More and more, researchers are finding that diet and lifestyle can slow down, and even reverse, many of the symptoms of what is called Aging.
What follows is a recent report discussing how antioxidants may significantly reduce the risk of Alzheimers disease.
Brain samples were analyzed
Genes which play a key role in keeping our minds sharp gradually begin to turn off as we age, research has found. Scientists at the Children's Hospital in Boston hope the discovery could lead to new ways to preserve brain function and ward off Alzheimer's disease.
They used a sophisticated screening technique to analyze brain samples from 30 people aged 26 to 106 at post-mortem. The research is published in the journal Nature.
The evidence of varied rates of aging between different people in middle age is also exciting as it may suggest means of postponing or slowing the process.
Rebecca Wood Lead researcher Professor Bruce Yankner said: "We found that genes that play a role in learning and memory were among those most significantly reduced in the aging human cortex. "These include genes that are required for communication between neurons."
The researchers believe brain genes are particularly vulnerable to toxins in the environment, and to charged oxygen particles called free radicals which are released by chemical reactions in the body.
In addition to a reduction in activity in genes important for thought processes, they found evidence of greater activity among genes associated with stress and repair mechanisms and genes linked to inflammation and immune responses. This suggests that the aging brain has to try to cope with increasing levels of damage.
Professor Yankner said: "The brain's ability to cope with these toxic insults and repair these genes declines with age. It will now be important to learn how to prevent this damage, and to understand precisely how it impacts brain function in the elderly."
Dr Yankner said it had already proved possible to repair aging genes in the laboratory - but he stressed much more work was required to achieving the same effect in a living human brain.
However, she said the techniques used in the study were relatively new, and more work was needed to assess the validity of the findings.
"Not enough is yet known about the multiple functions of the genes they have picked out. Further studies should also include cases of Alzheimers to see if the same or different genes are affected in aging to those in the disease."
"However, this is an exciting step which could lead to real progress in understanding the aging of the brain and of its degeneration in the tragic disease of Alzheimer's."
Professor Clive Ballard, director of research, Alzheimer's Society, said: "This work is likely to initiate a variety of productive research strategies, including approaches to look at the protection of gene function.
"It also provides a scientific framework to reinforce the potential therapeutic value of antioxidants ... that mop-up free radicals."