One reason for this calamity is physicians who continue to rely on obsolete blood glucose ranges. These doctors fail to recognize that any excess glucose creates lethal metabolic pathologies that are underlying factors behind multiple age-related diseases.
People today thus suffer and die from diabetic-like complications without knowing their blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high!
Life Extension® long ago argued that most aging people have elevated blood glucose. Our controversial position has been vindicated as mainstream medicine consistently lowers the upper-level threshold of acceptable (safe) fasting blood glucose.
As new evidence accumulates, it has become abundantly clear that maturing individuals need to take aggressive actions to ensure their fasting and after-meal glucose levels are kept in safe ranges.
Glucose Is Like Gasoline
Our body’s primary source of energy is glucose. All of our cells use it, and when there is not enough glucose available, our body shuts down in a similar way that a car engine stops when the gasoline tank is empty.
When glucose is properly utilized, our cells produce energy efficiently. As cellular sensitivity toinsulin diminishes, excess glucose accumulates in our bloodstream. Like spilled gasoline, excess blood glucose creates a highly combustible environment from which oxidative and inflammatory fires chronically erupt.
Excess glucose not used for energy production converts to triglycerides that are either stored as unwanted body fat or accumulate in the blood where they contribute to the formation of atherosclerotic plaque.
If you were filling your automobile with gasoline and the tank reached full, you would not keep pumping in more gas. Yet most people keep fueling their bodies with excess energy (glucose) with little regard to the deadly consequences.
As an aging human, you face a daily onslaught of excess glucose that poses a greater risk to your safety than overflowing gasoline. Surplus glucose relentlessly reacts with your body’s proteins, causing damaging glycation reactions while fueling the fires of chronic inflammation and inciting the production of destructive free radicals.
The Evolving Definition of Type 2 Diabetes
Medical dictionaries define diabetes as a condition whereby the body is not able to regulate blood glucose levels, resulting in too much glucose being present in the blood. The debate is over what level of blood glucose is considered “too high.”
Nearly four decades ago, we emphatically stated that fasting blood glucose should be below 100(mg/dL). Yet from 1979 to 1997, the medical establishment dictated that one of the criteria for a diagnosis of diabetes was fasting glucose readings of 140 mg/dL or higher on two separate occasions.
In 1997, the medical establishment revised the fasting glucose threshold for a diagnosis of diabetes to 126 mg/dL. In addition, the medical establishment (American Diabetes Association), characterized the so-called impaired fasting glucose threshold level at 110 mg/dL, which was subsequently lowered in 2003 to what Life Extension originally stated, i.e. that no one should have fasting glucose 100 mg/dL or higher.
The problem is that we now know that the optimal fasting glucose ranges are 70-85 mg/dL based upon the totality of the scientific evidence.
Those with glucose above 85 mg/dL are at increased risk of heart attack. This was shown in a study of nearly 2,000 men where fasting blood glucose levels were measured over a 22-year period. The startling results showed that men with fasting glucose over 85 (mg/dL) had a 40% increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
The researchers who conducted this study stated “fasting blood glucose values in the upper normal range appears to be an important independent predictor of cardiovascular death in nondiabetic apparently healthy middle-aged men.”
So pull out your latest blood test result and see where you stand. At a minimum, you want to see your fasting glucose below 86 mg/dL.
Why Any “Excess” Glucose is Dangerous
Sugar damages cells via multiple mechanisms and is a causative factor in common diseases of aging.
In a group of humans who reduced their food intake to calorie restriction levels, fasting glucose declined to an average of 74 mg/dL.23 This corresponds to animal studies in which caloric restriction induced significant reductions in blood glucose in conjunction with extension of life span.
It is well established that cutting calorie intake reduces one’s risk of age-related diseases and slows markers of aging. One reason for this may be the reduction in blood glucose (and insulin) levels that occurs in response to ingesting fewer calories.
In a study of 33,230 men, high glucose was independently associated with a 38% increase in deaths from digestive tract cancers. Other studies show that diabetics have even greater increased cancer risks.
Diabetics suffer such horrific incidences of vascular disorders that some experts believe that coronary artery occlusion and diabetes should be classified as the same disease. In other words, if you are diabetic, you are almost certainly going to suffer coronary atherosclerosis.
In a recent study involving 1,800 people, coronary disease rates were the same over a 10-year period in pre-diabetics compared to those with full-blown diabetes. The authors of the study commented that impaired fasting glucose significantly increased risk in comparison with the normal glucose group and concluded:
“Early control of blood glucose is essential to prevention and control of coronary heart disease.”
As people age, their fasting glucose levels usually increase as their health declines.
Standard laboratory reference ranges allow an upper-limit of fasting glucose of 99 mg/dL. Yet the most effective anti-aging therapy—caloric restriction—lowers fasting glucose levels to the 70-85 mg/dL range.
Recent studies indicate that keeping fasting glucose levels in the range of 70-85 mg/dL and not allowing after-meal glucose levels to spike higher than 40 mg/dL over your fasting value, favorably influences our longevity genes.
The take-home lesson is that one can slash their risks of age-related diseases and possibly slow their rate of aging by tightly controlling blood glucose levels.
Shield Your Body From Excess Glucose
An enormous volume of published data shows that by taking the proper compounds beforemeals, the surge of glucose into the bloodstream and the subsequent insulin spike can be mitigated.
Nutrients that neutralize carbo-hydrate-degrading enzymes (like white kidney bean and brown seaweed extracts) are helpful. The addition of special fibers (like propolmannan) can slow the rate of carbohydrate absorption from the small intestine, thus further blunting the after-meal (postprandial) flow of glucose into the blood.
Life Extension introduced a multi-ingredient powdered formula in 2010 that was designed to be taken before heavy meals to control the rate of fat and carbohydrate absorption.
I cannot emphasize the critical importance for those with glucose levels above 85 mg/dL to take these kinds of compounds before meals that help shield one’s bloodstream against dangerous glucose-insulin spikes.
Why Most Aging People Should Take Metformin
Metformin is a drug approved to treat type 2 diabetes. It is also very effective for those at high risk of developing diabetes due to elevated blood sugar readings. The Diabetes Prevention Programshowed that metformin can reduce the risk of developing diabetes in high risk patients by a whopping 31%, with the greatest benefit for those significantly overweight.
Metformin improves insulin sensitivity, and inhibits the release of glycogen (the storage form for glucose) from the liver, thus lowering fasting glucose blood levels.
Life Extension funded research showing that metformin may have calorie restriction mimetic properties in laboratory mice. The drug’s unique ability to reduce glucose-insulin blood levels and its super low-cost make it something you’ll want to ask your doctor about.
Are Most of Us Pre-diabetic?
In reviewing thousands of blood test results and published scientific studies, I have come to the conclusion that more than 75% of people over the age of 40-50 are suffering from some degree of prediabetic-related disorder inflicted by elevated blood sugar.
These problems may silently smolder as kidney impairment, aberrant cell proliferation, and endothelial dysfunction—or explode outwardly as a sudden-death heart attack. Young healthy people can usually maintain optimal glucose ranges, whereas glucose levels creep up as we age. The data showing that modestly elevated “normal” glucose increases disease risk cannot be ignored.
Normal aging predisposes most of us to metabolic complications as a result of impaired glucose metabolism. If we fail to recognize this fact, we are doomed to suffer a plethora of degenerative conditions that were largely preventable.
The good news is that there are nutrients, hormones, and drugs that healthy people can take to achieve optimal glucose readings, or at least reduce blood sugar levels to safer ranges. The section at the end of this article provides a concise description of simple steps you can take to slash your glucose levels.
Proven Methods to Reduce Fasting and Postprandial Glucose Levels
Scientific studies indicate that any amount of fasting glucose over 85 mg/dL incrementally adds to heart attack risk.
If you can choose an ideal fasting glucose reading, it would probably be around 74 mg/dL. We know, however, that some people are challenged to keep their glucose under 100 mg/dL. What this means is that it is critically important for aging individuals to follow an aggressive program to suppress excess glucose as much as possible.
The good news is that many approaches that reduce glucose also lower fasting insulin, LDL, triglycerides, and C-reactive protein, thereby slashing one’s risk of vascular disease, cancer, dementia and a host of other degenerative disorders.
In this section, we succinctly describe drugs, hormones, nutrients and lifestyle changes that facilitate healthy glucose levels.
For Sugar Addicts
For those whose glucose levels remain unacceptably high despite taking the powdered drink mix, there are encapsulated nutrients that work to specifically block the sucrase and glucosidase digestive enzymes. Sucrase breaks down sucrose and glucosidase converts all carbohydrates into glucose. Blocking these enzymes reduces the amount of glucose absorbed from dietary sources. One capsule containing L-arabinose and a special brown seaweed extract should be taken before eating sucrose (table sugar) containing foods.
Enhancing Insulin Sensitivity
Aging causes a loss of insulin sensitivity, which means that glucose that would normally be utilized by energy-producing cells instead either remains in the blood or converts to storage as trigly-ceride (in blood and fat cells) or glycogen in the liver.
A new cinnamon extract has been developed to enhance the ability of insulin to drive blood glucose into muscle cells. This novel cinnamon compound that enhances insulin sensitivity is combined with brown seaweed extract (to inhibit the glucosidase enzyme) to provide additive control over glucose levels.
An anti-diabetic drug that Life Extension suggests normal aging people consider taking to lower glucose is metformin. It is available in low-cost generic form.
Metformin has a long history of safe human use, plus intriguing data to suggest that it may possess anti-aging properties. We think that those with excess blood glucose (above 80-85mg/dL) should ask their doctor about it even if they are not diagnosed as diabetic.
Some of the side benefits of metformin include weight loss and triglyceride reduction, which are in themselves proven heart attack risk reducers.
Metformin functions to reduce absorption of ingested carbohydrates, suppress appetite, enhance insulin sensitivity, and most uniquely, metformin inhibits the release of stored liver glucose (glycogen) back into the blood.
One of the problems that frustrates so many people who follow a low-calorie diet, yet have persistently elevated glucose levels is that the liver improperly dumps too much glucose into the blood. This of course is a vital life function in a starvation state, but for aging individuals, excess hepatic release of glycogen (called gluconeogenesis) causes them to suffer chronically high glucose and insulin levels. Metformin inhibits gluconeogenesis.
Another low-cost drug that lowers glucose levels is acarbose, which reduces the absorption of ingested carbohydrates by inhibiting the glucosidase and other sugar absorbing enzymes in the small intestine. A typical dose is 50-100 mg of acarbose taken before each meal. Some people experience intestinal side effects, but otherwise, acarbose is highly efficacious in reducing blood glucose levels and reducing several cardiac risk markers in the blood.
There are of course other FDA-approved drugs that will lower your glucose levels. Many of these drugs, however, function by mechanisms that carry side effect risks.
Life Extension stands on solid scientific ground in recommending that those with impaired glucose tolerance follow an aggressive program that involves eating healthier and smaller meals, exercising, and taking nutrients before meals that deflect the impact of excess calorie intake. Drugs like metformin may be considered for its multiple benefits that extend beyond mere glucose control. Acarbose should be utilized if glucose levels remain stubbornly high.
Normal aging is accompanied by a sharp decline in hormones that are involved in maintaining insulin sensitivity and hepatic glucose control. Restoring DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) levels to youthful ranges in men and women may help enhance insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism in the liver.
Progressive doctors are realizing that in men, a testosterone deficiency can induce a serious reduction of insulin sensitivity. For men, restoring youthful levels of testosterone has been shown to be particularly beneficial in facilitating glucose control. Blood tests can assess your hormonal status so a man can replenish testosterone (and DHEA) to more youthful ranges. Optimal free testosterone blood levels in men are between 20-25 pg/mL.179
One can achieve remarkable control over glucose levels by altering their diet and exercising more. Below are three dietary options to consider:
- Consume a low-calorie diet (often less than 1,400-1,800 calories a day). Most people cannot adhere to this kind of low-calorie diet.
- Consume a Mediterranean diet, with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and beans as protein sources, and omega-3 and monounsaturated fats (olive oil), while avoiding saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, cholesterol-laden foods, excess omega-6 fats, and most animal products. An increasing percentage of health-conscious Americans are adopting this kind of diet.
- Avoid sugary fruit juices (almost all fruit juices contain too many sugars) and beverages spiked with fructose, sucrose, and/or high-fructose corn syrup. Consume a low-glycemic index and low-glycemic load diet.
From a practical approach, achieving optimal glucose readings on your next blood test will probably involve a combination of the various approaches described in this section. Each individual will respond differently.
For some, a modest reduction in calorie intake and an increase in physical activity will sufficiently lower fasting and after-meal glucose levels. Most aging individuals, however, will need to take the powdered drink mix before the two heaviest meals of the day to impede the impact of ingested calories. Others should ask their doctor about the prescription drug suggestions such as metformin.
When one questions the importance of doing all this, please know that the incidence of pre-diabetes, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes is increasing at alarming rates. In fact, diseases related to glucose impairment are skyrocketing everywhere in the world that adopts unhealthy Western eating habits.
A medical catastrophe is predicted for the United States as the vast majority of the population is now overweight and suffers frighteningly high levels of glucose, insulin and triglycerides.
The single most important component of one’s longevity program may be the steps taken before meals to neutralize the toxic effects of excess calories most of us invariably ingest.
Life Extension urges all members to enact a personal program designed to suppress fasting glucose levels to ranges of 80-85 mg/dL (or lower). Fortunately, there are a wide range of options that enable aging humans to accomplish this profoundly effective anti-aging feat.
By William Faloon at Life Extension