- by Nils Osmar. Updated August 18, 2023
- This post is not intended as, and should not be taken as, medical advice.
- See full Medical Disclaimer
Can we really reverse aging and extend the human lifespan – staying healthy and vital for years or decades past the age at which people usually begin to decline? There’s growing evidence that it may already be possible to do so.
I’ve always tried to live a healthy life, but I realized a few years ago that I was slipping backwards as the years went by — getting fatter, losing muscle, and developing sarcopenia. My muscles were getting weak and flabby, and I was having short-term memory problems.
The Rekindle Protocol
I developed an approach I call the Rekindle Protocol, which is based around:
- Getting certain kinds of exercise, including HIIT, aerobics, Zone 2, and resistance training (working out with weights) to build cardiovascular health and prevent age-related muscle wasting (sarcopenia).
- Eating a high-nutrient omnivorous diet. My current diet includes foods from plant, animal and fungal sources, with an emphasis on animal foods such as sardines and salmon and red meat. (At one point in my life I was avoiding meat; I now go out of my way to include it in my diet.) I also eat foods such as cruciferous vegetables, fermented vegetables including kimchi, mushrooms, berries, olives and avocados, and herbs including rosemary. My diet is low in carbohydrates but not currently ketogenic.
- Avoiding toxic foods, such as sugar(s), seed oils; plants high in lectins, oxalates and natural insecticides (created by the plant to ward off insects), and highly processed foods.
- Taking cold showers as well as hot baths and saunas – i,.e., doing things that stress the body in beneficial ways.
- Fasting and time restricted eating. Fasting has many benefits that go far beyond promoting lower body fat
- Prioritizing sleep, rest, breaks from stress, and mental health
- Taking several key anti-aging supplements.
- Note: The supplements, which I describe below, are essential in my opinion. They’re not just concentrated nutrients from food; they’re specific compounds which have been verfied to increase glutathione, raise NAD+ levels, increase nitric oxide, and slow or reverse many of the hallmarks of aging.
What I’m not doing
- I’m not taking injections of testosterone or hGH or other hormones. (I have nothing against the idea of taking hormones in conjunction with a medical professoinal willing to prescribe them, but I haven’t needed them yet.)
- I am not restricting animal foods, calories, protein or leucine. (I was vegan for a while, but after three years on that path, my health went downhill rapidly. I regained my health when I added animal foods back in. I eat foods from all three food kingdoms these days.)
- My results can also be seen in the video below:
Before and after
Since starting this protocol
- I’ve gained muscle and lost body fat.
- My LDL and triglycerides have gone down, and my HDL (“good cholesterol”) has more than doubled.
- My blood glucose has gone down.
- My testosterone has shot up from the low 400s to the 900s, without taking any hormones or injections. At the age of 70; my testosterone is now at the level of a healthy 21 year old.
- My sex drive and enjoyment of sex is what it was in my thirties.
- My memory and mental clarity have improved. I had short term memory problems years ago; I don’t anymore.
- I also feel younger than I did a few years ago. I had my 70th birthday this past December. I feel much the same as I did when I was in my thirties.
“What’s your biological age? Take this test…”
- The test that are out there aren’t perfect, but they’re improving as more is learned about epigenetic testing and its correlations with age, height, weight, hormones and other important compounds, and body composition.
- The tests I’ve taken to try to get verification of what’s going on internally include Aging ai v.3; PhenoAge (DNAmPhenoAge_gen), which calculates both phenotypic age and an individual’s mortality score — AnthropoAge, which estimates age based on body composition, musculature, and skinfold thickness — and PhysiAge, which looks at systolic blood pressure and other variables that change as a reflection of internal aging.
- They all estimate my age as either years or decades younger then my chronological age.
- Important note: As of January 2024, Aging.ai is no longer available, because the researcher who developed it has sold it to another company. I hope it will return in some form soon.
Are the tests reliable?
- There is evidence that they may be. The results from PhenoAge, for example, according to one of its developers, Morgan Levine, have been found to correlate closely with the results of Grimage epigenetic clock, the gold standard for epigenetic testing.
- With that said, they’re more like arrows pointing in a general directions, than concrete answers. The results of different tests never correlate exactly (for anyone), but taken together, can give us a general idea of our pace of aging and whether it’s being slowed or reversed.
- One test, for example, might peg you as 13 years younger (or older) than your number of birthdays — another might put the number at 15 — but they all reflect to a degree on the processes going on inside of us which have bearing on our mortality and longevity. So they do appear to be meaningful, especially if we test repeatedly and average the scores.
- I’ve also tested my NAD+ levels and found that my NAD+ is at the level of a young man. See article.
Why the supplements are essential
- The foundation of anti-aging, in my opinion, is to eat a good diet, exercise, deal with stress as well as we can, and get enough sleep. Doing those things may increase our odds of living to 90 or 100 – a good place to start.
- But like many people in our community, I’m interested in what one might call extreme longevity. (Why not aim to live to 120, 150 or older, if we can do so in great health?)
- When I say “supplements”, I’m not talking about vitamins and minerals, which we can get largely from food (if we grow our own, or buy fresh organic produce and meat and eggs from local farms). I’m talking about nutrients which are hard or impossible to obtain from food that may help slow or reverse the aging process.
- I take over thirty different anti-aging supplements (at different times of day.
- The ones I take have been found to raise levels of NAD+, AKG, glutathione, and other compounds which get depleted as we age; extend lifespan in lab animals; and support youthful levels of hormones. In my opinion, speaking in terms of my results, they are all essential.
- I’m not suggesting that the folks reading this should be taking as many as I do — or even that anyone should follow my exact protocol. You can do so if you like, but that’s your decision. Rather, I’m saying the supplements I take have, in my estimation, made a major 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 (such as NMN, fucoidan and cyanidin) (from seaweed and elderberries)
- Glutathione and nitric oxide boosters (such as glycine and NAC)
- Testosterone boosters (such as boron and tongkat ali)
- hGH boosters (such as beta alanine)
- AMPK boosters (such as metformin, berberine and benfotiamine)
Is what I’m doing really age reversal?
In my opinion, yes. Many negative things happen to our bodies as we age. They include:
- Our muscles shrink and become weak.
- Our skin becomes less resilient and more wrinkled.
- Our eyesight begins deteriorating.
- Our bones get more brittle and fragile and easily shattered.
- We lose our ability to engage in sexual intimacy.
- Our skin thins and loses collagen.
- Our brains physically shrink.
- Our cognitive skills begin declining.
- Our ability to remember begins to decline.
- We experience joint stiffness and pain
- We experience decreased lung capacity and breathing difficulties
- We have increased risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer
- We experience decreased kidney function
- Our hearing and sense of balance decline.
- Our metabolism slows.
- Our sex hormone levels decline.
- Our immune systems decline, leaving us more vulnerable to infections.
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 in that sense I would consider what I’ve been doing “age reversal”.
Does this mean I’ll live longer?
There’s no guarantee, of course. But it seems likely that I will.
The aging process is the major underlying cause of death for people in my age group (and in a sense for everyone). As we age, we become more vulnerable to the s0-called “diseases of aging”, i.e., cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and sarcopenia. Our immune function also declines, leaving us more vulnerable to death from infectious diseases. Reversing aging means deleting or minimizing these as possible causes of death.
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. (Immortality, anyone?)
- 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 diets that are rich in the nutrients needed to support health. 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.)
- Supplements are essential. Supplements aren’t just to provide vitamins and minerals missing in our diets. Today’s supplements include compounds such as AKG, NMN, NR, glycine, NAC and others that have been shown to profoundly increase lifespan and postpone morbidity in animal studies.
More about my diet
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 incorporated 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”).
The Acciarolins eat a (largely) Mediterranean diet including lots of greens and home-grown vegetables, and use olive oil liberally. But they eat more animal food than many Mediterranean dieters. They raise and eat their own rabbits and chickens (which they also eat) and eat the eggs their chickens lay.
Most importantly, perhaps, they eat what researchers have termed “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 (raw or fermented) 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 50% raw)
- Heavily processed foods
- Unfermented soy
- Non-organic produce
- Meat from factory farms (which I dislike eating for both health reasons and ethical reasons)
- Meat from animals given hormones and antibiotics;
- Chemical, non-caloric sweeteners.
- More about my diet
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.
Approaches to fasting
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 several 5-day water fasts and fasting mimicking diets. They helped me resolve some health problems I was having at the time.
- 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, and partly because, like many people, I had been gaining weight after becoming more sedentary and “eating my feelings” during the pandemic shutdown.
- 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. This worked well as a protocol for losing fat and gaining muscle, but I started being concerned that I might be fasting too much and creating micronutrient deficiencies which can manifest years later as health problems.
My current regimen
My current regimen is based around alternating between activating two different but complementary metabolic processes, mTOR (the growth pathway) and AMPK (the longevity pathway).
mTOR is activated mainly by eating (particularly foods high in protein or leucine). AMPK is activated by activities such as exercise and fasting, It switches on at night when no food is coming in.
- I usually stop eating around 8 pm and go to bed around 10 pm. This optimizes my sleep patterns for my circadian rhythms and for the natural production of hGH and testosterone (two hormones that tend to decline as we age).
- I usually get up around 5 a.m. and make some coffee or white tea, and drink it along with some MCT oil and sunflower lecithin. Some people might consider the lecithin and coffee as breaking my fast, but I’m not worried about it. Coffee actually deepens autophagy. The lecithin, a fat, is high in both phosphatidyl choline and phosphatidyl serine. Being a fat, it does not interfere with autophagy or ketosis. It does wonders for my. memory and mental functioning. I sometimes take some CaAKG (a calcium salt of AKG) around this time.
- Around 8 a,.m.,I have a little green powder in water and take my NAD-boosting supplements (NMN, SIRT6 Activator, and a few others). If I want more nutrients, I’ll have a fasting mimicking smoothie, which is designed to keep AMPK activated and postpone activating mTOR.
- Around 10 a.m., I usually take my testosterone boosters (including Gaia Male Libido, tongkat ali and DHEA, along with sone creatine, which has powerful anti-aging benefits).
- I then take a hot shower to warm up my muscles. then exercise.
- On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I do resistance training in my home gym. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, I do either some HIIT or Zone 2 (light aerobics).
- Around noon or 1 pm (an hour or two after my workout) I eat a high protein, animal-based meal such as scrambled eggs with sardines, oysters, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions and broccoli, or some home-made yogurt with a protein-rich whey powder. (Some people in the life extension community avoid protein and animal foods out of fear of activating mTOR. But this seems misguided to me. We need some mTOR activation to support muscle growth, prevent sarcopenia, and support our immune systems.
- Two hours later I have my second meal. I take my glutathione boosters (glycine and NAC) with this meal.
- Around 6 pm, I have dinner. I take AMPK activating supplements (such as metformin, berberine and milk thistle) with this meal.
- So my goal is to start the day with AMPK activated; have a few hours of mTOR activation; then end the day by easing back into AMPK.
About my workouts
- 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.
- On my HIIT and aerobics days, I usually peddle a stationary bike. I keep the resistance low on the bike; I’m not trying to build muscle on my HIIT days. My main concern really 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.
Sleep and stress
- 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. (If I wake up in the middle of the night, taking a little time-release NAC along with glycine sometimes help me get back to sleep. They have the bonus of also supporting high levels of glutathione.
- For stress, I find it helpful to get out in nature, and talk a walk in the woods or by a lake or river.
- We all have ways of dealing with stress when it happens. One way that I feel is underrated is to give ourselves space to feel things (and process the feelings). I learned years ago that life is better, for me anyway, if I don’t bottle up my emotions. If I’m feeling sad, I try to go ahead and cry. Taking time to laugh, cry and let off steam in other ways all make sense to me. 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.
Optimizing 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.
Activating the 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.
More about 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
December 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 2020 and 2021, I lost about 30 pounds of body fat (mostly around my belly) and gained around 15 pounds of muscle (for a net weight loss of 15 pounds).
- My health is good. I don’t have many aches or pains. The ones I do are mostly exercise-related. One knee does hurt after working out, so I plan to have a doctor check it out.
- My eyesight’s good. I have not needed a new glasses prescription for years. My mind is sharp and clear. I had some short term memory problems about 12 years ago, but improving my diet and taking supplements fixed them.
- Physically, I feel pretty much like 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.
- 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 gained back about ten pounds. Some of the gain may be muscle but some is fat. This may be because I’d added dairy back into my diet. 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 in early 2022. 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, and trying to avoid jarring physical activites (such as jogging) which might trigger a retinal detachment.
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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.