I spend a lot of time around men who work very hard to keep their bodies looking good, looking much younger than their counterparts. They say they do this for their health, for their strength, so they can be the ultimate machines; not for aesthetics.
Let’s quit kidding ourselves, shall we? Every last one of them stand in front of the mirror after a good pump, looking at biceps, searching for that gun, lamenting their lack of gluts or chicken ankles. This is all secret, of course. But we all know they do it. Hell, we ALL do it.
Recently a friend posted a picture of an elderly man with a slamming body (seriously; rock hard abs, the whole deal), but an old man’s face. The caption of this picture, or course, had nothing to do with the fact that it just didn’t look right, the old man’s face with the 20-year-old pool boy body; it had everything to do with “it’s never too late to get in shape”. Fair enough.
The picture couldn’t keep me from wondering, though, what nursing homes are going to look like in 30 years. People talk about the geriatric wards in the upcoming years being filled with elderly women with sagging faces, wrinkles, hunched backs . . . and still perky implants. What, I say, about these men with Jack LaLanne bodies and Wilfred Brimley faces? A little nip and tuck can take care of the wrinkles, and I suppose Miss Clairol can take care of the gray hair. Let’s face it, though, these are men who work long and hard to achieve those beautiful bodies. They actually work out to get that way (as opposed to injecting themselves with steroids to give the appearance of large muscle), watch what they eat (often eating tasteless, rubbery food because seasoning has “too many calories”), take supplements at exactly the right time, drink protein shakes after their workout to replenish the muscles, and watch their BMI carefully. They’re not going to want to put those chemicals in their hair. Plus, men can be so vain at times; they would NEVER want to admit they colored their hair.
I decided to research the subject. What causes gray hair in the first place? I thought it was just that the hair follicles get old, “tired”, and stop producing the melanin that gives color to our hair. This seemed to make sense, since all your hair doesn’t go gray at once. It seems that follicles fade away one at a time, in their own good time. Sort of like people.
Well, I don’t say this often, but I was wrong. Apparently, there is an enzyme produced in the body called catalase. Catalase breaks down the buildup of hydrogen peroxide that occurs naturally in our bodies. As we age, our body slows its production of catalase. Now, catalase is some really cool stuff. It changes the hydrogen peroxide in our bodies into water and oxygen. This shift from water/oxygen-rich components in our bodies to hydrogen peroxide might explain a lot more than graying hair as we age; it might explain our skin drying out and wrinkling, the texture change of our hair, how well our organs function; anyone who’s spent any time at all bodybuilding or trying to lose weight knows the importance of water in how well we function, and anyone who has every smoked can attest to how precious oxygen is to our wellbeing. And never mind the implications of catalase production in premature aging diseases such as progeria. That’s just mind-boggling.
But I digress. We were talking about graying hair, and how to avoid it without resorting to hair dyes. What? Impossible? Nope. Believe it or not, science has found a “cure” for gray hair, and it has already been bottled and exploited. You see, when catalase production decreases, hydrogen peroxide builds up and essentially “bleaches” the hair as it grows. This is why we gray.
Say hello to “Go Away Gray”, a product that claims to have catalase, and therefore should keep the peroxide from bleaching out hair as it grows out. I know, crazy, right? Essentially, this company has taken the enzyme that is naturally produced in the body, bottled it, and has sold it successfully to the public. Reviews are mixed, but most lean towards the “save your money” take on the product. Many people have reported some reversal of graying, but have to continue taking the pills to keep up the catalase levels. Others say it’s a great supplement for making hair thicker and stronger, regardless of the color. Some say not to bother with it at all.
On a more scientific front, L’Oreal has developed a pill, which is due to be released in 2015, that will stop hair from graying ever. The catch is you have to take it every day for 10 years before you start graying, and continue to take it for the rest of your life. Little too late for me, I’m afraid.
For every manmade remedy, there’s a natural counterpart. There must be a food out there that has catalase, tastes yummy, and has the same benefits, right? Good news! There are foods that contain catalase and break down the peroxide in our bodies! The bad news is these foods are on most body builders/health nuts’ no-no lists: Beef liver (filled with toxins), potatoes (not paleo), and carrots (carbs). There is, however, catalase in dark fruits, like blueberries, plums, and black grapes, and all these fruits are rich in antioxidants, but eating them in the quantity needed could result in a different problem; diarrhea. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not be in the room when someone on this new anti-aging diet of blueberries decides to power lift . . . .
Onward and upward. Next!
Since there’s nothing new under the sun, there must be some herb or fungus, or something, with catalase. And there is! Picrorhiza Kurroa is an herb that grows in the Himalayas. It looks like a weed, something you’d pluck out of your garden to keep from choking your tomatoes, but apparently it’s well known in the Ayurvedic circles as being quite the antioxidant/cholesterol-lowering/hair-fortifying/anti-constipation herb. Hmm. Might be worth a try. Too much, though, and it too can cause diarrhea: Again, not a condition conducive to lifting heavy weights or grappling, and power squats would just be downright embarrassing.
I don’t give up easily, though. A few minor setbacks never deterred me. My research finally brought me to a wonderful herb with an even better story behind it, Fo Ti.
Fo Ti is a root that is used in Chinese medicine. The other name for it is He Shou Wu, which translates to “black-haired Mr. He”. Apparently, poor Mr. He wanted children very badly, but at the ripe old age of 58, he had yet to father a child. An herbalist recommended he take Fo Ti to help his fertility. Not only did he father many children after starting the herb, but his hair reversed its natural gray color and became black. His body became more youthful, and he went on to live another 102 years! One of his children, while not living as long as his father, still managed to celebrate 130 birthdays.
Some of the benefits of this herb, besides longevity and reversal of graying, are said to be increased fertility and vitality, decrease in joint pain and cholesterol levels, and reduction in arterial plaque. In other words, it reverses most problems associated with aging, including erectile dysfunction and impotence. Sounds too good to be true.
It is. It seems it, too, can cause diarrhea. There’s just no way around it.
My conclusions are that guys basically have 2 choices (3 if you count hair dye): You men can either walk around with a Brad-Pitt-in-Troy body and a James Whitmore face, or you can take the herbs and pills, eat the liver and potatoes, and have a youthful face, but the Jared-before-Subway body, and really, really cleaned out bowels.
But then again, given the perkiness of the next generation of women in nursing homes, the body that won’t quit might come in handy a little more so than the hair that won’t grow gray.