May 07

The Triage Theory of Nutrition and Aging

This theory has been developed by Dr. Bruce Ames, and basically suggests that accumulated nutritional deficiencies cause damage to the DNA in our cells, eventually causing age-related diseases and premature death.  The basic theory is based on the following sequence of cellular deterioration:



  1. The mitochondria are the engines of our cells where glucose and oxygen meet to make energy. This energy is needed for the cell to perform its assigned functions, such as:
    1. Detoxification in the liver.
    2. Insulin production in the pancreas.
    3. Muscle activity for movement.
    4. Production of hormones, neurotransmitters and other biochemicals.


  1. The mitochondria have their own DNA, separate from the DNA in our cells.


  1. When oxygen is burned in the mitochondria, it is burned at an efficiency of about 95%. This means that there are free radicals (oxidant byproducts) being produced in the cell every second of every day.


  1. The older the mitochondria are, the more free radicals are produced. This is due to a few key factors.
    1. Cardiolipin (a key lipid in mitochondrial membranes) declines, making the membrane more vulnerable to free radical damage.
    2. The mitochondria become stressed and then weakened by over use, which is usually due to the excessive consumption of sugar and carbohydrates.
    3. The transcription, or replacement process, for the mitochondria slows down, thus allowing for the accumulation of more free radical damage.


  1. The ability of the cell to produce ATP is decreased, which further inhibits the efficiency of the mitochondria and the cell.


  1. There are over 40 essential nutrients needed by our bodies to sustain life and avoid disease, as well as premature aging.


  1. It has been established by Dr. Ames and the Centers for Disease Control that 99% of the population has a deficiency in at least one of these essential nutrients, and usually two or more.


  1. When these deficiencies occur, the body has a priority system for determining where available nutrients will be utilized first. These priorities are based on the need to survive and reproduce. The three levels of priority are as follows:
    1. Immediate – This directs nutrients toward short-term health and reproductive capability. For example, babies get their nutrients first. Injuries are given a high priority. Threatening germs and bacteria are given a priority.
    2. Intermediate – As this level of priority, the body uses nutrients for metabolic functions, such as making energy, rebuilding cells, replacing cells, making biochemicals and detoxifying the body. We notice that we have less energy when we are sick, or cannot think as clearly when we are tired or fighting some injury or ailment.
    3. Long-term needs – At this final level of priority, the body uses available nutrients to repair damage to the DNA in our cells, kills chronic viruses, or repairs damage, such as plaque in our arteries or calcified tissues.


  1. When deficiencies occur, the body tries to compensate in a number of ingenious ways.
    1. If our blood becomes too acidic (from eating meat, dairy, sugar and processed foods) the body will steal calcium from our bones and magnesium from our muscles and bones in order to balance our pH. This is called homeostasis.
    2. When calories are restricted, the body will slow down its metabolism in order to conserve the limited energy supply.
    3. When we are stressed, or exercising, the body shifts nutrients and energy to the muscles and away from functions, such as digestion.


  1. When there are insufficient nutrients in the body to satisfy all three levels of priority, the third priority suffers. There is damage to our cellular DNA, which is exactly the same as if we had been exposed to radiation, mercury or some other serious toxin.


  1. This DNA damage causes cells to be vulnerable to cancer, heart disease, diabetes,

arthritis and every other chronic disease.  It also leads to premature aging of the cells in our body.


  1. Chronic disease impacted 10% of the population 50 years ago, and now 53% of the population has a chronic disease.


  1. The generation born after the year 2000 will be the first generation in history that will not live as long as their parents live.


  1. Currently 8.3% of the population is diabetic, and 35% are pre-diabetic.


  1. The generation born after the year 2000 will be at risk for diabetes at these alarming rates:
    1. Caucasian                    =          35%
    2. African American       =          43%
    3. Hispanic                      =          49%





  1. Nutrition is the key factor in this trend. People need to eat:


More                                                    Less

-Fish                                                    -Red meat

-Whole grains                                      -Less processed grains

-Vegetables                                         -Less fried foods

-Fruits                                                  -Less sugar added foods

-Nuts and seeds                                  -Junk food


  1. Foods do not have the same nutritional value today as they did 50 or 60 years ago. The main reasons are:
    1. Over farmed soil.
    2. Long distances to market.
    3. Over use of pesticides.
    4. Foods picked before they are ripe.
    5. Foods overly processed
    6. Foods are genetically modified.
    7. Foods are irradiated.
    8. Too many additives are in foods.


  1. People contribute to their own lack of nutrition in the following ways:
    1. They buy unhealthy foods.
    2. They over cook or microwave their food.
    3. They do not eat in a stress free environment.
    4. They eat too many calories at a time.
    5. They do not chew their food properly.
    6. They rationalize that they are eating much better than they really are.
    7. They listen to doctors who know very little about nutrition.
    8. They get too much of their information about food from companies or from unqualified media sources.
    9. They rely on conventional medical tests, which do not measure nutritional deficiencies.


  1. According to Dr. Ames, “Practically every American is deficient at some level of these nutrients (the 40 basic nutrients) because of our bad diet.“


  1. Here are the estimated deficiencies based on the governments RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) and the ODA (Optimal Daily Allowance), a deficiency evaluation developed by a team of respected nutritionists.









Nutrient Average Diet Good Diet RDA ODA Shortage ODA Good diet deficiency %
Vitamin E (IU) 21 75 400 440 365 85 %
Vitamin C (mg) 100 200 60 2000 1800 90%
Vitamin B1 (mg) 2 5 1.5 35 30 85%
Vitamin B2 (mg) 2.18 5 1.5 35 30 85%
Vitamin B3 (mg) 39.6 50 20 85 35 41%
Vitamin B5 (mg) 2.175 20 10 100 80 80%
Vitamin B6 (mg) 3.1 5 2 75 70 93%
Folic Acid (mcg) 325.5 400 400 800 400 50%
Vitamin B12 (mcg) 5.95 10 6 25 15 60%
Omega 6 (mg) 20 40 150 110 73%
Omega 3 (mg) 60 100 700 600 85%
Calcium (mg) 800 912.5 1000 200 8.75%
Magnesium (mg) 272 350 400 500 150 30%
Zinc (mg) 9.3 10 15 20 10 50%
Amino Acids (mg) 500 1000 NA 2000 1000 50%


  • In addition to these basic nutritional needs, there is emerging research, which clearly identifies specific nutrients with the ability to prevent and/or reverse the aforementioned damage to our mitochondria and our DNA.
      1. The presence of Vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid is crucial, since these are the methylation groups responsible for breaking down proteins to make hormones, neurotransmitters and other biochemical. Deficiencies in these nutrients causes chromosome breaks in our DNA and increasing them can reverse such damage.
      2. Other key micronutrient deficiencies include vitamin C, vitamin E, iron and zinc. All are important for the protection of our DNA.
      3. The best foods to avoid DNA damage (i.e. chromosome breaks) are whole grains, bananas, green beans, liver and especially pomegranate juice. This juice has actually been shown to be able to repair DNA damage, known as SNP’s or single nucleotide polymorphisms.
      4. Calorie restriction has been shown to turn on BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor), which plays a key role in creating new neurons. It also protects existing neurons, which prevent many brain related diseases. Calorie restriction has also been shown to extend the life of lab animals, probably by protecting the telomeres from excessive degradation.
      5. Exercise has a similar set of benefits to calorie restriction, but only if the exercise is voluntary (i.e. not forced or required).
      6. Intellectual stimulation, such as problem solving, exploring new environments, learning a new language, learning a new musical instrument and meditating increases BDNF levels, which reduces the aging and disease risk for the brain.
  • Docosahexaenic acid (DHA) is key to brain health and aging throughout the body due to its anti inflammatory properties, as well as its ability to modulate gene expression for the production of BDNF.22. Specific nutrients that slow the aging process.


  • Carnosine – Lowers blood glucose and enhances insulin sensitivity. Antioxidant and anti glycation. Blocks telomere erosion.
  • DHEA – Precursor to sex hormones. Favorably alters gene expression to inhibit heart disease, diabetes, depression, skin aging and osteoarthritis.
  • Curcumin – This is a major anti-inflammatory, which also prevents the spread of cancer and turns off the Alzheimer’s gene.
  • PQQ – Promotes mitochondria biogenesis. Facilitates energy production, allowing all cells to function optimally and efficiently.
  • Fucoidans – (seaweed 4-6g/day) Blocks cancer cell development. Healthy cell proliferation. Blocks virus cell growth. Disrupts AGE’s.
  • SHBG – (sex hormone binding globulin) Balances sex hormones. Reduces diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis.
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid – Reverses mitochondrial decay and aging. Protects against cancer, nerve damage, brain cell damage, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and insulin resistance.
  • Acetyl L-carnitine – Improves mitochondria transcription. It improves mitochondrial transcription and protects the membrane of the mitochondria.   
  • There are numerous ways to test the aging of your body, as well as how long you can expect to live. Here are some of the tests or assessments available:
  • Tests for Aging
  1. Lifestyle Assessments – There are numerous lifestyle assessments used to calculate how long someone can expect to live. A good example is Real Age, which uses a series of questions to calculate how long a person can expect to live. Years are deducted for things like smoking or not exercising, and added for eating more vegetables or getting an annual check-up.
  2. Telomere Testing – These tests examine the length of a person’s telomeres in relation to their age. Telomeres are the part of our chromosomes and DNA that shorten every year until there is no more left. This means cells can no longer replicate, and we eventually die. Companies doing such tests include Spectra Cell, Life Length and Telomere Health.
  3. Nutritional Assessments – There are a few companies that can test for the nutrients that actually make it into our cells. This provides proof that our food and nutritional supplements are actually working to protect us from illness and premature aging. Usually 17 of the key 40 essential nutrients are tested and the companies providing such tests include Spectra Cell and Genova.
  4. Electro Dermal Screening – This test determines the electrical output of cells using acupuncture points, combined with a computerized electric output evaluation tool. Cells can be measured as stressed, normal or weakened, which indicates their state of function ability, as well as their vulnerability to premature aging. One of the leading companies supplying this equipment to health practitioners is Biomeridian.
  5. Infra Red Thermography – These cameras can detect the heat profiles of cells in most of our organs. Stressed cells and cells growing new blood supplies create higher heat, which can be seen by these cameras. For example, these units can detect potential breast cancer cells 8 to 10 years before mammograms can even see a tumor. The leading company supplying medical thermography units is Meditherm.
  7. Nutritional Deficiency Symptoms Analysis – There are several assessment tools designed to determine either specific nutritional deficiencies or the relative severity of chronic illness challenges. Either of these tools can be helpful in terms of alerting someone to the potential for premature aging, based on the seriousness of existing nutritional or symptoms challenges.     
  8. Additional nutrients are required for…
  1. Exercise – All antioxidants, amino acids, B6, B12, folic acid, magnesium, calcium, CoQ10, potassium, Vitamin C.
  2. Pregnancy – B6, B12, folic acid, vitamin A, beta carotene, vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin E, calcium, iron, zinc, amino acids.
  3. Stress – All B vitamins, all antioxidants ( especially vitamin C), selenium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, copper, potassium, chromium.
  4. Drinking Alcohol – All antioxidants, vitamin B1, glutathione, B6, amino acids, L-cysteine, B5, folic acid, B2, B12, zinc, magnesium, calcium, tryptophan, serotonin, SAMe, EFA’s.
  5. Smoking Tobacco – All antioxidants (especially vitamin C) vitamin B, vitamin E, vitamin A, glutathione, alpha lipoic acid, N-acetyl-cysteine, zinc, inositol, glutamine.
  7. Mental and Emotional Challenges – Zinc, vitamin C, vitamin B, vitamin E, Calcium, magnesium, amino acid, omega oils, selenium, CoQ10.
  9. Colds and Flu – All antioxidants, vitamin D3, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B2, zinc, folic acid, vitamin B6.
  11. Chronic Illnesses – All antioxidants, vitamin D, magnesium, calcium, omega fats, amino acids, B vitamins, CoQ10, enzymes, vitamin E.
  13. Injuries – All antioxidants, vitamin C, amino acids, B6, B12, folic acid, enzymes, CoQ10, vitamin E, glutamine, lysine.  Healthy at Work 
  14. Sarasota, Florida
  15. Charles Bens, PhD.
  16. Prepared by: