debris and protein fragments, reduce old blood factors and increase young blood factors.
- Even donating blood and plasma may have anti-aging benefits.Some researchers have tried replacing some of the blood in lab animals with a mixture of albumin and saline, and reported apparent rejuvenation. Others have replaced some of the blood in old animals with blood from young animals and reported rejuvenating effects.
- I mentioned earlier that I sometimes take an enzyme called serrapeptase which helps clear nasal congestion. It also dissolves dead proteins and protein remnants floating around in the blood.
- Fasting is another effective way of removing accumulated debris from our cells, including our blood cells. The B vitamin niacin, in large doses, dilates our blood vessels, which can help clear and lower lipids from our bloodstream, and keep our arteries clearer (I sometimes take it along with my hGH boosters.) Borage oil (GLA) also appears to be beneficial for blood health. I also donate blood several times a year, which removes some old blood factors.
Step 7: Balancing AMPK and mTOR
AMPK and mTOR are two metabolic pathways at the heart of our metabolism.
- AMPK is the longevity pathway. We can activate it by fasting, making changes in our diets (such as eating more plants and less animal protein), or taking supplements or medications.
- mTOR is the growth pathway. Research suggests it should be activated periodically just enough to support muscle growth and immune health. Muscle growth is good, but we don’t want all of our life energy to go into growth at the expense of longevity. We can activate it by eating high-protein animal-based meals.
- We need some mTOR activation to maintain and build muscle mass as we age, prevent sarcopenia, and support our immune systems. But hundreds of animal studies have shown that animals of all species live longer if AMPK is activated most of the time.
- We can move between one state and the other by the use of exercise, fasting, and the foods we eat.
- The feasting and fasting schedules I described above are designed to balance my activation of mTOR and AMPK. Some people try doing so by eating low protein, or low leucine, most of the time. To me, this approach seems dangerous because mTOR may not be activated enough. Time will tell which approach is best.
- More About balancing AMPK and mTOR
Step 8: Activating Our Sirtuin Genes
- Anti-aging genes are also called sirtuins. We can activate them with hormetic stressors. Hormetics benefit the body by putting us into a state of mild (and temporary) stress. Heat and cold are exposure are examples.
- Keeping the house cool (65 degrees or less) or taking cold showers can activate cold shock proteins; taking saunas or hot baths can switch on heat shock proteins. Both appear to have benefits for longevity.
- I take contrast showers (alternating between hot and cold, ending on several minutes of cold) to alternate my sirtuin genes three days a week. I also take NMN resveratrol and SIRT6 Activator along with my NAD boosters to activate the SIRT1 and SIRT6 genes, which are associated with an increase in health and longevity
Step 9: Dealing Effectively With Stress
- For stress, I find it helpful to get out in nature, and talk a walk in the woods or by a lake or river.
- One underrated way of handling stress is to “let yourself feel your feelings”. I learned years ago that it’s best not to bottle up emotions. If you’re feeling sad, go ahead and have a good cry. Crying, laughing and other forms of emotional release have been found to have healing effects if we remember to let them happen instead of suppressing them.
June 2022 Update
- Things are going well, I’m happy with the results of my current protocol.
- Physically, I’m in good health. I have good energy, and feel younger than I did twenty years ago.
- I don’t have huge muscles, but I’ve reversed my slide into sarcopenia and am actively building muscle. In the last one and a half years I’ve lost around 30 pounds of body fat (mostly around my belly) and gained around 15 pounds of muscle.
- I don’t have joint aches or pains (though my back sometimes hurts for a few hours if I overdo exercising). I thought I had inflammatory arthritis years ago, but don’t have any symptoms of it anymore.
- My eyesight’s good. I have not needed a new glasses prescription for years.
- My mind is sharp and clear. I had short term memory problems at a couple of decades ago, but I don’t anymore.
- Physically, I feel pretty much the same as I did when I was in my 30s and 40s, except that I have more energy than I did in those days.
- About a year ago, I noticed that the white hairs on my chest and arms were falling out. To my surprise they were replaced by very thick, dark, curly hairs of a different sort that I’ve ever had in the past. The hair on my head is still very sparse, so I usually shave my head, but when I let it grow out, the hairs that grow are getting more dark and less white.
- Sex is better than it’s ever been.
- I see these changes as a reflection on how the body can change in a short time if we’re eating a healthy diet, fasting, exercising, and taking some key anti-aging supplements.
- While I’m in good health in most regards, I have made one concession to being 69 years old, which is to minimize driving on the freeway. I have found that my reaction time has slowed a bit over the past couple of years. I just don’t feel as comfortable roaring around at 70-75 mph on rainy nights in heavy traffic as I used to. I’m hoping to improve my reaction time, but till I’m sure it’s better, I’m spending less time on freeway driving.
Things I need to fix
- I did slide backwards in one sense in 2022. I’ve gained about ten pounds since last fall. Some of the gain may be muscle but some is fat. This may be because I’d added more carbs such as bread back into my diet. I’ve made some adjustments in my diet in the past month, and am down two pounds. My goal is to lose all ten “extra” pounds by the end of this year.
- I had a vitreous detachment in one of my eyes this year. While this isn’t as bad as a retinal detachment, it does show that my eyes are aging, and it suggests to me that I need to increase my eye health nutrients. I’ve started taking astaxanthin, lutein and zeathantin supplements and increased my consumption of red and orange peppers (sources of β-cryptoxanthins) and hyaluronic acid hoping to avoid a detachment in my other eye.
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How About You?
- I’d love to hear about your protocol and your results. Feel free to describe it in the comments section below.