Everyone in the Western world knows the story of the Fountain of Youth, and of the many explorers who perished seeking it. Advertisers today push beauty products that claim to provide anti-aging effects to the user. Digital effects make actors in films look younger and healthier for longer and longer. Raw food and vegan diet activists claim that diets closer to the food source reduce toxins and somehow lengthen life through cleaner dieting. Americans in particular scoop up billions of dollars worth of “health food” and beauty products intended to lengthen and improve the quality of life from the inside out (and the outside in).
The reality is this, though: bodies age and continue aging until death. Once peak physical health has been reached, decline is inevitable. The only thing up for debate is the rate at which this deterioration occurs, which depends largely upon the general physical health (and luck) of the individual.
Anti-Aging Properties of Ibuprofen
Recent research from Texas A&M University and University of Newcastle hint that there are ways we can stave off the aging process. This research suggests that ibuprofen, a common medication used to combat inflammation and reduce pain and fever, may have its own anti-aging properties. The research from Newcastle found that ibuprofen slowed aging in small animals (mice) to the equivalent of 12 human years. (These animals have very limited lifespans, so a small amount of slowing has a dramatic effect when multiplied by the human lifespan.) Similar results were found in flies and worms at Texas A&M. The medication reduces swelling and inflammation caused by arthritis and other autoimmune disorders which can cause discomfort and toxic effects to the body. By suppressing these effects, ibuprofen can allow these small animals to live longer, reducing the effect their disorders have on shortening their lifespans.
Ibuprofen may, in fact, fight the aging process.
So it would seem that this medication, readily available at drugstores in many countries and safe for the majority of people to consume at low levels for many years, may be useful for more than just clearing up a headache or lowering a fever to safer levels. Ibuprofen may, in fact, fight the aging process.
There is one hitch in this seemingly magical solution to rapid physical deterioration caused by aging: the only mice that experienced slower aging were the ones whose aging was increased by severe inflammatory responses. This means that people without arthritis or other similar diseases would not suddenly live twelve years longer than expected simply by virtue of a small over-the-counter pill. While ibuprofen seems to be able to slow down aging for those whose decline is significantly faster than others in this particular sense, it is not a miracle drug for aging in its entirety.
One expert, Thomas von Zglinicki at the Institute for Aging and Health at the University of Newcastle, told the United Kingdom’s Telegraph that inflammation may well be the major culprit for many causes of severe aging, but it is not clear that ibuprofen offers the complete counter to that process. He also does not recommend that every person with inflammation (or every person experiencing age-related physical decline) run out and buy ibuprofen in bulk, intending to take one or two pills per day. Taking anti-inflammatory medications daily may pose its own risk.
Other Important Findings
The mice used in the study had more than just a little swelling. Their inflammation was a genetic disorder, one that caused aging similar to people: graying fur, rapid weight loss, and even neurological difficulties–all things that are frequently present in those whose aging is accelerating rapidly. However, with their inflammation under control, these mice were able to age at the same rate as mice without this genetic disorder. This also meant that their livers and intestines were helped, something that was proven even when part of the liver was removed. Improving regenerative capacity, or the ability of the body to regrow tissue, means much longer and healthier lives. So not only are the visible signs of aging improved with inflammation control, but the internal aging processes which often make aging uncomfortable and scary can be made much gentler.
How to Use This Research to Help a Senior
What von Zglinicki does recommend, and what is supported by the study’s findings, is that chronic inflammation can be a major cause for accelerated aging. Seniors experiencing chronic inflammation (or who believe they may experience such) should see a doctor and discuss ways to control said inflammation and prevent it from becoming worse over time. This may involve a special diet, particular medications, different kinds of exercise, reduced stress, and other solutions. It may also be a good idea to keep some ibuprofen on hand.
Agencies. Ibuprofen could prevent premature aging by combating arthritis, study shows. The Telegraph (June 24, 2014). Available at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/10922626/Ibuprofen-could-prevent-premature-ageing-by-combating-arthritis-study-shows.html. Retrieved April 11, 2016.
Brenoff, Ann. (December 19, 2014). Ibuprofen Could Add Years To Your Life, Study Finds. Huffington Post. Available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/19/ibuprofen-longer-life_n_6354856.html. Retrieved April 11, 2016.
He C., Tsuchiyama, S.K., Nguyen, Q.T., Plyusnina E.N., Terrill, S.R., Sahibzada, S., et al. (2014) Enhanced Longevity by Ibuprofen, Conserved in Multiple Species, Occurs in Yeast through Inhibition of Tryptophan Import. PLoS Genetics 10(12): e1004860. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004860. Available at http://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1004860. Retrieved April 11, 2016.
Jurk, D., Wilson, C., Passos, J. F., Oakley, F., Correia-Melo, C., Greaves et al. (June 24, 2014). Chronic inflammation induces telomere dysfunction and accelerates aging in mice. Nature Communications 5, Article number: 4172. Doi:10.1038/ncomms5172. Available at http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/140624/ncomms5172/full/ncomms5172.html. Retrieved April 11, 2016.
Saul, Heather. (December 19, 2014). Is ibuprofen the key to anti-aging? Study finds painkiller extends life of flies and worms by equivalent of 12 human years. The Independent. Available at http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/could-ibuprofen-be-key-to-anti-ageing-study-finds-painkiller-extends-life-of-flies-and-worms-by-9935169.html. Retrieved April 11, 2016.