When it comes to things that sabotage your performance, sugar is usually at the top of the list. It causes inflammation, makes you gain weight, screws with your mental clarity, and throws your hormones out of balance. However, there’s a class of sugars that can actually help you live longer, and they don’t get much attention. They’re called glycans, and unlike the sugar you eat, they’re an essential component of your cells and a key part of the aging process. By measuring the glycans in your cells, you can track your age over time—and hacking your glycan can help you live longer. Here’s how glycans work, how you can measure them, and why hacking your glycans is a powerful anti-aging strategy.
What Are Glycans?Glycans are sugar molecules that form structural components of all your cells. You wouldn’t exist without them—they were an essential part of human evolution, and a major part of what allows you to adapt to the world around you. Glycans influence your body’s immunity and inflammation. They change in response to your environment, and when they do, they also alter your cells[*]. That means your surroundings directly influence how well your biology works—which makes glycans a powerful target for biohacking. It also means that if you optimize your surroundings, you can optimize your body and brain. That’s where biohacking glycans comes in.
Glycans Decline with AgeGlycans are good at suppressing inflammation to keep your cells running at high efficiency. As you age, you lose glycans, and it becomes harder for your body to keep inflammation at bay. The result is called inflammaging[*]. When your anti-inflammatory systems stop working well, inflammation takes a rapid toll on your body, and you start to age faster. Inflammaging is a big deal. Worldwide, 3 out of 5 people die from diseases where chronic inflammation is an important factor (stroke, respiratory disease, heart disorders, cancer, obesity, and diabetes are all examples)[*].
Hack Your Glycans to Stay Strong as You AgeGlycans are one of the best measures of inflammaging. There’s a direct connection between the two—as glycans decrease, inflammaging increases, and vice versa. Improving your glycans reduces inflammaging and can help you live longer and stay functional, even into old age. Glycans are a good way to predict hypertension[*], heart attack[*], stroke[*], and diabetes[*] up to a decade in advance. If you can supercharge your glycans, you can guard against age-related inflammatory diseases and live a longer, better life. First, though, you have to be able to measure how well your glycans are working.
How to Track Your GlycansGlycanAge is my go-to test for measuring my glycans. It’s an anti-aging test made by a team of badass scientists who have published more than 100 scientific papers on glycans and aging[*]. GlycanAge uses the health of your glycans to give you an accurate sense of your biological age—how old you appear to be, based on how well your body functions. Biological age is different from chronological age, which is how many years you’ve been alive. For example, you could be 40 and take great care of yourself, and your biological age could be 29… Or you could be 40 and take awful care of yourself, and your biological age could be 60. Either way, measuring your biological age is an invaluable way to track how your lifestyle affects your health.
Hacking Glycans for LongevityGlycanAge also looks at research on how lifestyle changes affect your glycans. Here are a few examples:
- Weight loss. Obese people who lost weight saw a significant improvement in their glycans, which translated to a major decrease in their biological age[*].
- Interval training. In a 2019 study, young men who did regular HIIT workouts developed more efficient glycans, which led to less inflammation and better cellular performance[*].
- Hormone balance. Women with low estrogen saw a significant improvement in their glycan function after taking estradiol—a sign that their hormones were more balanced and that they were aging better[*]. The same was true for men who took testosterone[*].