It took more than two years to create BENJA.
BENJA had to be the following:
BENJA is the result of years of research into nutrition and aging.
In order to create BENJA, the largest medical database in the world was used, containing more than 23 million scientific articles.
This database was searched for ingredients that meet the following three criteria:
1. They inhibit mechanisms that play a role in aging.
2. They slow down aging in lab animals and extend their lifespan.
3. The ingredients are of natural origin: they are used by organisms to protect themselves against cellular damage, or occur naturally in the human body.
We found three important ingredients that meet all of this criteria: trehalose, malic acid and glycine.
The result is BENJA, probably the healthiest meal replacement that exists.
An international patent was submitted for the composition of BENJA.
Below you will find more information about the most important ingredients in BENJA aiming at slowing down aging.*
Trehalose is a fascinating ingredient.
It is a natural substance that is produced by plants, insects and mushrooms to protect their cells against damage.
In the medical field, trehalose is used to preserve organs during organ transports. Trehalose protects the organ cells against damage and oxygen deprivation during the transport.
Lab animals given trehalose in their drinking water live longer. Many studies show that trehalose can slow down the aging process.
Trehalose can slow down aging by reducing the accumulation of proteins. The accumulation of proteins in and around the cells is an important reason why we age.
Trehalose can slow down the accumulation of proteins via two main ways:
1. CHAPERONE ACTIVITY
Trehalose forms a protective 'shield' around important constituents of our cells, so that these are better protected against damage.
This is what scientists call 'chaperone activity'. Trehalose forms a shield around proteins, so that they are better protected against damage and less quickly clump together and accumulate.
The accumulation of proteins plays an important role in the aging process: it causes organisms to age.
Damaged proteins accumulate in and around our cells, a process scientists call "proteopathy" or "proteotoxicity".
The cells are almost "suffocated" by these agglomerated proteins. This makes the cells function worse and worse. They become "old".
Trehalose protects proteins in cells from damage and prevents them clumping together through its chaperone function.
Trehalose can also reduce the protein accumulation in another way.
2. AUTOPHAGY STIMULATION
Trehalose can stimulate "autophagy". Autophagy is the cleaning up of damaged or accumulated proteins.
The older we become, the less well autophagy (degradation of proteins and other waste in the cell) works. So proteins start to accumulate in the cells, hampering the proper functioning of the cells.
Autophagy plays an important role in slowing aging and keeping cells healthy.
Through its chaperone activity and by stimulating autophagy, trehalose can cause proteins to accumulate less during the aging process.
An optimal state of all proteins in the cell is also called "protein homeostasis" or "proteostasis". Homeostasis is the maintenance of an optimal internal environment in our cells. Proteostasis is thus an optimal environment of proteins in the cell: not too much accumulation of damaged proteins.
"Overwhelming evidence shows that the maintenance of proteostasis [inhibiting protein damage and accumulation] in the cells is one of the key processes to ensure a long life".
- Susmita Kaushik, "Proteostasis and aging", Nature, 2015
Interesting fact: the word "trehalose" comes from the beetle Trehala manna. This beetle makes cocoons of trehalose. These little cocoons were described in the Bible as "manna": the "bread of life" that came from heaven. Recent studies show that trehalose can protect cells from aging processes and extend life span in animals.
Is trehalose a sugar?
It is mandatory in the European Union to state on the label of foods containing trehalose that "trehalose is a source of glucose". This is because trehalose is composed of two units of glucose. However, the unique way in which these glucose units are linked together gives trehalose its remarkable effects, which differ substantially from glucose. In studies, lab animals that receive glucose in the drinking water are more likely to age faster and die, while in studies where animals receive trehalose in the drinking water, they live longer.
What about the absorption of trehalose in the gut?
The gut can normally only absorb simple sugars, such as glucose. Trehalose is a double sugar (a "disaccharide"): it consists of two glucose units that are linked together via a special bond. Mammals have an enzyme in the gut ("trehalase") that can cut trehalose into two pieces, namely in two glucose units, which can then be absorbed by the gut. Nevertheless, trehalose can exert effects in the body, since trehalose in the drinking water has longevity-promoting effects in various species of lab animals, even though they have trehalase in the gut. Apparently, not all trehalose in the gut is broken down by trehalase and part of the trehalose can be absorbed.
Glycine is an amino acid. It is a substance that occurs naturally in our body.
Studies show that extra glycine can extend life span in cells and lab animals (R, R).
Glycine does this, among other things, by causing epigenetic changes. The epigenome is the intricate molecular machinery surrounding the DNA that determines which genes are active or inactive. "Epigenetic" means that certain genes can be switched on or off in the cell.
As you get older, the epigenome gets more and more disrupted: certain genes that normally have to be deactivated are activated, and vice versa. This means the cells function less well. This plays an important role in the aging process.
Studies show that glycine can induce epigenetic changes in the cells, extending their lifespan (R, R).
Besides this, glycine also has many other interesting health benefits.
Malic acid is a natural substance that is found in apples. It gives the characteristic sour taste of apples.
Studies show that malic acid can prolong life span in lab animals (R).
One of the reasons for this is that malic acid is part of the Krebs cycle.
The Krebs cycle is the whole of biochemical reactions that keep our cells running. It keeps us alive.
The Krebs cycle takes place in the mitochondria and generates energy. Therefore the mitochondria are also called the power plants of the cells.
The Krebs cycle starts to work less and less well when we get older. Because malic acid is an important component of the Krebs cycle, it can rejuvenate the mitochondria or keep them younger for longer according to various scientific studies.
Malic acid also can provide more energy and reduce fatigue. It can also improve exercise endurance.
Inulin is also added to BENJA. It is a natural fiber. We do this to improve the "microbiome".
The microbiome are all the bacteria that live in your gut.
The microbiome plays a very important role in your health and aging.
For example, the gut bacteria produce various substances, such as B vitamins, vitamin K and butyrate, that keep you healthy.
One third of all molecules in our blood are produced by the microbiome! These substances leak from the gut into your blood and impact your health on a continuous basis.
The microbiome produces substances that affect the brain, the immune system and metabolism, so that gut bacteria play a role in how we feel (R), resistance to diseases and our weight (R,R).
70% of the immune system is in the gut, and so these gut bacteria impact our immunity, the risk of auto-immune diseases and inflammation.
As you get older, the microbiome changes:
"The potential of the gut microbiome to affect health is particularly important for the elderly. This is because the microbiome can influence aging-related changes regarding immunity, sarcopenia [the loss of muscle mass by aging] and cognitive functioning; all elements of [aging-related] frailty. [...] A lower fiber intake leads to a reduction in the diversity of the microbiome, which can be detrimental to the health of the intestine."
- Paul O'Toole in '"Gut microbiota and aging", Science, 2015
As you grow older, the microbiome becomes less diverse. It is important to keep the bacteria in our gut diverse and healthy.
Fiber plays a very important role in this.
Crucially, the fiber is soluble (as in fruit and vegetables), and not insoluble, such as in grain products.
BENJA contains lots of soluble fiber mainly from vegetables, lentils and berries. But extra soluble fiber was also added, namely inulin.
Inulin has a beneficial impact on the microbiome. This fiber promotes the growth of benign gut bacteria, such as bifidobacteria (R).
Gut bacteria also use inulin as food, thereby converting inulin into healthy substances, such as butyrate. Butyrate beneficially impacts metabolism, the immune system and brain health.