Eating foods containing heavier isotopes of common elements, such as hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen or oxygen, increases the stability of proteins. Research indicates this might protect against the damage caused by free radicals and so reduce the rate at which a human being ages.
The experiments, conducted by Russian biochemist Mikhail Shchepinov were first reported in the medical journal Rejuvenation Research (edited by gerontologist Dr. Aubrey de Grey) and then featured in New Scientist’s November 29, 2008 issue. According to Shchepinov, dozens of experiments have proved that proteins, fatty acids and DNA can be influenced to resist oxidative damage with the isotope effect.
Like regular water, heavy water’s molecules are composed of three atoms arranged like a boomerang with oxygen located in the elbow. But it differs in that the two atoms attached to the central oxygen atom are deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen that has double hydrogen’s mass. Ice cubes made of heavy water will sink in ordinary water.
Retrotope, a company created to research the isotope effect and to develop it into life-extending products, has been feeding various amounts of heavy water to fruit flies. Large amounts proved deadly, while smaller quantities increased lifespans up to 30 percent. Dr. de Grey is on Retrotope’s Scientific Advisory Board and Dr. Shchepinov is its co-founder and Chief Science Officer.