Longevity researcher takes strawberry antioxidant for healthy aging

Drug researcher Paul Robbins is studying how a compound in strawberries might fight some of the inflammatory processes that come with aging.
Courtesy of Paul Robbins; Getty Images

  • Longevity researchers are working on a new class of anti-aging drugs called “senolytics.”
  • The drugs target and eliminate “zombie” cells that accumulate as people age.
  • A researcher is already taking a chemical compound naturally present in strawberries, called fisetin.

The same chemicals that give bright red strawberries their vibrant taste and color could also be a secret ingredient for healthy aging. It turns out that one special compound found in strawberries, called fisetin, is a zombie cell killer.

Paul Robbins, co-director of the Institute for the Biology of Aging and Metabolism at the University of Minnesota, has been studying fisetin for years and he’s been impressed with how it can help lab mice stay healthy. He has previously shown in published research that fisetin, which is also found in other red and rust-colored fruits like apples and persimmons, can extend and improve the lives of lab mice.

But during the pandemic, he began to wonder: what if fisetin could help? him age better and improve your immunity by reducing inflammation and lowering the levels of powerful “zombie” cells that build up in your body over time? He started taking a dose of fisetin once every two weeks, hoping it might help boost his immunity – and he hasn’t stopped since.

“I have a knee that’s a bit grumpy — it always seems to feel better right after I take it. Is that real? Who knows,” Robbins told Insider.

He says it’s entirely possible that all he’s feeling is just a powerful placebo effect.

“Again, there is no evidence in humans that this type of treatment has any benefit,” Robbins said.

Strawberry Chemicals May Kill ‘Zombie Cells’ That Build Up With Age

People shop for fruit at Union Square Farmers Market on July 13, 2022 in New York City.
Liao Pan/China News Service via Getty Images

Scientists call fisetin a “senolytic” because it targets and eliminates senescent cells in the body, which accumulate as people age and contribute to age-related health problems. These cells are also called “zombie cells” because they have stopped multiplying, but are not dying. Yet they can still release molecules that trigger inflammation.

The National Institutes of Health are so concerned about the impact of senescent cells on aging that they are funding $125 million in grants to study them over the next few years. In aging mice, when these zombie cells are eliminated, the functionality of key organs like the heart, liver, lungs and brain improves, as systemic inflammation decreases.

“If you’re a healthy human when you’re 20, 30, or 40, you really don’t have a lot of senescent cells, it seems,” Robbins said. In fact, senescent cells are essential for embryonic development, telling our fingers when to stop growing, and they can also fight off cancerous tumors.

“It’s when you get older that you really find it associated with conditions like frailty or disease,” Robbins said.

In the laboratory, he is working on the development of fisetin-based drugs that could eliminate these zombie cells from the body.

“These trials are ongoing, and I think we’ll know within a year or two whether there’s a real benefit, or whether we need better senolytics, or whether we need one senolytic plus another. compound,” he said.

Wait for more research before taking fisetin, experts say

Fisetin is abundant in many fruits and vegetables, including onions, grapes, and cucumbers.
Dalibor Despotovic/Getty Images

Other longevity experts like Assistant Professor Markus Riessland, who studies senolysis and the aging brain at Stony Brook University, say people at home should only practice a few years of patience while scientists like Robbins is working to determine when, how, and at what dose fisetin might work to improve aging.

There are already many supplement vendors on the Internet, selling products that are not regulated for safety or quality. Besides being for sale in an unregulated space, high doses of fisetin could be toxic. The proper dosage and potential harms for patients with other health conditions have also not been discovered. So while Riessland is excited about the promise of senolytic drugs like fisetin, he’s not ready to start taking pills just yet.

“I don’t mean ‘take it,’ I don’t mean ‘don’t take it,'” Riessland said. It is still unclear how well fisetin will work and how safe it is. “I would wait a bit, to be honest.”

In the meantime, you can find plenty of naturally occurring fisetin — along with other anti-inflammatory compounds that can help fight aging — abundant in strawberries as well as onions, apples, and a whole host of other fruits and vegetables. colorful.

And there’s a small but growing body of research suggesting that people who eat more strawberries may lower their risk of Alzheimer’s, slow cognitive decline, and even improve blood sugar and heart health. So go ahead, bite into that bright red strawberry already.

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