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Boosting Mitochondrial Biogenesis With Ginger

© 18th January 2020 GreenMedInfo LLC. This work is reproduced and distributed with the permission of GreenMedInfo LLC. Want to learn more from GreenMedInfo? Sign up for the newsletter here www.greenmedinfo.com/greenmed/newsletter
Reproduced from original article:

Posted on: January 18th 2020 at 4:00 pm
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

300+ Evidence-Based Longevity Promoting Natural Substances

© 16th January 2020 GreenMedInfo LLC. This work is reproduced and distributed with the permission of GreenMedInfo LLC. Want to learn more from GreenMedInfo? Sign up for the newsletter here www.greenmedinfo.com/greenmed/newsletter
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Posted on: Thursday, January 16th 2020 at 1:15 pm

Written By: GreenMedInfo Research Group

This article is copyrighted by GreenMedInfo LLC, 2020

Research has concluded that a healthy diet rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory natural substances can increase longevity and improve the aging process by reducing the risk of age-related diseases

As you age, you may feel increased pressure to reduce the effects of aging through topical creams or pharmaceutical drugs. However, researchers have concluded that the dietary intake of several natural substances can successfully promote longevity.

You aren’t a victim to the passage of time — it’s possible to improve your health and longevity through daily activity and dietary interventions. This meme humorously illustrates your ability to mediate your body’s natural changes using diet and exercise:

Old Women

13 Substances for Healthier Aging

How you age is largely a matter of choice. Here are 13 top natural substances proven to promote healthier aging and longevity and get you feeling your best, and keep reading for a link to hundreds more:

1. Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that protects cells from oxidative stress. Vitamin E supplementation is proven to reduce the rate of cardiovascular disease, fatty liver disease, arthritis, cancer and other age-related illnesses.[i],[ii]

Further research has uncovered additional benefits of vitamin E unrelated to its high antioxidant content and determined that vitamin E may play a role in the therapy and prevention of age-related cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.[iii]

2. Green Tea

Green tea, which originated in China, is extremely high in antioxidants and is well-known for its anti-aging properties. The phytochemicals in green tea are highly reactive, making it a potent neutralizer of free radicals.[iv]

Results from several studies suggest that green tea delays the process of collagen-aging, the fibrous protein that keeps skin looking young by reducing the formation of wrinkles and decreasing skin pentosidine levels.[v]

3. Zinc

Zinc, a powerful micronutrient found in shellfish, dark chocolate and meat, is commonly known as a natural remedy to reduce the duration of the cold and flu.

Zinc works to regulate the immune system and reinforce antioxidant performance, and zinc deficiency in older adults can lead to increased susceptibility to infections and a higher risk of neurodegenerative diseases. Zinc deficiency has also been linked to depression, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.[vi]

4. Melatonin

Your skin is your largest organ, and as you age, it reflects the damages from air pollution, excess ultraviolet (UV) light exposure and smoke. Over time, these pollutants cause oxidative damage and provoke the skin to wrinkle, sag and become rough. Melatonin, a radical scavenger produced in the skin, protects cells from oxidative damage but gradually decreases as the body ages.[vii]

To counteract this decrease, melatonin-infused topical creams can improve skin tonicity and hydration levels, improving the skin’s appearance.[viii] Eggs, fish, and nuts contain large amounts of melatonin, which also boasts anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic and neuroprotective properties, making it a potent anti-aging substance.[ix]

5. Curcumin

Low-grade inflammatory processes are believed to contribute to the aging process, and the anti-inflammatory benefits of curcumin could be the anti-aging remedy researchers are searching for.[x]

Curcumin, the yellow compound found in turmeric root, has been extensively studied as a potential anti-aging substance, but its main drawback is lack of bioavailability.[xi] To harness the anti-aging benefits of curcumin, look for supplements that also contain black pepper, which is known to improve the absorption rate of curcumin [xii]

6. Vitamin C

Healthy, young-looking skin contains high concentrations of vitamin C, and many manufacturers tout the addition of vitamin C to topical formulations as a way to improve skin’s appearance and counteract skin aging.[xiii]

While there is some evidence that topical application is successful, dietary intake of vitamin C is just as important, if not more so, for inhibiting wrinkles and preventing collagen loss in skin cells.[xiv],[xv] For effective topical application, look for serums or creams that contain both vitamin C and vitamin E.[xvi]

7. Magnesium

Magnesium, the fourth most prevalent mineral in the human body, has been extensively studied for its anti-aging properties. Magnesium supplementation can decrease the prevalence of multiple sclerosis in older adults and increases physical performance in healthy elderly patients.[xvii]

Magnesium also plays a role in the prevention of age-related diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.[xviii] Older adults wishing to reap these benefits should eat a diet of food rich in magnesium, including green vegetables, avocados, nuts and seeds..

8. Olive Oil

Olive oil consumption, especially within the context of the Mediterranean diet, has been extensively studied for its potential prevention of cardiovascular disease and antioxidant properties.[xix] Oxidative stress is believed to correlate with cognitive decline, a precursor for dementia in the elderly, and the high antioxidant content of extra virgin olive oil has been shown to improve cognitive function in older populations.[xx]

9. Acai

Acai, a reddish-purple berry native to South America, has long been touted for its potent antioxidant properties.[xxi] However, recent studies indicate that acai may also exhibit cardiovascular, antidiabetic, antiobesity and metabolic effects, making acai berries and supplements potential longevity-promoting substances.[xxii]

10. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The benefits of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and dietary intake are well known. In one study, researchers measured the relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and the rate of telomere shortening, concluding that there is an inverse relationship between baseline levels of omega-3s and the rate of telomere shortening.[xxiii]

Telomeres, located at the end of chromosomes, limit the proliferation of cells and can suppress the regeneration of organs during aging, as well as increase the risk of cancer as they shorten.[xxiv] For this reason, increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids could increase longevity, especially in older adults with coronary heart disease.[xxv]

11. Ginseng

Both red and American ginseng varieties have been studied for their potential anti-aging properties, and research indicates that consumption of American and red ginseng may reduce age-associated oxidative stress and correct amino-acid metabolic disorders.[xxvi],[xxvii] Additional studies concluded that red or black ginseng may decrease cognitive deficits related to aging.[xxviii]

12. Flaxseed

Flaxseeds are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, both of which have numerous longevity-promoting benefits. Consumption of dietary flaxseed is linked to a decrease in cardiovascular disease and cancer risk, as well as improved cognitive function.[xxix]

However, flaxseed is not very bioavailable in seed form and needs to be milled to increase bioavailability. Since crushing or milling the seeds can cause oxidation, it’s best to wait to grind seeds until right before consumption.[xxx] To further extend the shelf life of flaxseed, store flaxseed in a cool dark place until ready to grind and consume.

13. Dark Chocolate

The antioxidant benefits of dark chocolate are well studied, but researchers have also determined that chocolate consumption is associated with better psychological health and increased optimism in older adults.[xxxi]

Furthermore, recent studies have found a correlation between chocolate consumption and longer telomere length, which is thought to inhibit the incidence of cardiovascular and infectious diseases.[xxxii],[xxxiii] To incorporate healthy chocolate into your diet, look for dark chocolate products that are organic and ethically sourced and avoid excess sugar and filler ingredients, as well as milk chocolate or white chocolate.

300 More Natural Substances That Promote Longevity

Aging is inevitable, but research backs these 13 substances as natural and effective ways to increase longevity and mediate the aging process. For a wider dataset on these and other anti-aging remedies, visit the GreenMedInfo.com Aging Research Dashboard, where we’ve compiled over 750 studies related to more than 300 longevity-promoting natural substances, including:




Ginkgo biloba

Aloe vera


Grape seed extract


Horse chestnut

Fish extract

Black tea







Amla fruit

Reishi mushroom




[i] Antioxidants (Basel). 2018 Mar; 7(3): 44

[ii] Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J. 2014 May; 14(2): e157-e165.

[iii] Biofactors. 2012 Mar-Apr;38(2):90-7.

[iv] J Am Acad Dermatol. 2005 Jun;52(6):1049-59.

[v] Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2003 Nov; 73(6): 453-460.

[vi] Pathobiol Aging Age Relat Dis. 2015; 5: 10.3402/pba.v5.25592

[vii] J Drugs Dermatol. 2018 Sep 1;17(9):966-969.

[viii] Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2018; 11: 51-57.

[ix] Nutrients. 2017 Apr; 9(4): 367.

[x] Curr Pharm Des. 2010;16(7):884-92

[xi] Immun Ageing. 2010; 7: 1.

[xii] Cancer Res Treat. 2014 Jan; 46(1): 2-18.

[xiii] Nutrients. 2017 Aug; 9(8): 866.

[xiv] Food Sci Biotechnol. 2018 Apr; 27(2): 555-564.

[xv] Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2015; 8: 463-470.

[xvi] Nutrients. 2017 Aug; 9(8): 866.

[xvii] Eur J Nutr. 2008 Jun;47(4):210-6.

[xviii] Int J Endocrinol. 2018; 2018: 9041694

[xix] Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets. 2018;18(1):4-13.

[xx] JAMA Intern Med. 2015 Jul;175(7):1094-1103.

[xxi] J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Nov 1;54(22):8604-10.

[xxii] J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2016 Jul;68(1):19-26

[xxiii] JAMA. 2010 Jan 20;303(3):250-7.

[xxiv] Jiang, H., Ju, Z. & Rudolph, K.L. Z Gerontol Geriat. (2007) 40: 314.

[xxv] JAMA. 2010 Jan 20;303(3):250-7.

[xxvi] Phytochem Anal. 2018 Jul;29(4):387-397

[xxvii] J Nutr. 2003 Nov;133(11):3603-9.

[xxviii] Food Sci Biotechnol. 2017 Oct 16;26(6):1743-1747

[xxix] Nutrients. 2019 May; 11(5): 1171.

[xxx] Nutrients. 2019 May; 11(5): 1171.

[xxxi] Eur J Clin Nutr. 2008 Feb;62(2):247-53. Epub 2007 Feb 28.

[xxxii] Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2012 Jun 8.

[xxxiii] Pediatr Res. 2019 Oct 1

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

How to Upgrade Your Brain, Optimize Your Body and Defy Aging

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January 19, 2020

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  • Fitness parameters that need to be addressed in a targeted manner to achieve optimal health and longevity include mitochondrial capacity, lactic acid tolerance (muscle endurance), maximal oxygen uptake, power, strength and stamina
  • Mitochondrial density and biogenesis is best achieved through very brief spurts of exercise followed by long rest periods (a 3-to-1 or 4-to-1 rest-to-work ratio), once a week
  • To improve your lactic acid tolerance (your ability to buffer lactic acid), use exercise routines with a 2-to-1 work-to-rest ratio, such as the classic Tabata set, two to three times a week
  • To target and improve your VO2 max, you’ll want your training sessions to be longer, about four to six minutes in duration with four to six minutes of recovery in between (a 1-to-1 work-to-rest ratio)
  • For stamina, include a 1.5 to three hour-long walk, bike ride or paddle session — anything where your body is engaged in chronic repetitive motion for a long period of time — preferably in a fasted state, once a week

In his new book, “Boundless: Upgrade Your Brain, Optimize Your Body & Defying Aging,” Ben Greenfield details his best longevity hacks. “Boundless” is a great title, as the object of longevity isn’t just about tacking on years of life, but finding ways to remain healthy and vibrant for as long as possible. In other words, it’s about quality and not just quantity of life.

Greenfield’s goal with this book was to share his best tips for how to improve your energy in every sense of the word. At 640 pages, it’s a hefty book with a higher price to match. For those looking for true and tested advice, though, it’s a treasure trove well worth the price tag.

As Greenfield notes on his website,1 it’s “a complete guide to optimizing the human body, mind and spirit — written with no stone unturned, no fluff, no ‘watered down’ drivel — just pure, hardcore, practical, from-the-trenches content.”

The original manuscript was 1,200 pages, and deleted sections can be accessed on Greenfield’s website (access details for each chapter are included in the book), where you’ll also find all of the references (about 3,000 of them), which also didn’t make it into the printed book due to the sheer volume of information included.

“I wanted to write the kind of book that I like to read, a big, meaty book that you don’t just read and toss aside, but that you use as a reference for a long time, maybe keep on your coffee table,” Greenfield says.

“I wanted it to be pretty, have good illustrations, be fun to thumb through. And also, unlike previous books I’ve written, not just focus on things like athletic performance or six-pack abs, muscle or fats, but a lot of the stuff that I think is more important: your relationships, anti-aging and longevity tactics, spirituality and purpose in life.

I kind of snuck in and tried to dump some of the woo-woo stuff onto the whole fitness, wellness crowd as well, because sometimes I think we’re striving to feel good and to look good, we think that that’s what’s going to bring us happiness, when in fact … it’s relationships and big family dinners and optimizing your purpose in life — things that, I think, sometimes get neglected in this whole chatter about wellness.”

Mitochondrial Capacity and Lactic Acid Tolerance

One of the best features Greenfield brings to the table is his commitment to staying fit and the strategies to achieve that. Having reserve muscle mass is a widely-underappreciated benefit in case you get sick or hospitalized, and the risk of that certainly increases with age. Greater muscle mass actually improves your chances of survival. Greenfield notes:

“Yes, muscle is important … We know that, for example, grip strength is associated with longevity and other elements of fitness, such as walking speed or maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) … Staving off sarcopenia and staving off the osteopenia or osteoporosis that might come with sarcopenia is absolutely important as well.

It is something that is much easier to accomplish before you begin to get into your senior years, although research has since kind of dispelled the notion that you can’t build muscle as you age. You can maintain muscle as you age and can actually increase muscle …

The main elements you want to focus on that I explore in more detail in the book, are mitochondrial density and biogenesis, which we know are best achieved through very brief spurts of exercise … followed by long rest periods, or like a 3-to-1 or 4-to-1 rest-to-work ratio.

We’re talking about one single session a week where you might do 30 seconds all out, followed by four minutes of recovery. You could do that for several rounds. Another [target], in addition to the mitochondria, would be [lactic acid] tolerance, which is often in physiology called muscle endurance.

This would be your ability to buffer lactic acid … Probably one of the better examples of [exercises that improve your endurance] would be the classic Tabata set, a 2-to-1 work-to-rest ratio. This is something that, unlike mitochondrial workout, would be something you would need to do about two to three times a week.

You could use it as an introduction or as a finisher to a strength training workout, for example, if you want to really prioritize your time. But a Tabata set is just about four minutes in length. It is eight rounds of 20 seconds as hard as you can go with 10 seconds of recovery, preferably using a full-body modality, like an Airdyne bicycle, burpees or one of the elliptical trainers, where you’re using both your arms and legs …”


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Maximal Oxygen Uptake and Power

A third parameter, in addition to mitochondrial capacity and lactate tolerance is your VO2 max. To target and improve your VO2 max, you’ll want your training sessions to be longer, about four to six minutes in duration with four to six minutes of recovery in between, for a 1-to-1 work-to-rest ratio.

“In my opinion, this is the hardest of them all,” Greenfield says. “Going hard for four to six minutes then recovering for four to six minutes, then going hard for four to six minutes. You do that about four to six times.

You’re talking about exercising for at least 30 minutes and sometimes for 45 to 50 minutes for your VO2 max session. But if you really want to improve it, that’s the way that you get your maximum oxygen utilization up.

We’ve got those three parameters of your physiological fitness. And then you also have a few others. One would be your power. The power is going to be different than the muscle mass because if you’re looking at your fast twitch muscle fibers, mass is not necessarily synonymous with power.

Mass is good for bone density. It’s good for strength. It’s good for being a glycogen container. But you also want functional power.

The best way to do that in my opinion, if you want to stay injury-free for life, is … bodyweight training done in a very fast explosive manner or with a very light medicine ball [or] sandbag a couple of times a week. Kettle bells are wonderful for this as well. A perfect example would be The New York Times seven-minute workout.2

Strength and Stamina

Two additional fitness parameters that need to be addressed in a targeted manner are strength and stamina. Stamina basically refers to your fat-burning efficiency: your ability to exert yourself for long periods of time.

For stamina, Greenfield recommends taking a 1.5- to three hour-long walk, bike ride or paddle session — anything where your body is engaged in chronic repetitive motion for a long period of time — preferably in a fasted state, once a week. Alternatively, do 20 to 30 minutes of fasted cardio followed by a cold shower.

To improve muscle strength, Greenfield favors super-slow weight training, advocated by Dr. Doug McGuff. Alternatives include elastic band training systems and blood flow restriction (BFR) training, which is my personal favorite. Greenfield likes to combine BFR with super-slow training once or twice a week. More recently, McGuff has also embraced BFR in combination with super-slow training.

“When you add all that stuff up — [the exercises for] mitochondrial density, lactic tolerance, the VO2 max, the stamina, the power and the muscle building, it sounds like a lot. But really, you can do all that with the time commitment of about 45 to 50 minutes a day, plus that one longer session on the weekend.

It’s a sustainable scenario for life, for busy people, that hits all those different physiological parameters. You’re not leaving something off the table, whether it’s your VO2 max or mitochondrial density or what have you. And then … if you really want to put on muscle, I found … a lot of nutrients that I think help quite a bit.

In the evenings, I always do a 12- to 16-hour fast so I get the autophagy. And then I do other things for [to trigger] hormesis or autophagy, like a lot of sauna, a lot of cold [exposure], those long-fasted walks in the morning.”

As for nutrients, three supplements Greenfield recommends for optimizing muscle growth are:

Colostrum — Colostrum is found in the initial discharge of the mother’s milk in all mammals. It’s chockful of growth factors and peptides that encourage the baby’s growth. It’s also very healing for your gut.

If using capsules, Greenfield recommends breaking the capsules open. You want to roll it around in your mouth before swallowing, as the amylase in your saliva is what activates the growth factors in the colostrum.

It is important to understand though that colostrum is highly anabolic and will shut off autophagy. So, if you are fasting, it is not good to take. Ideally it is best taken just after a time-restricted eating fast and workout, at your first meal, to get an mTOR boost.

Grass fed organ meats or organ meat capsules.

Injectable tesamorelin peptide.

While these may sound like supplements a pro athlete might use, aging individuals who want to put on muscle can reap equal benefits. The same goes for the exercise routines described above. Greenfield notes:

“That entire workout routine that I just described is in no way something I’ll give to a professional athlete. I’ve trained marathoners and triathletes and they’re out on two-hour hardcore bike rides and crushing track repeat workouts that last an hour or so. What I just described is actually very close to what you would want as a stay-fit-for-life-type of routine.”

Breath Work for Health

In the interview, Greenfield also expounds on the benefits of breath work and breath holding. For all the details, please listen to the interview in its entirety. Why would you want to practice holding your breath? Greenfield explains:

“I do holotropic breath work, similar to what Stanislav Grof developed as an alternative to LSD for merging left and right hemispheres of the brain and taking you to a very cool place, the highest you can get without psychedelics really … I can hold my breath forever. It used to be about three to three and a half minutes on the exhale during holotropic breath work.

I’m up around six minutes now. Same thing when I do my breath hold walks. I’m walking and every time I pass a telephone pole, I see how long I can hold my breath.

I play with all these different breath devices when I’m walking. I have one called the Relaxator, which is based on Patrick McKeown’s work in ‘The Oxygen Advantage.’ It trains you to retain simultaneously elevated levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

Based on the Bohr effect, you get more oxygen delivered in the tissue when you do that. Essentially, all it means is that you exhale for a far longer period of time than you inhale.

The Relaxator [device] that you put in your mouth is basically like a resistance device where you breathe in through your nose, and then as you breathe out through your mouth, it’s almost like you’re breathing out through a straw or through very pursed lips.

You can go for a whole walk where you have this thing in your mouth … Your breathing just feels clear, crisp, clean and full when you’re using that thing on a regular basis. I certainly noticed a dramatic effect from that.”

The Oura Ring and Other Fitness Devices

Certain technologies and wearable devices can be quite helpful and motivating when you’re changing or trying to improve your lifestyle and health. Greenfield was one of the first to adopt the Oura ring, which he purchased at a biohacking conference in Finland.

“I was looking for something that would track my sleep cycles and also be able to be put in airplane mode,” he says. “I wound up buying one there at the conference and travelling with it back to the States. It was shortly after that that I wore it to some conference … where a lot of people asked me about it …

I like it. It gives me good data. What I use the most is the sleep data, and I find the step count data to be very motivating … I take at least 15,000 steps a day, because that’s my marker for myself and it’s very easy for me now to check at the end of the day.

If I’m at dinner and I look at my ring, which I do, and I haven’t had my 15,000 steps, I go for a walk after dinner. I find it highly motivating. It sounds silly, but for step counts and for sleep tracking, I find it to be very useful.

For heart rate variability (HRV), it gives you decent data, although I still like to get my HRV measurement in the morning using the gold standard Bluetooth-enabled chest strap, lying in my back. I use an app called NatureBeat. It sends both my low-frequency and high-frequency, my sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system scores to the app.

It allows me to track [my HRV) in real time for about five minutes as I breathe. Since I wake up in the morning and lay there and do a little bit of journaling and breathing anyways, it’s a much more accurate way for me to check my HRV.

But the Oura ring does take a multitude of five-minute readings, when you’re prone in bed overnight. It’s not electrical, so the accuracy is somewhat questionable, but it will give you a ballpark.”

Boosting Mitochondrial Biogenesis With Cold Therapy

Another strategy Greenfield advocates is cold therapy, which stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis.

“I’m a big fan of cold thermogenesis, especially in a fasted state so that you’re able to maximize the conversion of white adipose tissue to brown fat,” Greenfield says. “A little bit of caffeine, capsaicin or green tea in the system beforehand can upregulate that process even more. I’m using cold for two to five minutes almost every day …

I always jump in [cold water] after a workout. Everybody says, ‘You’re going to blunt the hormetic response to exercise.’ But research has shown you’ve got up to 10 plus minutes to do that in order to decrease muscle temperature to the extent where you actually blunt that hormetic effect.

Most of my workouts, because I do a cyclic carbohydrate diet, where I save all my carbohydrates for the evening and my workouts typically occur between about 4 and 7 p.m. … so I’m very insulin-sensitive going into that evening carbohydrate feed where I’ll have my pumpkin, sweet potato, yam, dark chocolate, red wine or what have you.

But when I finish that workout, of course I am aware that working out close to bedtime, the increased core temperature decreases deep sleep cycles, so I always go jump in that cold pool when I finish the evening workout.”

More Information

Greenfield details hundreds of biohacks in “Boundless: Upgrade Your Brain, Optimize Your Body & Defying Aging,” so there’s no shortage of alternatives to pick and choose from. It’s bound to become a staple reference you can go back to again and again in years to come.

We also cover far more ground in the interview than I’ve summarized here, such as his views on stem cell therapy and how he uses hyperbaric oxygen treatment, so to hear more about Greenfield’s personal longevity routine, be sure to listen to it in its entirety.

Greenfield’s website, BenGreenfieldFitness.com, is also an excellent resource for all things health-related, as is his cutting edge podcast, where he interviews a wide variety of leaders in the health and fitness fields.

– Sources and References

Sauna Use as an Exercise Mimetic for Heart Health

Reproduced from original article:

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked image

January 18, 2020


  • Sauna bathing can be used as an exercise mimetic (i.e., an exercise-mimicking tool) to increase your longevity and health span. Men using Finnish-style, dry heat sauna seven times per week cut their risk of death from fatal heart problems in half, compared to those who used it only once a week
  • Compared to once-a-week sauna use, those who have four to seven sessions per week have a 61% lower risk for stroke. Heat stress from sauna bathing has also been shown to lower your risk of high blood pressure
  • Heat stresses your heart and body similar to that of exercise, and produces many of the same results. As your body is subjected to heat stress, it gradually becomes acclimated to the heat, prompting a number of beneficial changes and adaptations
  • Recent research has demonstrated that sauna bathing also helps modulate your autonomic nervous system, which governs your stress responses
  • Many of the life extending benefits of sauna bathing are related to the workings of heat shock proteins, which protect protein structures and prevent protein aggregation

When it comes to improving your health, some of the simplest strategies can have a tremendous impact. Sweating in a sauna, for example, has many great health benefits, including expelling of toxins, improving blood circulation, killing disease-causing microbes and improving mitochondrial function.

The key word here is sweating. Just because you are in the sauna doesn’t mean you get the benefits. The sauna has to heat your core temperature up a few degrees, your heart rate needs to increase and you need to have a river of sweat, otherwise you simply will not get these benefits. This is important as many infrared saunas fail to heat you sufficiently to achieve these benefits.

Research has even shown that regular sauna use correlates with a reduced risk of death from any cause, including lethal cardiovascular events, and may help stave off Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

For example, researchers in Finland — a country where most homes come equipped with a sauna — found that men who used a sauna four to seven times a week for an average of 15 minutes had a 66% lower risk of developing dementia, and 65% lower risk of Alzheimer’s, compared to men who used the sauna just once a week.1,2

How Sauna Bathing Promotes Good Heart Health

Another long-term study3,4 by the same Finnish research team, published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2015, revealed that men who used the Finnish-style, dry heat sauna seven times per week also cut their risk of death from fatal heart problems in half, compared to those who used it only once a week.

This held true even after confounding factors such as smokingblood pressurecholesterol and triglyceride levels were factored in. In regard to time, the greatest benefits were found among those who sweated it out for 19 minutes or more each session.

Both the duration and the frequency had dose dependent effects, so the longer the exposure time of each session and the more frequent the sessions, the better the outcome.

One mechanism for this effect is thought to be related to the fact that heat stresses your heart and body similar to that of exercise, thus prompting similar effects. This includes increased blood flow to your heart and muscles (which increases athletic endurance) and increased muscle mass due to greater levels of heat-shock proteins and human growth hormone (HGH).

In the video lecture5,6 above, Rhonda Patrick, Ph.D., reviews how sauna bathing can be used as an exercise mimetic (i.e., an exercise-mimicking tool) to increase your longevity and health span. As noted by Patrick:7

“Several studies have shown that frequent sauna bathing (4-7 times per week, 174°F for 20 min.) is associated with a 50% lower risk for fatal heart disease, 60% lower risk for sudden cardiac death, 51% lower risk for stroke, and 46% lower risk for hypertension.

Just a single sauna session has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve heart rate variability, and improve arterial compliance. Some of the positive benefits of the sauna on heart health may have to do with similar physiological changes that also occur during physical exercise.

For example, there is a 50-70% redistribution of blood flow away from the core to the skin to facilitate sweating. You start to sweat. Heart rate increases up to 150 beats per minute which correspond to moderate-intensity physical exercise.

Cardiac output (which is a measure of the amount of work the heart performs in response to the body’s need for oxygen) increases by 60-70%. Immediately after sauna use, blood pressure and resting heart rate are lower than baseline similar to physical activity.”


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What Studies Show

Patrick reviews several studies in her lecture. In addition to those already mentioned, a study8 published in 2018, using the same Finnish cohort, looked specifically at stroke risk over a follow-up period of 14.9 years. As in previous studies, benefits were dose dependent.

Compared to once-a-week sauna use, those who had four to seven sessions per week had a 61% lower risk for stroke. A similar association was found for ischemic stroke but not for hemorrhagic stroke. As noted by the authors:

“This long-term follow-up study shows that middle-aged to elderly men and women who take frequent sauna baths have a substantially reduced risk of new-onset stroke.”

Heat stress from sauna bathing has also been shown to lower your risk of high blood pressure. In one such study,9 which had a median follow-up of 24.7 years, the hazard ratio for high blood pressure in those using the sauna two to three times a week was 0.76, compared to 0.54 for those using it four to seven times a week.

In other words, using it two to three times a week may lower your risk of high blood pressure by 24%, while using it four to seven times a week can push your risk down by 46%, and this is likely one of the mechanisms by which sauna bathing helps lower your cardiovascular mortality risk.

Even a single sauna session has been shown to reduce pulse wave velocity, blood pressure, mean arterial pressure and left ventricular ejection time.10 Here, systolic blood pressure decreased from an average of 137 mm Hg before sauna bathing to 130 mm Hg afterward. Diastolic blood pressure decreased from 82 to 75 mm Hg, mean arterial pressure from 99.4 to 93.6 mm Hg and left ventricular ejection time from 307 to 278 m/s.

Different Types of Saunas

Most studies on sauna use involve wet Finnish saunas. Traditionally, rocks are heated to a temperature of about 174 degrees Fahrenheit in a wood burning stove, and water is then poured on the rocks to create steam.

But there are several other types of saunas to choose from as well, including far-infrared saunas and near-infrared emitters and lamps.11 Most sauna makers would have you believe that the difference between an infrared sauna and the traditional Finnish-style saunas (whether wet or dry) is that the Finnish-style sauna heats you up from the outside in, like an oven.

But this is simply untrue. The wavelengths of a far-infrared sauna only penetrate a few millimeters, so if you have a far-infrared sauna, unless the temperature in the sauna is around 170 degrees F, it is unlikely you will be getting many benefits.

That said, near-infrared saunas have several additional benefits over other types of saunas, including far-infrared saunas. For starters, it penetrates your tissue more effectively than far-infrared because wavelengths under 900 nanometers (nm) in the near-infrared are not absorbed by water like the higher wavelengths in mid- and far-infrared, and thus can penetrate tissues more deeply.

When you look at the rainbow spectrum, the visible part of light ends in red. Infrared-A (near-infrared) is the beginning of the invisible light spectrum following red. This in turn is followed by infrared-B (mid-infrared) and infrared-C (far-infrared).

While they cannot be seen, the mid- and far-infrared range can be felt as heat. This does not apply to near-infrared, however, which has a wavelength between 700 and 1,400 nm. To learn more about this, see my interview with Dr. Alexander Wunsch, a world class expert on photobiology.

Near-Infrared Radiation Is Important for Optimal Health

My personal sauna preference is the near-infrared, as this range affects your health in a number of important ways,12 primarily through its interaction with chromophores in your body.

Chromophores are molecules that absorb light, found in your mitochondria and in water molecules. (To make sure the near-infrared rays can penetrate your skin, avoid wearing clothing when using a near-infrared sauna.)

In your mitochondria, there’s a specific light-absorbing molecule called cytochrome c oxidase (CCO), which is part of the mitochondrial electron transport chain and absorbs near-infrared light around 830 nm.

CCO is involved in the energy production within the mitochondria. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) — cellular energy — is the end product. ATP is the fuel your cells need for all of their varied functions, including ion transport, synthesizing and metabolism.

Most people don’t realize that light is an important and necessary fuel just like food. When your bare skin is exposed to near-infrared light, CCO will increase ATP production.

Near-infrared light is also healing and repairing, and helps optimize many other biological functions. (Its absence in artificial light sources like LEDs and fluorescents is what makes these light sources do dangerous to your health.)

We now know that mitochondrial dysfunction is at the heart of most health problems and chronic diseases, including many signs of aging. For these reasons, I strongly recommend using a sauna that offers a full spectrum of infrared radiation, not just far-infrared.

Just keep in mind that most infrared saunas emit dangerous electromagnetic fields (EMFs), so look for one that emits low or no non-native EMFs. You need to look beyond their claim and measure them, as many state they have no EMF but have only addressed magnetic fields and still generate off the chart electric fields. Ultimately, you need to independently validate any claims, as some of the biggest names in the business are doing this.

Far-Infrared Sauna Benefits Chronic Heart Conditions

All of that said, in her lecture, Patrick discusses the benefits of Waon Therapy or far-infrared dry sauna, which has been used in some studies. Far-infrared saunas typically have a max temperature of about 140 degrees F (60 degrees Celsius). Because it’s not as hot, the recommended duration is typically around 45 minutes, and the frequency is daily. Two studies looking at Waon Therapy for heart health include:

A 2016 study13 that found Waon therapy was helpful for the management of chronic heart failure, improving endurance, heart size and overall status in hospitalized patients with advanced heart failure.

Patients used the far-infrared dry sauna, set at 140 degrees F., for 15 minutes a day for 10 days. Each session was followed by bed rest for 30 minutes, covered with a blanket.

An earlier study,14 published in 2013, found Waon therapy improved myocardial perfusion in patients with chronically occluded coronary artery-related ischemia. Patients used the far-infrared dry sauna, set at 140 degrees F., for 15 minutes a day for three weeks. Each session was followed by bed rest for 30 minutes, covered with a blanket.

The best results were seen in patients with the highest summed stress score and summed difference score at baseline. The improvements were attributed to improved vascular endothelial function, and according to the authors, Waon therapy “could be a complementary and alternative tool in patients with severe coronary lesions not suitable for coronary intervention.”

How Your Body Responds to Heat

As mentioned, one of the reasons sauna bathing improves health has to do with the fact that it mimics the stress your body undergoes during exercise. While “stress” is typically perceived as a bad thing, intermittent stressors such as exercise and temporary heat stress actually produces beneficial physiological changes.

As explained by Patrick, once your core temperature reaches 102.2 degrees F. (39 degrees C), blood is redistributed away from your core toward the surface of your skin to facilitate sweating. You can easily get an inexpensive ear thermometer to measure and confirm that your temperature is reaching this level.

Your heart rate increases from about 60 beats per minute to about 150, equivalent to moderate intensity exercise, and your cardiac output increases by 60% to 70%. This process is the same whether your core temperature is raised by exercise or sitting still in a sauna.

As demonstrated in a June 2019 study,15,16 spending 25 relaxing minutes in a sauna has the same physical effects as bicycling on a stationary bike with a load of 100 watts for 25 minutes. Heart rate and blood pressure were found to be identical for both activities, with blood pressure and heart rate increasing during the sessions, followed by a drop below baseline levels afterward.

This prompted the researchers to conclude that “The acute heat exposure in the sauna is a burden comparable to moderate physical exercise,” and that “The sustained decrease in blood pressure after heat exposure suggests that the sauna bath will have a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system.”17

Sauna Bathing Improves Autonomic Nervous System Balance

Recent research18 has also demonstrated that sauna bathing helps modulate your autonomic nervous system, which governs your stress responses.19 To examine the acute effects of a sauna session, the researchers looked at the participants’ heart rate variability (HRV), which is an indicator of your body’s capacity to respond to stress.

Your autonomic nervous system has two branches: the parasympathetic branch (“rest and digest”) and the sympathetic branch (“fight or flight”). HRV is an indicator for how these two branches are functioning. Higher HRV means your body is better equipped to handle stress. As reported in the abstract:

“A total of 93 participants … with cardiovascular risk factors were exposed to a single sauna session (duration: 30 min; temperature: 73 °C; humidity: 10-20%) and data on HRV variables were collected before, during and after sauna.

Time and frequency-domain HRV variables were significantly modified by the single sauna session, with most of HRV variables tending to return near to baseline values after 30 min recovery. Resting HR [heart rate] was lower at the end of recovery (68/min) compared to pre-sauna (77/min).

A sauna session transiently diminished the vagal component, whereas the cooling down period after sauna decreased low frequency power and increased high frequency power in HRV, favorably modulating the autonomic nervous system balance.

This study demonstrates that a session of sauna bathing induces an increase in HR. During the cooling down period from sauna bathing, HRV increased which indicates the dominant role of parasympathetic activity and decreased sympathetic activity of cardiac autonomic nervous system.

Future randomized controlled studies are needed to show if HR and HRV changes underpins the long-term cardiovascular effects induced by regular sauna bathing.”

Sauna Bathing Improves Longevity

Seeing how sauna bathing protects and improves heart and vascular health and lowers your risk of Alzheimer’s, it’s no major surprise to find that it also increases longevity. In fact, it’s precisely what you’d expect.

The 2015 JAMA Internal Medicine study20 mentioned earlier in this article also looked at all-cause mortality, in addition to sudden cardiac death, fatal coronary heart disease and fatal CVD.

Sauna bathing four to seven times a week lowered all-cause mortality by 40% after taking into account confounding factors such as age, blood pressure, smoking and other variables, while two to three sessions per week lowered it by 24%.

hazard ratios cardiac death

Source: JAMA Internal Medicine 2015;175(4):542-548, Table 2

How Sauna Bathing Increases Longevity

As explained by Patrick, the life extending benefits of sauna bathing are related to the workings of heat shock proteins, which respond to stress (be it heat stress, exercise or fasting) by:

  • Protecting protein structures, i.e., maintaining their proper three-dimensional properties inside your cells, which is crucial for their proper function
  • Preventing protein aggregation (which is a hallmark of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s)
  • Slowing muscular atrophy

Heat shock proteins have also been shown to play an important role in human longevity. Patrick cites a 2010 study21 showing the heat shock protein 70 (Hsp70) gene plays a functional role in human survival and life extension.

This makes sense considering Hsp70 is an anti-inflammatory protein involved in cellular maintenance and repair mechanisms. So, whether you have one copy, two copies or are a non-carrier can influence your longevity.

If you are not one of the lucky carriers of this allele, you can boost your survival range by taking regular saunas, as it increases your heat shock proteins regardless. According to Patrick, heat shock proteins stay elevated for up to 48 hours after you’ve finished your sauna.

Another way by which sauna bathing increases longevity (and health span) is by lowering systemic inflammation, which not only plays a significant role in the aging process but also underpins virtually all chronic diseases that ultimately take a toll on life span. Sauna use has also been shown to increase anti-inflammatory biomarkers, such as IL-10.22

In one 2018 study,23 people who reported more frequent sauna use had lower C-reactive protein levels, which is a blood marker for inflammation. Sauna frequency of use and mean C-reactive protein levels were as follows:

  • Once a week: 2.41 mmol/L
  • Two to three times a week: 2.00 mmol/L
  • Four to seven times a week: 1.65 mmol/L

A Sauna Can Be a Great Health Investment

As you can see, sauna bathing can go a long way toward improving your health and increasing your life span. Here, I’ve focused primarily on heart and cardiovascular health, but there are many other health benefits as well, including improved mood, pain reduction, increased metabolism, detoxification, skin rejuvenation, stress reduction and immune support, just to name a few.

To learn more, listen to Patrick’s lecture. You can also find more information in my previous articles, “Sauna Therapy May Reduce Risk of Dementia and Boost Brain Health,” “How to Achieve Superior Detoxification with Near-Infrared Light,” and “Are Saunas the Next Big Performance-Enhancing Drug?

Sources and References