Our dermatologists in Oregon at Valley View Dermatology know that a lot of our patients want to look and feel younger. To facilitate this goal, we offer a wide range of advanced treatments designed to help do everything from eliminate wrinkles to eradicate acne. While these types of treatments can help to reduce the effects of aging and help patients feel better about their overall skin health, they don’t quite reach the point of being a true fountain of youth.
How far would you be willing to go if it meant delaying the aging process? Applying nightly creams, wearing sunscreen every day, and undergoing chemical peels are all fairly standard today. But would you go so far as to introduce a parasite into your system if it meant enjoying younger, healthier looking skin?
Hookworms may not seem like the key to the fountain of youth, but a new study suggest that this kind of stomach parasite may help to prevent inflammation and other illnesses that come as part of the aging process.
Published in the journal eLife, researchers examined the value of parasitic worms that live – often harmlessly – in the intestines of both humans and animals. If used correctly and under a doctor’s supervision, these types of parasites could offer a therapeutic way to slow down aging while also offering some protection against heart disease and other age related ailments.
A New Embrace of an Old Health Issue
Thanks to modern health and sanitation measures, the number of parasites people contract has been reduced significantly when compared to even just 100 years ago. And for good reason. People who develop significant infections of these types of a parasites can develop a variety of health problems that include blood and protein loss, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and cognitive and physical decline, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, new research conducted by a team at the Institute of Healthy Ageing at the University of London say that a decline in these microbes in developing nations has been directly linked to inflammatory illnesses, such as eczema, IBS, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and type 1 diabetes.
Theses types of health conditions – commonly found in both North American and Europe – are rarely found in undeveloped nations where natural parasites are still commonly found in people’s stomachs.
“A further possibility is that loss of gut parasites also increases the sterile, aging-associated inflammation known as inflammaging,” wrote the research team.
The team defines inflammaging as “systemic, low-grade inflammation that increases with age, independent of attack by infectious pathogens.” This makes inflammaging different from regular inflammation, which is the body’s natural response to injury and infection.
Inflammation can impact the health of your joints, organs, and arteries, and it can lead to a variety of age-related illnesses, including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s, reports the study.
This led researchers to ask the question – Could worm infections provide a general protection against age-related illnesses?
While that could potentially be possible through an internal infection, as has been studied in rats, another more palatable option that doesn’t include ingesting worms may be possible.
All of the Benefits, None of the Worms
Researchers believe that proteins derived from gut worms could provide a safer and more precisely targeted therapeutic option for patients.
However, more research is needed before such proteins could be widely used to help prevent age-related issues.
“It goes without saying that improvements in hygiene and elimination of stomach parasites have been of incalculable benefit to humanity,” wrote the research team in the study’s conclusion. “In the wake of successes during the last century in eliminating the evils of parasitic infections, the time now seems propitious to explore further their possible benefits, particularly for our aging population.”
So, while researchers continue to explore whether this unwanted remedy could offer the cure to aging, our dermatologists in Oregon at Valley View Dermatology will continue to help patients feel and look better the old fashion way. But know, one day soon, we may find the key to the Fountain of Youth all thanks to a tiny parasite.