Senolytics: Benefits, side effects, function, supplements, food

Are you looking for a way to extend your healthspan and improve your overall well-being? Senolytics might be the solution. 

As we age, senescent cells, which have stopped dividing and contribute to aging and age-related diseases, accumulate in our bodies. 

By targeting these cells, senolytics offer promising potential for combating aging and enhancing longevity. 

Research shows that senolytics can clear these harmful cells, reducing the risk of chronic conditions like cancer, heart disease, and dementia [1]. 

Learn how these compounds could transform your health and whether they’re right for you in our comprehensive guide to senolytics.

What are senolytics? 

Senolytics are compounds specifically designed to target and eliminate senescent cells in the body. But what are senescent cells, and why are they harmful? 

These cells are like damaged goods—they’ve stopped dividing and performing useful functions due to age or stress. 

Instead of being cleared away naturally, they linger and release harmful signals that can accelerate aging and contribute to chronic diseases like cancer, cardiovascular issues, and Alzheimer’s.

The problem worsens with age as senescent cells accumulate, spreading inflammation and damaging surrounding healthy tissue. 

Senolytics aim to break this destructive cycle by selectively identifying and killing senescent cells without harming healthy ones. This selective action is their key benefit. 

Research has shown that removing these cells can delay the onset of age-related diseases, reduce inflammation, and potentially extend healthspan.

Two notable senolytics are quercetin, a flavonoid found in fruits and vegetables, and dasatinib, a pharmaceutical originally used for leukemia treatment [1]. 

In combination, these compounds have shown promising results in eliminating senescent cells in preclinical trials. Other compounds like fisetin, curcumin, and navitoclax are also being studied for similar effects.

How do senolytics work to combat aging?

In terms of their mechanism of action, senolytics primarily induce apoptosis—a programmed cell death process—in senescent cells. 

They disrupt the protective pathways that keep these cells alive, effectively nudging them to self-destruct. This cleanup enables surrounding healthy cells to function better, reducing the overall inflammatory load.

While more human studies are needed to establish their long-term effects, current research suggests that senolytics could provide a targeted approach to combat the chronic inflammation and tissue damage associated with aging [2]. 

By integrating them as part of a comprehensive health strategy, you can support your body in maintaining resilience against age-related challenges.

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What factors drive senescence? 

Several factors can accelerate the accumulation of senescent cells, leading to cellular senescence and contributing to aging and chronic diseases. Understanding these factors can help you take preventive steps to maintain better health.

1. DNA damage

Our cells are continuously exposed to DNA-damaging agents like UV radiation, environmental pollutants, and toxins. When DNA damage overwhelms repair mechanisms, cells enter a senescent state to prevent the replication of faulty genetic material.

2. Oxidative stress

Free radicals, unstable molecules that damage cells, accumulate from various sources, including diet, stress, and environmental exposure. This oxidative stress damages cellular components, prompting cells to cease division and become senescent.

3. Telomere shortening

Telomeres, protective caps on chromosome ends, naturally shorten as cells divide. Eventually, telomeres become too short to protect chromosomes, triggering a “stop” signal that leads to cellular senescence.

4. Inflammation

Chronic inflammation from conditions like obesity or autoimmune disorders can overstimulate immune responses. This, in turn, can lead to cellular stress and push cells toward senescence.

5. Oncogenic activation

Abnormal activation of certain genes can cause unregulated cell growth, risking cancer. To counter this, cells become senescent as a defense mechanism to suppress potential tumors.

Being aware of these drivers helps highlight the importance of lifestyle choices like reducing environmental toxin exposure, managing inflammation, and supporting antioxidant-rich diets to slow the onset of cellular senescence.

Can senolytics improve longevity and reduce disease risk?

The potential benefits of senolytics are significant for those aiming to maintain longevity and optimize health in later years. By removing harmful senescent cells, senolytics may improve the aging process [3]. 

These cells, often called “zombie cells,” don’t divide or function properly, yet they produce inflammatory signals that impair surrounding healthy tissue [4]. 

This creates a ripple effect, accelerating aging and contributing to age-related diseases. The removal of these cells via senolytics could promote healthier aging by restoring a balanced cellular environment.

Longevity and healthspan

Senolytics have shown promise in enhancing healthspan—the period of life spent in good health. 

Studies on mice indicate that removing senescent cells can delay the progression of age-related symptoms like frailty, improving physical performance and extending life [5]. 

Research has also shown reduced signs of osteoporosis, improved cardiovascular function, and maintained cognitive abilities in animal models treated with senolytics [6]. 

These findings suggest that by eliminating senescent cells, senolytics may enable people to enjoy a longer and more active life.

Disease prevention and management

Aging increases susceptibility to chronic diseases, and senolytics may offer valuable support in reducing their impact. 

By minimizing the number of senescent cells, senolytics can lessen inflammation, a root cause of conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. 

Research involving animal models found that senolytics significantly reduced arterial plaque buildup, a major contributor to cardiovascular disease [7]. 

There’s also growing evidence that these compounds could slow cognitive decline and reduce tumor growth.

Current research insights

Researchers continue to explore the efficacy and safety of senolytics in clinical trials. Some human studies have already indicated benefits in treating idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a fatal lung condition [8]. 

Participants saw improved physical function after taking senolytic drugs [9]. Further research may reveal how senolytics can specifically target other chronic conditions to extend not just lifespan but quality of life.

current research insights

What are the sources of senolytic compounds?

Natural senolytic compounds

1. Quercetin

Found in apples, onions, and capers, quercetin is a flavonoid with anti-inflammatory properties. Research indicates that it can help remove senescent cells [10], leading to tissue rejuvenation.

2. Fisetin

Abundant in strawberries, apples, and persimmons, fisetin shows the potential to extend lifespan in animal models by reducing senescent cell buildup [11].

3. Curcumin

Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, is known for its anti-inflammatory effects. It is currently under investigation for its senolytic activity.

4. Other natural compounds

  • Green tea catechins: Found in green tea leaves, these compounds may target senescent cells.
  • Resveratrol: Present in grapes and berries, resveratrol may slow aging and promote cellular health.

Synthetic senolytics

1. Dasatinib

Originally developed for leukemia treatment, this pharmaceutical, when combined with quercetin, has shown potential in eliminating senescent cells across different tissues [12].

2. Navitoclax

An experimental cancer drug, navitoclax targets proteins that support senescent cell survival. Clinical use requires careful monitoring due to potential side effects like reduced platelet count [13].

3. Emerging pharmaceuticals

Other synthetic senolytics in clinical trials are designed to target senescent cells selectively without harming healthy cells.

Early studies suggest these compounds can improve physical function, especially in conditions like idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Natural and synthetic senolytics offer the potential for improving longevity and healthspan. However, consult a healthcare professional before incorporating senolytic supplements or pharmaceuticals into your health regimen.

What is the most effective senolytic?

Quercetin and dasatinib, when used together, have shown the most promise so far [14]. Their combination synergistically targets senescent cells across multiple tissues. 

Quercetin, a naturally occurring flavonoid, and dasatinib, a cancer drug, have demonstrated their ability to improve health markers and physical function in preliminary human studies and animal trials.

Fisetin, another natural compound, stands out due to its strong antioxidant properties and ability to clear senescent cells. 

Preclinical studies suggest that fisetin can extend lifespan in mice and improve cognitive health, positioning it as a promising natural senolytic.

Among synthetic senolytics, navitoclax targets proteins that help senescent cells survive. 

Early research indicates that it can eliminate senescent cells, but it also poses a higher risk of adverse side effects, such as thrombocytopenia.

No single senolytic has been universally declared the most effective because each compound may work differently depending on an individual’s health status and goals. 

A balanced approach combining natural senolytics like fisetin with synthetic compounds could be more beneficial.

How can you incorporate senolytics into your diet?

How can you incorporate senolytics into your diet?

Dietary sources

Several natural foods contain senolytic compounds that can be integrated into your diet. Here are some examples:

  • Apples and onions: High in quercetin, these are versatile ingredients that can be added to salads, stir-fries, or eaten raw.
  • Strawberries and persimmons: Rich in fisetin, these fruits can be enjoyed fresh or in smoothies.
  • Turmeric: The curcumin in turmeric can be used to flavor soups, stews, and curries or consumed as a supplement.
  • Green tea: Catechins in green tea make this drink a potent source of antioxidants and potential senolytics.

These ingredients are easily incorporated into daily meals and provide valuable senolytic benefits.

Synergistic diets

Combining foods that are naturally rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds may enhance senolytic activity. Consider these dietary strategies:

1. Mediterranean diet

Known for its heart-healthy benefits, this diet is high in fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and olive oil. Many of these ingredients contain natural senolytic compounds.

2. Plant-based diets

Diets centered on plant foods like leafy greens, berries, and legumes provide a broad spectrum of antioxidants, polyphenols, and other senolytic compounds.

3. Functional pairings

Pair antioxidant-rich foods like berries with turmeric or combine green tea with nuts to enhance nutrient absorption and maximize health benefits.

4. Low-glycemic index foods

Managing blood sugar levels through low-glycemic foods helps reduce chronic inflammation, potentially amplifying senolytic effects.

Incorporating a variety of senolytic-rich foods into a balanced diet can help promote healthy aging and reduce the burden of senescent cells.

Do senolytics really work?

Senolytics have shown promising results in preclinical and early-stage human studies, but more research is needed to confirm their efficacy. 

In animal models, senolytic compounds have successfully reduced senescent cell populations, leading to improved physical function and increased lifespan. 

For example, studies involving dasatinib and quercetin revealed significant improvements in aging symptoms like frailty and cognitive decline.

In limited human trials, patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis who received the same combination experienced enhanced lung function and mobility [8]. 

Additionally, participants showed reduced inflammation, indicating that senolytics might mitigate age-related diseases.

However, these studies are preliminary, and the long-term effects of senolytics on humans remain unknown. 

Current research lacks data on optimal dosing, possible drug interactions, and potential side effects in diverse populations. Despite this, senolytics represent an exciting frontier in anti-aging medicine.

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What are the possible side effects and risks of senolytics?

Senolytic compounds, while promising for healthy aging, are not without potential side effects and risks. Clinical trials and animal studies have identified some issues that warrant caution:

Dasatinib-related risks

Dasatinib, a cancer drug used in combination with quercetin, may lead to reduced platelet count and increase the risk of bleeding and infection [13]. It can also cause fatigue, nausea, and gastrointestinal disturbances in some patients.

Navitoclax concerns

Navitoclax, a targeted cancer therapy, poses a significant risk of thrombocytopenia, a condition where platelet levels drop dangerously low. This effect requires careful monitoring to avoid life-threatening bleeding.

Natural compounds risks

Even natural senolytics like quercetin and fisetin, though generally regarded as safe, can still have side effects at higher doses. 

Quercetin supplements may cause headaches, stomach upset, or kidney stress in some people. Fisetin’s safety profile is still under study, and long-term effects are not fully known.

Despite growing interest in senolytics, more comprehensive human studies are necessary to establish their safety and efficacy.

Current research is mostly limited to animal models or small-scale clinical trials. This limits our understanding of:

  • Long-term effects

We lack data on how prolonged use of senolytics might affect humans, particularly in older adults or those with pre-existing health conditions [15].

  • Optimal dosing

The correct dosage for different age groups or health conditions remains unclear, and overuse could exacerbate existing health problems.

  • Drug interactions

Senolytics may interact with existing medications or supplements, leading to unforeseen adverse reactions [16].

Future research will need to focus on larger and more diverse human trials to address these unknowns. For now, it’s best to consult healthcare professionals to navigate the potential risks and decide if senolytics fit your health needs safely.

How often should I use senolytics?

Determining the right frequency for senolytic use depends on individual health conditions and the specific compounds involved. 

Clinical research on dosing protocols is still in its early stages, but current studies suggest that senolytics may not require daily usage. 

Instead, researchers are exploring intermittent dosing schedules to maximize benefits while minimizing potential side effects [17].

For instance, some clinical trials have tested bi-weekly or monthly regimens, with encouraging results in reducing senescent cell populations and improving physical function. 

Natural compounds like quercetin and fisetin are often studied with similar intermittent patterns.

Avoid self-prescribing or frequent use without professional guidance, as long-term effects remain uncertain.

How often should I use senolytics?

How long does it take for senolytics to work?

The time it takes for senolytics to show results depends on the compound, individual health status, and treatment goals. 

In preclinical studies, improvements in physical function, cognitive health, and reduced inflammation were observed within weeks to months of treatment. 

Dasatinib and quercetin, for example, have demonstrated their ability to reduce frailty and improve cardiovascular health in mice within a few weeks.

Early human trials reveal that participants with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis experienced better mobility and reduced inflammation within days after a single treatment cycle. However, the long-term sustainability of these effects remains uncertain.

Natural senolytics like fisetin may require consistent use over a longer period, while synthetic pharmaceuticals such as navitoclax could work faster but pose higher risks.

Since research is ongoing, consult a healthcare professional to develop realistic expectations and receive tailored guidance on appropriate regimens for efficacy and safety.

At what age should you take senolytics?

Senolytics primarily target senescent cells that accumulate with age, contributing to inflammation and age-related diseases. 

Therefore, their use is generally considered for older adults aiming to reduce these risks or improve healthspan.

However, some age-related conditions like idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis or certain cancers may prompt consideration of senolytics earlier under medical supervision. 

Clinical trials on senolytics have primarily involved older participants due to their increased burden of senescent cells.

Since long-term effects and optimal dosing remain uncertain, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional before considering senolytics at any age. 

They can assess personal health risks, benefits, and existing medical conditions to provide safe and individualized recommendations.

Closing thoughts

Senolytics present an exciting opportunity for improving healthspan by selectively eliminating senescent cells that accelerate aging and contribute to chronic diseases. 

Whether through natural sources like quercetin and fisetin or synthetic compounds like dasatinib, these promising agents could help reduce inflammation, enhance physical function, and improve disease management. 

However, potential side effects and a lack of comprehensive human studies warrant a cautious approach. 

Consulting a healthcare professional can help you determine if senolytics align with your health goals and ensure their safe and effective integration into a holistic wellness strategy.

FAQs

What is the most potent natural senolytic?

Fisetin, found in strawberries and apples, is considered one of the most potent natural senolytics due to its strong antioxidant properties and ability to eliminate senescent cells effectively.

What supplement removes senescent cells?

Quercetin, a natural flavonoid found in many fruits and vegetables, is a widely researched supplement known to help remove senescent cells by promoting apoptosis, thus aiding in healthy aging.

Can senolytics reverse aging?

Senolytics may mitigate some effects of aging by clearing senescent cells and reducing inflammation, but they cannot fully reverse aging. More research is needed to understand their long-term impact.

Is metformin a senolytic?

Metformin, while primarily used for diabetes management, is not considered a senolytic. However, it may have anti-aging properties by influencing cellular processes that support metabolic health.

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[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32686219/
[2] https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(20)30420-6/fulltext
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6949083/
[4] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/06/220630114509.htm
[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7572662/
[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8490322/
[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9215197/
[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6412088/
[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6082705/
[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5760026/
[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6197652/
[12] https://www.mdpi.com/1424-8247/17/1/70
[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4854923/
[14] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-25453-2
[15] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10598643/
[16] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10587464/
[17] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10148948/

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