kris ulland

Your Nutrition Partner

Why does the body age? One of the main causes of aging is the shortening of telomeres– genetic buffers that lay on either end of our chromosomes.

But that’s only part of the story. Aging also has a lot to do with senescent cells, the cells which, due to age, damage or mutation, have shut down and become non-functional.

Recently, a groundbreaking human study demonstrated that a combination of the leukemia drug dasatinib and the dietary supplement quercetin, taken for just three days, can significantly reduce the number of senescent cells in elderly people.

Now interest is growing in the use of senolytics, drugs which can kill senescent cells, as an anti-aging therapy.

Senolytics have been shown to improve health and extend lifespan in experimental models. Senolytics are a class of drugs that selectively work by helping the body clear away old, damaged, or senescent, cells to make way for new, healthy cells.

Senolytic drugs induce apoptosis, or programmed cell death, of senescent cells. These cells accumulate in tissues with aging and chronic diseases. In studies in animals, targeting senescent cells using genetic or pharmacological approaches delays, prevents, or alleviates multiple age-related issues, chronic diseases, geriatric syndromes, and loss of physiological resilience.

Among the chronic conditions successfully treated by depleting senescent cells in preclinical studies are frailty, cardiac dysfunction, vascular hyporeactivity and calcification, diabetes mellitus, liver steatosis, osteoporosis, vertebral disk degeneration, pulmonary fibrosis, and radiation-induced damage

Preclinical and some preliminary clinical studies suggest that senolytics may protect against age-related disorders, slow certain aging processes, and promote longevity.

The first senolytic drugs were:

  • Dasatinib – Dasatinib is in a class of medications called kinase inhibitors. It works by blocking the action of an abnormal protein that signals cancer cells to multiply, therefore helping to stop the spread of cancer cells.
  • Quercetin – Quercetin has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that might help reduce swelling, kill cancer cells, control blood sugar, and help prevent heart disease. Quercetin is most commonly used for conditions of the heart and blood vessels and to prevent cancer. Quercetin is a plant flavonol from the flavonoid group of polyphenols. It is found in many fruits, vegetables, leaves, seeds, and grains; red onions and kale. Quercetin inhibits the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-xL. That’s why dasatinib and quercetin were used together– they have complementary mechanisms of action. Quercetin is, for now, the most-validated natural senolytics supplement.
  • Fisetin – Studies have found that fisetin has a number of potential health benefits. It has powerful antioxidant effects that can not only neutralize free radicals directly but also helps increase the effects of other antioxidants in the system. Studies have also found that fisetin has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer potential.
  • Navitoclax -Navitoclax is an experimental orally active anti-cancer drug, which is a Bcl-2 inhibitor similar in action to obatoclax.
  • Piperlongumine is an alkaloid found in peppers, has also shown senolytic effects. Piperlongumine and quercetin are the main natural senolytics we know of right now. Apples and long peppers are the best senolytic foods. 
  • Circumin  is a chemical found in turmeric and is commonly touted as an anti-aging supplement. However, to date curcumin anti-aging studies have found that it works via reducing inflammation or general oxidation. These are potential ways to slow aging.
  • There are some supplements which are not strictly senolytics, but may kill senescent cells indirectly, by increasing natural killer cell activity. Garlic extract, spirulina, ashwagandha (an anti-anxiety supplement), and ganoderma lucidum can all increase natural killer cell activity.

Senescent Cells (SC) accumulate with aging.The most harmful SC are resistant to apoptosis (normal cell death).

SC take weeks to reaccumulate after treatment, so senolytics can be administered intermittently in a ‘hit-and-run’ approach. In preclinical models, senolytics delay, prevent or alleviate frailty, cancers and cardiovascular, neuropsychiatric, liver, kidney, musculoskeletal, lung, eye, haematological, metabolic and skin disorders as well as complications of organ transplantation, radiation and cancer treatment.

Early pilot trials of senolytics suggest they decrease senescent cells, reduce inflammation and alleviate frailty in humans. Clinical trials for diabetes, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, Alzheimer’s disease, COVID-19, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, eye diseases and bone marrow transplant and childhood cancer survivors are underway or beginning.

Senescent cells are aged cells that stop functioning properly and can cause damage to surrounding tissues. They lose the ability to grow or divide, and they refuse to die off, earning them the name “zombie cells”.  These senescent cells spew out compounds that incite harmful systemic inflammation. SC are major drivers of age-related disease and dysfunction.

We can eat a diet full of senolytic fruits and veggies to help clear SC from our bodies.

Fisetin is a flavonoid found in several fruits and vegetables, including strawberries, apples, grapes, persimmons, and onions. Fisetin shares the same anti-aging properties of other polyphenols. Fisetin is a more powerful senolytic than quercetin and it works on its own without any side effects.

A cell study published in the journal Aging showed that fisetin eliminated about 70% of senescent cells, while doing no harm to healthy normal, human cells.

Polyphenols are a category of compounds naturally found in plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, tea, dark chocolate, and wine.  They can act as antioxidants, meaning they can neutralize harmful free radicals that would otherwise damage your cells and increase your risk of conditions like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Polyphenols are also thought to reduce inflammation, which is thought to be the root cause of many chronic illnesses.

Fisetin promotes longevity in several other ways.

Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation accurate aging processes and increase risk for chronic disease. Fisetin is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. By scavenging harmful free radicals, it prevents the damage it does to DNA and proteins, and shuts off pathways that promote inflammation.

Fisetin mimics the effects of caloric restriction, the main benefits of which are:

  • Reducing the activity of mTOR, a protein linked to aging, weight gain, and chronic disease
  • Boosting the function of sirtuins, proteins that regulate cellular health
  • Increasing the activity of AMPK, an enzyme that regulates metabolism
  • Promoting auto-nagy, cellular “housekeeping”

Researchers have found that fisetin has a similar effect on every one of these pathways. Several studies have shown that fisetin increases sirtuin function and AMPK activity, protecting cells and keeping them youthful and health.

The most common forms of heart disease are due to inadequate flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the heart, which can lead to a heart attack. Studies during the last couple of years show that fisetin can protect the heart from injury. Even after a heart attack, heart cells fare better with fisetin. In animal studies, fisetin reduced the extent of heart damage after a heart attack, along with reducing the risk of atrial fibrillation, a common arrhythmia that increases the likelihood of stroke or heart failure.

Fisetin might also help to prevent obesity and type II diabetes.  By increasing the activity of AMPK and decreasing the activity of mTOR, fisetin might reduce weight gain and protect agains disorders associated with carrying extra weight

Fisetin is naturally found in a variety of plants and vegetables including:
  • Strawberries.
  • Apples.
  • Grapes.
  • Cucumbers.
  • Persimmons.
  • Kiwi.
  • Onions.
  • Lotus Root.

Scallions

Spring onions are also commonly known as scallion or green onion and are the most preferred Chinese cooking ingredient. They are  loaded with essential nutrients. Both the green leafy part and the white bulb of the spring onion are edible.

Scallions are a member of the Allium family, which includes garlic, onions, leeks, and shallots. Scallions grow in clumps and develop dark green, hollow tube-like leaves. Although the term scallion is used for several different types of onions, the white base of true scallions has straight sides versus rounded (which distinguishes the beginnings of a bulb developing).

There are usually short off-white root threads that protrude from the bottom of the white end. ​Unlike its fellow members such as A.cepa (onion), and A.cepa aggregatum (shallots) which produce large underground bulbs, Allium fistulosum (welsh onion) are non-bulbing and cultivated purely for their top crispy greens.

In general, spring onions are young, immature plants harvested much earlier before the plant grows further bigger and its bulb becomes larger in size. For the same purpose, the crop is planted closely in the field in order to stunt their bulb’s growth.

Scallions tastes a little milder than the regular onion and can be cooked or eaten raw as well. Most Chinese appetizers have spring onions as one of their key ingredients.

Green onion is an excellent source of sulphur which is beneficial for the overall health. It has compounds like allyl sulphide and flavonoids that prevent cancer and fight against the enzymes that produce cancer cells.  Sulphur present in the spring onion encourages the body’s natural ability to produce insulin.

Spring onions have carotenoids which helps to keep the vision healthy and intact. It is also rich in vitamin A which prevents loss of eye-sight.

Due to scallion’s antibacterial and antiviral properties, it is an excellent addition to your diet to fight against viral and flu. It also helps in reducing excess mucus.

Scallions are very low in calories. A handful of fresh leaves provide just 31 calories. Nonetheless, they contain many noteworthy flavonoid antioxidants, plant fiber, minerals, and vitamins that have proven health benefits.

Being leafy greens, scallions naturally carry more plant-derived antioxidants, and dietary fiber than their fellow bulb (Allium) members like onions, shallots, one cup of fresh spring onions provide 2.6 g or 7% of daily recommended levels of fiber.

Scallions have thiosulfonates such as diallyl disulfide, diallyl trisulfide, and allyl propyl disulfide which convert into allicin through enzymatic reaction when its leaves are crushed, by cutting, etc. Laboratory studies show that allicin decreases cholesterol production by inhibiting the HMG-CoA reductase enzyme in the liver cells. Further, it also found to have antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal activities.

Allicin decreases blood vessel stiffness by release of nitric oxide (NO), and thereby, bring a reduction in the total blood pressure. Also, It inhibits platelet clot formation and has fibrinolytic action in the blood vessels, which helps decrease an overall risk of coronary artery disease (CAD), peripheral vascular diseases (PVD), and stroke.

Spring onions contain a good proportion of vitamin A (997 IU or 33% of RDA per cup) and other flavonoid phenolic antioxidants such as carotenes, zeaxanthin, and lutein.

They also have some other essential vitamins such as vitamin C, and K. In fact, scallions are one of the richest sources of vitamin K. One cup of fresh greens provides 207 µg or about 172% of daily recommended intake of this vitamin. Vitamin K has a potential role in bone health by promoting osteoblastic (bone formation and strengthening) activity. Adequate vitamin K levels in the diet help limiting neuronal damage in the brain adding in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Spring onions have B complex vitamins as well as some essential minerals such as copper, iron, manganese, and calcium. The leafy greens contain several vital vitamins such as pyridoxine, folic acid, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin in healthy proportions. One cup of fresh leaves provide 64 µg of folates. Folic acid is essential for DNA synthesis and cell division. Their adequate levels in the diet during pregnancy can help prevent neural tube defects in the newborn babies.

How to Buy

Fresh scallions are available in the vegetable markets all around the year. Find them in bunches along with other leafy greens.

In the stores, buy clean, uniform, firm, crispy stalks about pencil-thin size featuring well-formed, green color tubules. Avoid over-mature, yellow leaves as they are more pungent and have a sharp flavor like that of onions. Avoid those with withered, or dry tops.

range in size from small to large, the medium-sized being the best tasting. Look for onions whose white base is firm and where the green ends are brightly colored and stiff. Avoid any bunches where the leaves are wilted and yellowing.

How to Store

If you want to keep your scallions fresh for a relatively short time, simply remove the rubber band from the bunch, rinse them, shake off excess water and pat dry with a paper towels. Then wrap them in the damp paper towels and store them in the crisper drawer on the humid setting for up to three days.

If you want to keep them fresh for longer, fill a glass jar about half-full with water. Remove the rubber band and rinse the scallions, then stand them up in the jar with the white ends at the bottom. Cover the tops with a silicone bag and use a rubber band to secure the bag around the mouth of the jar. Your scallions will keep for up to a week.

How to Cook

Scallions are mild enough to be eaten raw or only slightly cooked, which preserves their crisp texture.

Although scallions may be cooked, either whole or chopped, they are great fresh in salads, as crudites or as a last minute topper for sauces. Scallions are a popular ingredient in Asian and Latin-American cooking and are often used as a garnish in a variety of recipes.

  • Freshly chopped scallions are used in raw salads as a garnish.
  • Fresh leaves (bunching) are one of the common ingredients in stews and stir-fries. They mix well with potato, carrot, cabbage, green peas, etc.
  • Spring onions also used in pancakes, soufflés, pasta, fritters, noodles, soup, etc.

Sliced thinly, they release more of their flavor to the dish, whereas bigger pieces will release more of their flavor when eaten.

Miso Soup with Tofu, Bok Choy, and Scallions

Ashley Adams/ Spruce Eats

6-8 Servings

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts vegan dashi, (Muso Umami Broth)  or other soup stock
  • 1/4 cup white miso
  • 1/4 cup red miso
  • 1 16-ounce block extra firm tofu, pressed and chopped into 1″ cubes
  • About 4 bunches baby bok choy, coarsely chopped
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced

Instructions

  • In a large saucepan or stock pot, bring the dashi or stock to a simmer over medium-high heat but do not boil. Combine the white and red miso in a small dish, then add 1 1/2 cups of the hot dashi and whisk to combine. Set aside.
  • Simmer the dashi for 5 minutes more. Gently stir in the tofu and simmer for another 5 minutes. Again – do not boil! Add the baby bok choy, scallions, and miso mixture, and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the bok choy is slightly wilted but still bright green.
  • Serve immediately while hot, taking care to stir before serving as the miso will settle.

 

Resources

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