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More stress, less longevity hormone

The kidneys and brain secrete a hormone that delays aging, lengthens life expectancy, reduces the chance of age-related diseases and cardiovascular disease, and keeps muscles strong. This longevity hormone is called klotho. Psychologists at the University of California in San Francisco discovered that chronic stress reduces the concentration of klotho in the body.

Klotho was discovered in the 1990s by Japanese researchers. [Nature. 1997 Nov 6;390(6655):45-51.] The Japanese genetically modified mice so they could no longer produce klotho and observed that within a few months after birth they started to develop age-related diseases such as muscle decay, osteoporosis, hardening of the arteries and emphysema of the lungs - which they went on to die from. These findings led the Japanese to suspect that klotho was an anti-aging hormone.

In 2005 molecular biologists at the University of Texas published the results of an animal study [Science 2005; 309: 18291833.], which confirmed the Japanese' suspicions. The Texans modified mice genetically in two ways so that they produced greater amounts of klotho the EFmKL46- and the EFmKL48 mouse and observed that twenty to thirty percent of these lived longer than ordinary mice [WT].

More stress, less longevity hormone

Epidemiological studies suggest that klotho has the same effect in humans. The over 65s in the Italian Chianti study had more strength in their hands [Eur J Appl Physiol. 2012 Apr;112(4):1215-20.] and legs [J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2015 Sep 9. pii: glv077. [Epub ahead of print].] the higher the klotho concentration in their blood. In addition, a high klotho level reduced the chance of cardiovascular disease [J Am Geriatr Soc. 2011 Sep;59(9):1596-601.] and symptoms of mental aging such as forgetfulness. [J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2015 Aug 21. pii: glv140. [Epub ahead of print].] Elderly people with relatively high levels of klotho in their blood also functioned better and needed help less often. [Rejuvenation Res. 2012 Jun;15(3):295-301.]

Longer life
And indeed, in the Chianti study, the elderly with relatively high amounts of klotho in their blood lived longer than those with a low klotho concentration. [J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2011 Jul;66(7):794-800.]

More stress, less longevity hormone

It's not yet known exactly how klotho delays aging, but it seems that klotho does something with the way insulin and FGF work. [Aging (Albany NY). 2010 Sep;2(9):567-81.]

Klotho and stress
The amount of klotho you manufacture depends not only on your genes, but also on your lifestyle. High levels of stress on a daily basis will push your klotho level right down for example, according to an article published in the summer of 2015 by psychologists at the University of California in San Francisco in Translational Psychiatry. [Transl Psychiatry. 2015 Jun 16;5:e585.] The researchers compared the klotho level of 90 mothers who cared for a child with autism [High stress] with that of 88 mothers with a normal child [Low stress].

The figure below on the left shows that caring for an autistic child reduced the klotho level. The figure below on the right suggests that the reduction in the concentration of klotho as a result of stress becomes bigger as the years roll on.

More stress, less longevity hormone

So a lifestyle that involves little stress could lengthen life expectancy, according to these findings. But we knew that already.

Might there be other lifestyle factors that are affected by changes in klotho levels? Watch this space.

Transl Psychiatry. 2015 Jun 16;5:e585.

Stress reduces life expectancy at molecular level 07.11.2009

Psychology of longevity