Longer Life Through Lower Blood Sugar

Many experiments and studies on life extension have found the interesting and important result that lowering blood glucose (blood sugar) and/or restricting dietary carbohydrates means longer life. This has been found using several different lab animals and in humans as well. It’s possible to have longer life through lower blood sugar.

Acarbose

Acarbose is an anti-diabetic drug that works by inhibiting enzymes in the gut that break down carbohydrates to glucose, and therefore less glucose is absorbed.

Male mice that were fed acarbose lived 22% longer than controls, although the female mice lived only about 7% longer.

 

A lifespan increase of 22% is large, among the longer lifespan extensions seen with other interventions, comparable to rapamycin and a larger increase than fat-tissue insulin receptor knockout. Acarbose reduced fasting insulin in male mice but not in females, which may account for the difference in lifespan extension.

IGF-1 was decreased in both sexes, and fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) was increased, and both of these hormonal changes could be involved in life extension.

In humans with type 2 diabetes, long-term acarbose treatment was associated with a huge 50% decrease in the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke. Importantly, the risk reduction was associated with a decrease in postprandial hyperglycemia, or a rise in blood sugar after eating.

A meta-analysis of acarbose found similar large reductions in CVD events.

Since dietary carbohydrates, especially grains, sugar, and starches, are the primary determinant of blood sugar, why not just cut carbohydrates instead?

Metformin

Metformin is the most prescribed anti-diabetic drug, and it lowers blood sugar and insulin. Similar large reductions in death rates have been found with metformin use, so much so that diabetics using metformin may outlive non-diabetics who don’t use it.

Would cutting carbohydrates cause the same life extension and anti-aging as metformin?

An argument against that is that diabetics taking metformin may live longer than non-diabetics who don’t take it. Therefore, metformin may be causing a real anti-aging effect.

An argument for it is that most non-diabetics eat large amounts of carbohydrates, with the average American eating about 50% of his or her calories as carbohydrate. And among average people, Dr. Joseph Kraft showed that large numbers, perhaps up to 80%, have some degree of impaired glucose tolerance, i.e. they’re insulin resistant.

If metformin increased lifespan in animals or people who ate little or no carbohydrates, that would be convincing, but to my knowledge, it has not.

Glucosamine

Glucosamine is an over-the-counter supplement commonly taken for arthritis and joint pain. Glucosamine extends lifespan in mice through

an induction of mitochondrial biogenesis, lowered blood glucose levels, enhanced expression of several murine amino-acid transporters, as well as increased amino-acid catabolism. Taken together, we provide evidence that GlcN [glucosamine] extends life span in evolutionary distinct species by mimicking a low-carbohydrate diet. [My emphasis.]

Glucosamine impairs glycolysis (glucose metabolism) and therefore lowers blood glucose levels.

Glucosamine also activates autophagy, the cellular self-cleansing process that retards aging, and inhibits mTOR, the cellular growth engine that accelerates aging.

In humans, use of glucosamine is associated with an 18% lower death rate.

Again, if glucosamine mimics a low-carbohydrate diet, why not just eliminate the middleman and refrain from eating carbohydrates?

Ketones

Fasting, eating a very low amount of carbohydrates (usually less than 50 grams daily), or taking ketone supplements or MCT oil raises the amount of molecules known as ketones in the bloodstream. Increased ketones mimic the effects of food restriction by lowering blood glucose and insulin.

While ketone supplements are generally beneficial in my opinion, if you cut the carbohydrates, albeit radically, you’re in ketosis (producing ketones) and presumably extending your lifespan and fighting aging by doing so.

Glucose

Feeding glucose to the worm C. elegans shortens its lifespan.

Restricting glucose extends its lifespan.

When carbohydrates are digested, they become glucose inside the body, since most carbohydrates are just long chains of glucose. (Sugars may incorporate other molecules, such as fructose and galactose.)

So why not just restrict carbohydrates?

Multiple lines of evidence lead to carbohydrate restriction

As we’ve seen from the studies above, multiple lines of evidence lead to the conclusion that restricting carbohydrates and thus preventing high blood glucose, whether spikes in it or a higher average glucose, leads to longer life.

These same lines of evidence lead to the conclusion that carbohydrates can promote aging and shorten life.

Note that some carbohydrates, namely complex carbohydrates found in non-starchy vegetables, don’t raise blood sugar much if at all.

The foods that contain abundant carbohydrates and increase blood glucose are the ones to restrict or eliminate, and they include grains (wheat, rice, corn, etc.), sugar, and starchy tubers such as potatoes.

Someone who is very insulin sensitive may not be harmed much by carbohydrates. These people include athletes and other lean people who exercise or labor at physically demanding jobs.

Anyone else, and that includes most people, would likely see a big improvement in health by restricting carbohydrates.

PS: See my new book, Best Supplements for Men, for more tips on how to live longer.

PPS: Check out my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.

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25 comments
Nathan says June 25, 2017

Hmmmmm P.D., this also may be the explanation behind calorie restrictions efficacy in longevity, it’s a proxy for restricting carbohydrates by restricting calories as a whole, would be interesting to see a calorie restriction diet compared to a non calorie restricted low carb diet. Thanks as always for keeping me up on the latest.

Reply
    P. D. Mangan says June 25, 2017

    Yes, as I’ve mentioned, many anti-aging studies are compromised by the controls used: animals with a tendency to obesity and that are fed high iron, high sugar and veg oil garbage.

    Reply
      Charles says June 25, 2017

      http://okicent.org/docs/anyas_cr_diet_2007_1114_434s.pdf
      Caloric Restriction, the Traditional Okinawan Diet, and Healthy Aging
      The Diet of the World’s Longest-Lived People and Its Potential Impact on Morbidity and Life Span

      Lower calories + much higher carbohydrate = longer life.
      Your thoughts

      Reply
        P. D. Mangan says June 25, 2017

        Truth about the Blue Zones

        Reply
          Bill says June 25, 2017

          PD I have just read your post on the Blue Zones and the data about the Seventh Day Adventists in Linda Loma.

          Interestingly Dr Lester Morrison who discovered that Chondroitin Sulfate was a professor at Linda Loma while doing his research work..And he worked with Seventh Day Adventists in his research. from the 1940’s through to the 1970’s, before dying at an advanced aged in 1990’s

          I wonder if this community has preserved among it’s members the memory of Morison’s discovery that Chondroitin sulfate CURES heart disease ?

          Reply
          P. D. Mangan says June 25, 2017

          Bill, perhaps they have, take chondroitin, and thus live longer.

          Reply
Charles says June 25, 2017

“The foods that contain abundant carbohydrates and increase blood glucose are the ones to restrict or eliminate, and they include grains (wheat, rice, corn, etc.), sugar, and starchy tubers such as potatoes.”

So – all of the people who eat a McDougall starch based diet will die early??

Reply
    P. D. Mangan says June 25, 2017

    If the McDougall diet increases their blood sugar, yes.

    Reply
      Bill says June 25, 2017

      PD, I’ve also been reading Bill Davis’ books : “Wheat Belly” ( 2011) and “Undoctured” (2017)

      He says much the same thing about grains but attributes it to modern (post Borlaug, Green Revolution ) plant breeding of grains such as wheat & rice. In breeding modern highly productive, short stem grain varieties, using related wild grass types, the breeders ‘accidentally’ also introduced genes that promote rapid increases in blood sugar. Davis mentions an experiment he did on himself eating “Einkorn’ wheat bread and a modern organic wheat bread and testing blood sugar levels afterwards. He had a much lower blood sugar level after eating the Einkorn wheat bread.

      I also wonder if something similar has happened with potato breeding over the past 2-300 years in Europe and the USA. The breeding has aimed at growing lots of big uniform high carb spuds for the processing into fries, chips, wedges etc.

      Meanwhile there are still ‘primitive’ types of potatoes around with colored flesh indicating lots of polyphenols. I am growing a variety called “Purple Congo”. It has dark blue skin and purple flesh. It tastes great baked. But ‘blah’ if boiled or steamed. But I haven’t found any research has been done on whether these types of potatoes bring on blood sugar spikes when eaten

      Reply
DeeAnn BRICE says June 25, 2017

Then why does metformin destory your kidneys. My dad was on metformin but isnt now because it was doing such irreversible damage to gis kidneys.

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Claudette says June 25, 2017

Do you have any Information about female with diabetes?

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Rena Swinson says June 25, 2017

I am a diabetic and want to take golocmine I am on Lentils 50 units per day. J
Is it safe for me to t

Reply
Rena Swinson says June 25, 2017

I am a diabetic and want to take golocmine I am on Lentils 50 units per day. Is it safe for me to take
Is it safe for me to

Reply
eah says June 26, 2017

Might be interesting for you (and your readers) Dennis:

https://twitter.com/AndrewSabisky/status/879266740223475712

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doug shover says June 26, 2017

Had stent placed corated arty lect. Im. Im much tired befor stent placed left c-arty I just ware out faster.d shover

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George Henderson says June 26, 2017

This is some very interesting stuff. The human acarbose data is disputed because it’s a secondary outcome analysis from industry-sponsored safety trials. However here we see that it is fully consistent with the animal experiments. And these safety trials are actually the very rigorous tests needed for drug approval; death and CHD mortality were secondary outcomes because it wasn’t expected to see much except effects on glycemia from such a mild drug. I don’t think it counts as p=hacking when trials turn up unexpected mortality data.
In the human glucosamine studies it seems be glucosamine sulfate that’s specifically associated with benefit, the sulfate itself might play a role.

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Edwin Muyuka says June 26, 2017

How do I get the drugs and books?I am diabetic type 2

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Kiran says June 27, 2017

Nice article regarding diabetes anti aging medication

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Ranganatha.B.N says June 27, 2017

I wonder as why one should worry only about aging when it is a natural progression

Reply
    Bill says June 27, 2017

    Well Rananatha, just go ahead and ‘not worry’.. You will soon naturally age and die and then you will not be commenting here on Rogue Health.

    Meanwhile, the rest of us here will stay fit & healthy and defy your ‘natural progression’.

    Reply
Vincent says June 27, 2017

Another brilliant post. I have a question, apologies in advance if this is basic. At least once a week a fast for an entire day. On average, 28-32 hours. Will this time induce ketosis or autophagy?

Thank you again for everything you do P.D You’re my resource and go to for all things health!

Reply
    P. D. Mangan says June 27, 2017

    Thanks, Vincent. Fasting for 28-32 hours will definitely induce autophagy; in fact, in someone whose healthy and most of all young, overnight fasting will do it. Whether you get into ketosis with your fasting depends on your habitual diet the rest of the time. If you regularly eat lots of carbohydrates, that may not be enough time to get into ketosis. Typically, when people on high carbs switch to a ketogenic diet, adjustment takes a few days. This, like so many things, is context dependent. You might go straight into ketosis with your fasting, or maybe not, depending on a number of factors but especially what you eat the rest of the time. You could always measure using Ketostix which are not terribly expensive.

    Reply
Ben says June 28, 2017

Good post. What do you think about the reports of thyroid and other issues from long term low carb?

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    P. D. Mangan says June 29, 2017

    T3 appears to be downregulated in a ketogenic diet in order to spare muscle. See this article for details.

    Reply
Andy P says July 19, 2017

it is quite important to distinguish the key misnomer that all calories are equal. energy from protein and fat are extracted by very different mechanisms to how carbohydrates are absorbed.

I would advise against calorie restriction if it causes a deficiency of important nutrients such as fats, amino acids and important minerals and cofactors.

I would always advise people to significantly restrict their carb intake especially from starches and refined foods.

Reply
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