Why Longevity Science is Relevant to You
Aging is the biggest risk factor for all age-related diseases
What happened there?
While I’m sure no one (except Doug) is missing my rather unartistic “comics”, some of you might be wondering how I’ve started talking about longevity science focused on rejuvenation therapies. And some of you might even be wondering: What the hell am I even podcasting about now? What is longevity biotech and longevity science research being done in labs? Is it relevant to my health? Is it applicable to me?
I specially owe it to my initial subscribers to explain what longevity biotech is, why I’ve decided to interview scientists in the field, and why it is relevant to everyone. A lot of my initial subscribers signed up to understand science-backed tools to live a longevity lifestyle and optimize their health. So I’m sure some of my podcasts might seem too technical or less applicable. While it is true that some of the research discussed in my podcasts may not be directly applicable to people right now, it is still very relevant.
Allow me to explain why longevity science & biotech is relevant to you, to me, and to everyone in the world.
WHY LONGEVITY SCIENCE?
Aging is the Biggest Risk Factor for all Diseases
The other day I was having a conversation with my mother on the connection between cancer and sugar.
Mom: Your podcast doesn’t focus on cancer though?
Me: What do you think it’s about?
Mom: Umm, aging.
Me: But Aging is the biggest risk factor for all age-related diseases, including cancer.
I always like to start when I’m teaching to ask my students what the biggest risk factor for lung cancer is. And a lot of people think, oh, it’s smoking. But actually I think aging, if you compare a 20 year old to a 70 year old, the risk, I think is close to four hundred fold the difference between a smoker or a non smoker for something like lung cancer. So, yeah, I think people forget that age is just such a major risk factor.
You might think cholesterol is a 3x risk for heart disease. Aging is a 1000x risk for heart disease.
Obesity is 8x risk for diabetes, but Aging is 500x risk for diabetes
When you look at the data and chart above, it’s just mind-boggling how everything points to one thing: Age is the biggest risk factor for all age-related diseases.
So scientists came together and thought about it and asked the question: “Well, why don’t we try to understand the biology of aging itself and tweak the aging process?
What if we could understand the mechanisms that occur while aging and then work towards targeting those mechanisms directly to improve our healthspan and lifespan?
And this is what my podcast is focused on. It discusses research being done by scientists who are working to understand the biology of aging and entrepreneurs who are commercializing the research such that you and I don’t have to suffer so much from age-related diseases.
Is Longevity Science Research Relevant to you?
Yes, yes and yes. We all age. Aging is universal. It affects everyone - the rich, the poor, the educated, the uneducated, the Americans, the Indians. Longevity science should be a bonding factor for us. Everyone should come together and support this research.
You might object: “Well, I don’t care to live to be 100+ and I’m not afraid of death.”
Let me answer your objection. Living to be 100+ is not always the point of longevity science research. It’s not necessarily about living for a long long time. It’s about being healthy when you’re older. It’s about delaying the onset of age-related diseases. Who doesn’t like youth? What is your answer going to be if I ask you: “Do you want to be active and energetic when you’re 85 or 90?”
I’d bet 99.99% would say yes! (You still have that 0.01% who for some reason would say no)
Longevity science is about not being frail when you’re older. It’s not just about increasing lifespan. Increasing lifespan (number of years you live) is irrelevant if it doesn’t increase healthspan (number of healthy years you live). Longevity science is first and foremost about increasing healthspan, about delaying the onset of age-related diseases, and about compressing the period of suffering from disease or frailty.
Now you ask, is that even possible? Can I delay diseases? Can I really be active when I’m older and then one day just not wake up?
Yes, it might be possible. Centenarians are the model here. A lot of them are extremely active when they are old. And when they get diseases, they suffer for a very short period of time compared to the rest of us. They have a compression of morbidity. So if we can study the biology of centenarians (largely genetic), we can perhaps work those therapies into the lives on non-centenarians too.
Nir Barzilai discusses the healthspan of centenarians below:
If you’re curious to learn more about centenarian longevity, check out my entire podcast episode with Dr. Nir Barzilai, if you haven’t already.
Is a Longevity Lifestyle Not Enough?
Now you might be wondering: “Okay sure I want to be healthy when I’m old, but can I not get there by merely exercising and eating moderately clean?”
This is a good question. Let’s talk about it. Living a longevity lifestyle (exercising, sleeping well, eating certain longevity foods) is important. If you care about your health, it’s a no-brainer to be managing the damage that occurs with aging by doing the most obvious things like exercising. The problem is: how many of us do the most obvious thing like exercise regularly? And how many of us are extremely careful about eating very clean, avoiding all sugar, fasting etc.? We largely know what’s good for us in theory, but we fail to practice it. Of course, there is a growing movement of people who will obsessively biohack and exercise and optimize their health, and I’m all for it. But the vast majority is not that obsessive.
And the reality is that taking good care of your health will only get you so far. In all likelihood, you will still end up being frail and weak when you’re older. An active 60 year old probably still feels older than he did when he was 20, even if he wasn’t that active when he was 20. Of course, the active 60 year old will be much better off than one who hasn’t been active his whole life and lives a sedentary life. But let’s compare to the ideal here, which is youth. Not because of a fascination to hold on to dear life, but for the energy and mental sharpness that youth confers on us.
At the end of the day, if we want to improve our healthspan and lifespan even when we are middle-aged or older, we will need rejuvenation therapies (discussed below). Some of these could keep our biological age younger when we are older, keep us feeling mentally sharp and active, and delay the onset of age-related diseases.
Who wouldn’t want to be optimistic about rejuvenation therapies!
What are Longevity Rejuvenation Therapies?
Longevity rejuvenation therapies are focused on slowing and reversing aging through means outside of lifestyle measures. These means could be supplements, blood exchange(!!), drugs that cure diseases, procedures that cure diseases or prevent diseases etc.
Scientists study the biological pathways that are relevant to aging and longevity and then biotech entrepreneurs work towards commercializing the research and developing drugs and procedures that could activate the longevity pathways and have rejuvenation effects on older folks.
For example, Rapamycin is one such longevity drug that has shown to have healthspan and lifespan benefits. One of the ways it works is by inhibiting the mTOR pathway and promoting stress resistance and longevity. mTOR is one such biological pathway that is in fact important for muscle growth when we are younger, but inhibiting it once in a while can promote longevity. And rapamycin is a drug that works to inhibit mTOR. Rapamycin is currently being tested in dogs (The Dog Aging Project) and in some humans too. If you want to learn about the history and longevity benefits of Rapamycin, check out my twitter thread and / or my podcast clip with Matt Kaeberlein discussing Rapamycin as the gold standard of longevity intervention.
Another example: Parabiosis, which is young blood being shared to old mice and old mice sharing the environment of young mice, has shown to have brain, liver and muscle benefits for old mice. Further, diluting old blood plasma has dramatic rejuvenation effects.
All that said, rejuvenation therapies are still nascent. A lot of them haven’t even started human clinical trials. Hence, the best we can do so far is live a longevity lifestyle AND support longevity research to accelerate the progression of rejuvenation science and improve our healthspans significantly. (The adventurous few will likely try out some of the rejuvenation therapies out there).
So, yes I still think exercise is the single best longevity pill we have so far. But, if you’re informed of longevity science research, you can take full advantage of rejuvenation therapies when they’re available and use them to delay age-related diseases and perhaps even experiment with some of them if you know what the risks and benefits are. (For example, I know lots of people who experiment with Rapamycin and see positive benefits)1 Moreover, understanding some of the mechanisms that occur in our bodies during aging gives you a better appreciation of why certain longevity practices, including the ones you can practice right now, are important. Explanations are an important step towards taking control of our health. Finally, having full information straight from the scientists working on the research allows you to make more informed decisions about your health & longevity, instead of falling prey to a lot of “anti-aging supplement” companies selling false promise.
Live Longer World Podcast
This brings me to my Live Longer World podcast through which I have conversations with scientists and entrepreneurs working in longevity science.
These scientists are working on understanding the biology of aging so we can develop longevity rejuvenation therapies and delay age-related diseases. This is why my podcast can sometimes seem technical - understanding biological mechanisms is not that easy and sometimes becomes hard for scientists to explain it simply. But I try to ask my questions in a manner such that everyone can understand the podcasts.
Don’t worry about the big science-y words that are thrown about. If you’re curious to learn about the research (could be just for fun & learning & health), then you should be able to follow my podcasts and pick up on the research and how it’s relevant to all of us. Unless you’re an aspiring scientist in the field, you can probably even ignore some of the technical words; but you’ll still walk away understanding the research, hopefully being intrigued by it and learning about how it can be applicable to you and your loved ones.
If you want to follow along with the research discussed on my podcast, but you’d prefer to have the Cliffs note version of it that you can refer to anytime, you can sign up to be a premium subscriber and receive exclusive show notes. See sample version here.
My Transition from Doug & Molly to Live Longer World Podcast
I started this newsletter post by telling you that I’d explain how I went from drawing Doug and Molly comics to podcasting on longevity science research. I hope it makes a bit more sense now.
My interest in longevity science grew out of a personal obsession with optimizing my health through lifestyle means (more on my foray into longevity science some other time). I saw tremendous benefits through it, which is why I started my newsletter talking about it and sharing my learnings with others. If you need any tips on longevity foods, supplements, sleep, exercise and cold showers, please read my post Optimize Your Health in 2022 where you will find the relevant information. (And if you’re interested to follow more health optimization focused research & tips, follow me on Instagram @longevityfuture where I discuss it)
But, when I started digging into longevity science further, I realized everything I’ve written about today. That, aging is the biggest risk factor for all diseases. That, a longevity lifestyle is great & important, but probably won’t ensure that I’m strong when I’m older. That, scientists are working on understanding the biology of aging that can make increased healthspan a reality. That, I can support longevity research by spreading the word on it though my podcast. That, longevity science is universally beneficial and can reduce suffering. That, I hope I’ve shown you why longevity science research is relevant to you.
Finally, that, longevity science can enable deeper and longer human connections.
Stay in good health,
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice to go try out different longevity drugs. All of this is for informational purposes only.