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Meet (and Defeat) Your Body’s Toxic Zombie Cells

By Kristine Bahr February 04, 2023 Health and Fitness

When it comes to age-related issues, telomere length, and senescent cells play a major role. When telomeres become shorter, and senescent cells become more prevalent, the aging process accelerates.

Scientifically speaking, when cells age or become damaged, they die off in a process called apoptosis, which makes room for new and fresh cells. Sometimes, however, cellular damage begins to accumulate and the cells in your body enter a state known as senescence (also known as zombie cells).

Once the cells enter this state, they stop doing the things that most cells do such as cell division and repairing and supporting tissue. In time, these “zombie” cells wander our bodies, causing damage to nearby cells, contributing to things like high blood pressure, diabetes, and dementia, as well as contributing to age-related chronic diseases. 

Let’s have a look at some studies and how the information they reveal can help us fight off our body’s zombie cells.

Mice Study

Mayo Clinic researcher Dr. James Kirkland conducted a research study to understand the effect of senescent cells on physical aging. Scientists transplanted a small number of senescent fat cells into healthy young and middle-aged mice, and regular non-senescent fat cells into the control group, in order to measure the impact on the mice’s strength and endurance and physical health (Nature Medicine, 2018).

The results: 

One month after transplantation, the mice who received the senescent cells had physical impairments such as physical endurance and walking speed. The mice who received larger doses of the senescent cells showed the greatest impairment over time.

In fact, the mice transplanted with senescent cells were five times more likely to die in the following year, than those with healthy cells. Results suggested that the impairment was due to transplanted cells affecting cells that were previously healthy (Nature Medicine, 2018).

Senescent Cells

Senescent cells are like zombies due to the fact that they die but don’t disappear. In other words, these cells stop multiplying but don’t die off when they should. These cells remaining in the body and do nothing more than trigger inflammation and speed up the aging process. Cell senescence occurs naturally and increases as we age, but it can also increase from a variety of lifestyle factors such as:

  • A high-starch and sugar diet, 
  • Excess stress, 
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals.
  • And more…

How to Eliminate the Zombie Cells

Boost Your Immune System

A person’s immune system normally eliminates senescent cells. However, as the immune system deteriorates, the ability to do this job declines, leaving the body much more susceptible to damage and inflammation.

Senescent cells themselves also cause a weakened immune system, affect healthy cells, cause tissue damage, and accelerate aging in other organs and systems of the body. It is therefore imperative to maintain a healthy immune system, which can be accomplished by:

  • Taking immune-boosting supplements such as vitamin C and quercetin
  • Engaging in regular exercise (3x a week) without going overboard
  • Eating organic, clean, non-processed foods

Try Periodic Fasting

Another way to combat these zombie cells is to engage in periodic fasting (also known as intermittent fasting) which helps to induce autophagy (the body’s process of removing damaged cells and proteins).

Fasting also deactivates mTOR, a protein required for autophagy, and activates SIRT1, a gene that prevents cells from turning into zombies in the first place.

Be sure to check in with a professional before attempting any caloric restriction. Periodic fasting works by essentially starving the senescent cells and can be done by the following:

  • Consume fewer calories during mealtime
  • Going one day without food
  • Avoiding the urge to snack

An example of this could be eating your first meal at noon and finishing your last meal at 8 pm. 


Exercise is one of the most important things a person can do to stay healthy. It helps to prevent heart disease, maintain a healthy weight, and also works to eliminate senescent cells. Research suggests that exercise can also stop the buildup of senescent cells and help the immune system fight molecular damage.

Resistance exercise, for example, causes slight tears in the muscle allowing the immune cells to respond to the site, and attack the zombie cells in the process. Those who exercise were also found to have longer telomeres than those who were inactive. The following are some ways you can fight zombie cells through exercise: 

  • Vary your work by doing yoga, muscle training, and aerobic exercise.
  • Get a personal training session to help individualize your exercise program.
  • Vary the training with the workout session (intense, rest, light, heavy).
  • Work out in moderation, and avoid going overboard.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you follow any scientific studies on aging? What news have you found interesting? Did you know about zombie cells and their influence on health and aging?

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The Author

Kristine Bahr, MS, LDN is a licensed clinical nutritionist, counselor, certified health educator and sports nutritionist. She has over 25 years of experience in nutritional counseling, emphasizing systemic and holistic root-cause treatment, pro-aging, hormonal issues, asperger’s/autism, and health/beauty preservation.

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