Muscles release the protein irisin [structural formula shown below] into the bloodstream, and this amount is increased by physical exercise. Irisin inhibits cancer cells: we wrote about this recently. Spanish researchers also think that this same irisin can help people live longer, and they have written about it in the American Journal of Medicine.
Physical exercise is healthy and muscle mass is healthy too. It’s clear as day now that people who exercise a lot live to an older age than people who do hardly any exercise, and there is a growing body of evidence that you live to a riper age the more muscle mass you have. So you’d expect then that bodybuilding might just be the healthiest sport ever invented. Natural bodybuilding of course.
Indeed, a large number of bodybuilders use everything God has forbidden in an attempt to build muscle and mass, but there are still no convincing indications that pharmacological bodybuilders die sooner than average people.
It may be the case that bodybuilders are protected by the non-pharmacological part of their lifestyle. And it may also be the case that bodybuilders who use no anabolic steroids, growth hormone, insulin, IGF-1 or other substances live much longer than normal. Many well-known bodybuilders, weight lifters and strongmen from the pre-steroids era not only live to exceptional ages, but remained exceptionally fit until well into old age.
Georg Hackenschmidt [1877-1968] for example lived to 90. He did weight training almost daily until well into his eighties and he ran 11 km a couple of times a week too. And that’s just one example.
A few weeks ago Spanish researchers described in the American Journal of Medicine how they may have discovered how muscles and physical exercise can extend life expectancy. The researchers studied a group of 79 healthy men and women aged between 100 and 104 [Healthy centenarians], and compared them with a group of healthy people aged between 27 and 39 [Young, healthy], and a group of people the same age that had just had a heart attack [Young, acute myocardial infarction].
The elderly subjects had more irisin in their blood than the healthy young adults had, and even more irisin than the young adults that had had a heart attack.
“Our study demonstrates that healthy centenarians are characterized by increased serum irisin levels, whereas levels of this molecule were found to be significantly lower in young patients with myocardial infarction”, the Spanish researchers wrote. “Altogether, our data indicate that circulating irisin levels may be significantly associated with successful aging and could serve as a potential vascular risk marker.”
“However, further mechanistic studies are required to investigate whether irisin could act as a protective factor for the development of cardiovascular disease and age-related disorders. We speculate that the high irisin levels observed in our centenarians may reflect successful aging because this sample was actually disease free.”
Serum irisin levels, precocious myocardial infarction, and healthy exceptional longevity.
Skeletal muscles produce irisin. Growing controversy exists on the association between this myokine and chronic disease risk. On the basis of the potential protective effects that irisin could exert on both vascular function and skeletal muscle mass, we hypothesized that an elevated level of this molecule may contribute to successful aging.
Serum irisin levels were measured using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in disease-free centenarians, young healthy controls, and patients with precocious acute myocardial infarction.
We found the highest levels of serum irisin in disease-free centenarians (35.3 ± 5.5 ng/mL) compared with young healthy controls (20.7 ± 6.3 ng/mL) and especially with young patients with acute myocardial infarction (15.1 ± 5.4 ng/mL).
Our study demonstrates that healthy centenarians are characterized by increased serum irisin levels, whereas levels of this molecule were found to be significantly lower in young patients with myocardial infarction. Our findings may prompt further research into the role played by irisin not only in vascular disorders but also in life span modulation.
MID: 24813865 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]