Re: longevity

Alex Future Bokov (
Thu, 22 Jul 1999 10:40:31 -0400 (EDT)


On Wed, 21 Jul 1999, Skye Howard wrote:

> I was wondering if any of you had practical and
> inexpensive methods of attaining maximal longevity. I
> am aware of the obvious methods (exercise, fresh air,
> etc...) but have even heard studies that show

I know, aren't you sick of hearing naturist platitudes? No sh*t we need fresh air and exercise. What most of us want to know is how to slow down the aging process itself, not just how to end up the healthiest patient in the nursing home! I'm glad you asked this.

> information one way or another even regarding these.
> I was wondering whether there was any interesting
> commentary on this.

Good, good question. There are a lot of platitudes and a lot of smoke surrounding the topic of longevity, and few simple answers. So far, we know the following with a reasonable degree of certainty:

  1. Rats and mice on a diet that has the same levels of vitamins, minerals, and proteins but 40% fewer calories than what they would eat if given free access to food, have lifespans that are almost double.
  2. Most biochemical and anatomical symptoms of aging are delayed in these animals, so the low calorie diet isn't just preventing one particular disease.
  3. We don't know if this will work on humans, but early data from monkey experiments looks good. Do read Roy Walford's book, as someone suggested, he's done some interesting stuff. Also, if you do decide to CR yourself, start SLOW. I went into some serious depression when I attempted too radical a CR regimen. Also, if Tyler Parr's theory is correct, it may be possible to replicate the effects of caloric restriction without actually having to undergo it. This is beyond the scope of this posting, but there will be more info on this on the GerOL web page by Friday.
  4. Sunlight *will* screw up your skin, and will increase the risk cancer later in life, especially if you're pale. Wear the highest SPF-rating sunscreen you can buy and take (moderate!) vitamin D supplements to prevent rickets.
  5. Data is accumulating on melatonin, but is still sketchy. DHEA data is even sketchier. Remember, just because the levels of some substance decline in your blood over your lifespan, that doesn't necesserily meen that orally administering that substance will keep you young. Notwithstanding the amount of press antioxidants have gotten, there is very little clinical evidence that they actually extend the lifespans of lab animals, let alone humans.
  6. Some people take growth hormone (GH). It does decline throughout the lifetime, but high levels of GH might encourage cancer. The key is hormone sensitivity, not just the crude levels of the hormone in your blood. Look up Tyler Parr's excellent reviews.
  7. The real breakthroughs in longevity are still to be made. Governments and corporations should be targetting aging research as a budget priority. We, as consumers and tax-payers should urge them in this direction. These are not just empty pronouncements; in my own small way I'm contributing to the cause of life extension and so can you. I've started a site called GerOL: Gerontology OnLine. It has summaries of current articles from research journals (with most of the technical words linked to definitions), aging news, information from readers about longevity links they've found, and many other resources. It's updated almost daily, and each news item has a chat forum feature where lay-persons and researchers alike can discuss the implications of the news.

Cutting Through The Hype

A few personal rules of thumb:

  1. I never trust a supplement company to give the whole story. They might have correct and useful data, but they also have a vested interest. Read what the actual researchers have to say for a second opinion.
  2. No reputable researcher or company will ever make claims of 'immortality', 'miracle drugs', or 'fountains of youth'. The popular press is a different story, because...
  3. The popular media is always on the lookout for ways to spice up their stories. Most TV, newspaper, and magazine treatments of technical subjects are useful only for the names of the people and institutions involved, so you can get on the web and search for what *they* have to say for themselves.
  4. Modern medicine has its shortcomings, but it's delivered some impressive life-expectancy results compared to shamanism, faith healing, prayer, and other paranormal/nature-worshipping hooey. A favorite tactic of charlatans is to take potshots at 'Western' medicine and the scientific method.
  5. Cryonics and nanotech have intriguing implications for life extension, but it's nice to hedge your bets. After all, you'll want to guarantee your own survival at least long enough for nanorepair and true cryonic revival to become available.
  6. Above all, there is the danger of wishful thinking; wanting to believe that *this* supplement is the key, *this* research team has discovered the mechanism of aging. The truth is usually more mundane, requires hard work, and is sometimes unpleasant to hear.

Anyway, I wish you luck on your quest. If you find any interesting information, please post it to GerOL.

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