Aging brings a myriad of health issues, including an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases. A supplement that can mitigate the root cause of some of these age-related conditions is a very alluring idea. But does the research back it up?
This article delves into the recent research on a natural compound called fisetin that may prove to be a key anti-aging component. Or… it could be just one more way to keep mice healthy. We’ll probe the evidence for using fisetin as a longevity compound and explore the research on supplemental fisetin’s health benefits. We will also explore the timing and dosages of fisetin used in clinical trials. Finally, you will be able to draw your own conclusions as to whether there is sufficient evidence for using fisetin at this time.
Read through the research and decide for yourself whether fisetin is worth trying or is something to keep an eye on for the future.
Fisetin: Natural supplement for longevity and healthspan
Fisetin is a natural flavonol found in several types of fruits and vegetables. It is being studied for various health benefits, including preventing complications from diabetes to heart disease and as a longevity compound.
In several recent studies, fisetin clears out senescent cells holding a lot of promise for healthy aging.
First, let me give you a little background science, and then I’ll go into the research studies on fisetin…
Why is cellular senescence important?
At the end of a cell’s life, a cell becomes senescent, giving off signals that it needs to be removed by the immune system. The chemical signals it gives off are pro-inflammatory cytokines, which become a source of low-level inflammation. Senescent cells sometimes are called ‘zombie cells‘. They aren’t quite dead but no longer function as a cell.
The process of cellular senescence is a natural part of the cell cycle and is essential in wound healing and stopping cells from becoming cancerous. You want a damaged cell (or cancerous) to stop the cell cycle, hang out a flag, and say it is time to be killed off and recycled.
Cellular senescence is triggered by many circumstances, including[ref]:
- Telomeres are too short for replication (learn more about telomeres here)
- Injuries, burns, UV exposure, etc
- Too much oxidative stress in the cell
- Mitochondrial dysfunction
- Toxicity due to misfolded proteins
Senescent cells increase with age:
Younger people with a good immune system have no problem clearing out senescent cells. The process of cell-cycle arrest and clearing out cellular insults works well, just as it should.
Senescent cells increase with age. Older people often have a problem clearing out all of the senescent cells, which relates directly to some aging-related diseases.
I mentioned above that cells hang out a flag when they become senescent. The senescent cells’ ‘flag’ waves when they need to be killed off and recycled. This flag is a chemical signal of inflammatory cytokines.
When senescent cells aren’t cleared out quickly, local inflammation can occur due to the increased inflammatory cytokines, causing neighboring cells also to become senescent. The secretion of inflammatory cytokines by senescent cells is known as the ‘senescence-associated secretory phenotype’ (SASP).[ref] Stopping this low-grade inflammation is one goal of longevity science.
Clearing out senescent cells prevents the onset of age-related diseases in animal studies. It increases healthspan (number of years of healthy living), as well as increases lifespan (in animals).[ref]
Targeting senescent cells seems to be an effective way to combat some aging problems.[ref]
The animal studies on removing senescent cells are pretty cool, and they clearly show that a buildup of senescent cells is one major aspect of the diseases of aging. Human studies on longevity take a lot of money and a much longer time (of course).
Two pathways exist by which increased senescent cells could lead to the chronic diseases of aging:
- First, stem cells becoming senescent can lead to a decreased ability for stem cells to renew tissue.
- Second, an increased number of senescent cells can cause chronic inflammation.[ref]
Why don’t senescent cells die? In addition to the SASP signals calling for the cell to stop dividing and be destroyed through apoptosis, senescent cells also upregulate the senescent-cell anti-apoptotic pathway (SCAP). This pathway prevents apoptosis or the clearing out of cells.
Clearing out senescent cells with senolytics:
Senolytics are compounds that target and clear out senescent cells. They do this by targeting the SCAP pathway. Senolytics are a relatively new concept, with the first studies on them published in 2015. The concept of being able to clear out senescent cells in aging has prompted a lot of interest, and there have been many studies published on senolytics in the past few years.[ref]
Initial work with senolytics focused on the similarities between cancer cells that don’t divide and senescent cells. It led researchers to experiment with a chemotherapy drug called dasatinib. Further research showed that dasatinib plus quercetin, a natural compound found in fruits and vegetables, was even more effective at clearing senescent cells and increasing healthspan (animal studies).[ref][ref]
Fisetin acts as a senolytic in several promising new studies.
Research studies on fisetin:
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Debbie Moon is the founder of Genetic Lifehacks. Fascinated by the connections between genes, diet, and health, her goal is to help you understand how to apply genetics to your diet and lifestyle decisions. Debbie has a BS in engineering and also an MSc in biological sciences from Clemson University. Debbie combines an engineering mindset with a biological systems approach to help you understand how genetic differences impact your optimal health.