Oxaloacetic Acid: Tricking the Grim Reaper

April 12, 2011

Oxaloacetic Acid: Tricking the Grim Reaper 

 Reference: Open Longevity Science

 What’s the best way to prolong the life of mammals? Well, the science is pretty well established. Restrict calories like mad. Cut down by 30% and you will add 20-30% to your lifespan. You can see the effect most dramatically in Madison in the primate experiment with Rhesus monkeys that has been going on for 20 some years. Half the monkeys are on a reduced-calorie diet. They are young-looking, sleek fur, and all alive. The half that were given full “ad litem” diets (as much as they wanted), are grey, old, arthritic and half have died. Maybe more by now.  

You can show this same effect with many mammal models. There are several hundred thousand Americans living a lifestyle of reduced-calorie food intake. Some accomplish it by eating every other day. Some fast 4 to 5 days a week by missing supper. Some just cut their calories by 30% and gut it out. Now, what they induce is a portfolio of genes called SIRT which basically protect DNA. There appears to be some protection of mitochondria as well.  

All well and good. But cutting my calories 30% is a drag. I like dinner, with dessert, even if it’s only fruit. I just like feeling full, even if it’s from a bag of carrots. So, when resveratrol came along it seemed like a wonderful discovery. To recap, resveratrol is the polyphenol from red wine that turns on the SIRT genes and seems to give you the same benefits as calorie restriction without the calorie restriction. 

 It may be part of the explanation as to why the French seem to be able to eat ridiculous amounts of butter and still never get a heart attack. It’s all their red wine. I don’t drink much red wine but I am taking 200 mg a day of resveratrol. Now, along comes oxaloacetic acid. It’s part of your “Krebs Cycle” or the energy mechanism your body goes through to digest glucose and fat into fuel. You naturally make oxaloacetic acid, day in and day out in every cell in your body. Trillions of times a second your body makes oxaloacetic acid, break it down and remake it again and again as you burn up sugar and fat in the energy circle called the Krebs cycle.  

But something interesting happens when you take extra as a supplement. You seem to change the ratio of two energy intermediates in your body called NAD and NADH. The increase in this ratio increases a substance called AMPK. Your liver and all other cells start changing the way they process energy. Even though the oxaloacetate only lasts for a few minutes in the bloodstream, the physiological effect lasts for up to a day or so. And all of that seems to be potentiated when you take a bit of extra vitamin C with it. Vitamin C seems to grease the skids to make it work even better.  

And in animal models, they start living longer, just like with calorie restriction. This is downright interesting! We may be working backward, discovering the flaws in our current food system or “environment” by finding states in which we are a lot healthier. All of this is animal research. But it is also only a chemical already widely made in every cell in your body. Maybe we used to be in an environment in which we ate a ton more Vitamin C, and had so many antioxidants in our diet, we had a high NAD/NADH ratio anyways. 

 WWW: What will work for me? There is a company starting to make oxaloacetate and selling it. It’s a bit tricky to make in a form you can prove gets into your blood. I’m going to check it out. If I look younger next time you see me, ask! I think it’s a bit too early to recommend, but I love the thread of basic science that is unpacking this phenomenon. For now I still like dinner. I want my apple, and to eat it too.

Column was written by Dr John E Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield WI.