HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii researchers have just unlocked the amazing abilities of a so-called longevity gene, which as its name implies, can help you live longer.
Dr. Bradley Willcox & a team of University of Hawaii researchers discovered as you get older, a gene called the FOX03 "G" or "protective" longevity gene has the ability to provide extra protection against early death, and as a result, add years to your life.
"We did some analyses and it could be anywhere from 1 to 3 extra years of life," said Dr. Bradley Willcox.
The researchers looked at two studies that spanned 17-years. One of them was a sub study of the Honolulu Heart Program focusing on more than 3,500 aging local Japanese men. They found those with the protective longevity gene outlived those without it.
As the study participants aged, researchers discovered the protective longevity gene provided extra protection against death; reducing their risk for mortality by 10%. The gene also provided significant protection against coronary heart disease; reducing one's risk of dying from a heart attack by 26%.
"Which is a huge number. We're pretty amazed by these findings," Willcox said. "That's equivalent to not being a heavy smoker, not having high blood pressure, not having diabetes. It's a huge number."
The protective longevity gene acts like a stress resistance gene. It sees problems and fixes them.
"We think the gene may work to reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a major driver of the aging process. Aging-related diseases, such as heart disease and cancer, are also strongly influenced by inflammation," said Willcox. "If we can unlock the molecular and cellular mechanisms involved, we may be able to develop treatments to significantly extend human lifespan and health span".
Forty percent of us are born with the "protective" longevity gene. An expensive blood test can determine if you have it for sure.
Scientists know certain foods stimulate the gene like Okinawan sweet potatoes, turmeric and green tea. Moderate amount of beer and wine help too, and exercise is excellent. However, it's also important to remember, just because you have the gene doesn't mean it's a free pass. You still have to eat healthy and take care of your body.
Most of the research was done at the Kuakini Medical Center. The Honolulu Heart Program study continues today. The oldest living participant is 106 years old. The results of their groundbreaking discovery were published Monday in an online, international medical journal called "Aging Cell". Willcox and his colleagues made national and international headlines in 2014 when they discovered shorter men lived longer.