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The Translational Error Theory of human aging –“Lost in Translation”

There are many theories about why humans age, what causes chronic diseases to develop, and why we eventually die.  Understanding the rationale and evidence for each of these theories provides guidance on actions I can take that help me increase my healthspan, so that my years can be enjoyable, and not a burden for those who care about me.  I have recently learned of another theory for which the evidence is compelling.  This message is an effort to explain it, as well as reviewing other valid theories. 


1. The free radical theory of aging is well documented. To lessen free radical damage, I consume vitamin C 500 mg twice a day, vitamin E 400IU twice a week, and eat a diet of colorful fruits and vegetables that contain a variety of antioxidants.

2. Inflammation (or “Inflammaging” as it is often called by researchers) is a cause of chronic disease, including plaque in the arteries, cancer, etc.  To reduce inflammation, I consume fish oil, avoid 4-legged meat, reduce stress by exercising and avoiding the media, by treasuring friends, meditating and doing yoga.

3. Telomere shortening.  The length of telomeres, which are caps on the end of the DNA in our cells, preserve our genetic information to allow longevity. Actions that shorten telomeres include stress and high metabolic rate.  Consuming antioxidants, staying fit, and relaxing are all useful to keep long telomeres. Note that EGCG and quercetin help maintain telomere length (1).

4. A new theory is known as the translational infidelity error theory of aging.  The basic mechanism is that mRNA is translated incorrectly, incorporating the wrong amino acids into proteins that then fold improperly (based on the AA error theory of  Wolfgang Freist). These proteins are either destroyed, causing a shortage of needed proteins, or worse, remain malfunctioning and accumulating as hazardous waste such as plaque in Alzheimer’s.  Processes that will lessen functional proteins being lost in translation include: 1) increasing the availability of needed amino acids, 2) slowing the rate of translation to increase accuracy, 3) providing time for better proofreading, 4) increasing degradation of misfolded proteins, or 5) diluting the accumulated damage by half through cell division. Helpful actions include getting exercise, eating blueberries, drinking green tea, and adjusting the diet to include beneficial foods, such as tomatoes, onions, strawberries, and cabbage. For a longer explanation click here.

For my index of healthspan activities, click here.

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