As if we needed more proof of the adage, “You are what you eat,” a study recently published in Nature Aging has demonstrated that calorie restriction may, among other benefits, also slow aging in humans. Reports Time magazine, a goal of the study was to see if people who restricted calories also aged more slowly than those who ate normally. “Researchers found that two years of calorie restriction led to a 2% to 3% slower pace of aging,” writes reporter Jamie Ducharme.
“According to the study’s authors, previous research suggests a similar slow-down in biological aging could reduce someone’s risk of death by up to 15% — roughly the same longevity benefit associated with quitting a smoking habit,” says the Time story, adding one important reminder that it is “only an estimate.” The study’s authors go on to say that widespread calorie restriction is not “a practical strategy for slowing aging in the population.” In addition to being a dramatic shift, a 25% drop in calorie consumption for many people is deemed unsustainable. Even some trial participants given a month’s worth of prepared meals to transition to their new eating styles, along with behavioral counseling, were not able to stick with the plan for a full two years.
In today’s world, the pressure in America to find ways to recapture that veritable fountain of youth is considerable. It becomes even more relevant with each passing day. As noted by 1TruHealth.com, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, “aging Baby Boomers have now pushed the 65-and-over cohort to 56 million people, or 16.9% of the national population. By 2030 … 20% of the population will be of retirement age. By 2034, seniors will outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history. That’s an awful lot of old people.”
“We have this evolved imperative to stay alive,” says Thomas Pyszczynski, professor of psychology at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. He believes we are amid an “anti-aging imperative in America.”
“There is an entire branch of psychology built around the geriatric mind, dealing not just with such clinical conditions as dementia, but also the simple business of fear of — and resistance to — aging,” says 1TruHealth.
“Doctors and scientists in the longevity field are trying to determine which of those processes is the strongest hallmark of overall aging and declining health and how to target that process with a drug in the same way that current drugs target specific diseases,” reports Fortune.
“We can target aging. We can delay it. And in several instances, we can stop and reverse it,” says Dr. Nir Barzilai, professor of medicine and genetics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and director of the American Federation for Aging Research.
In understanding biological age, it is important to understand that the changes people undergo over time are also “the result of your environment, behaviors and exposures throughout your lifetime. Think: pollution, trauma, diet, exercise, and secondhand smoke. They don’t change your DNA, but they change the way your DNA acts. Genes that once functioned perfectly may at some point in life slow down, speed up, shut off, or just go generally haywire. Any dysregulation can cause disease or the signs and symptoms of old age,” says reporter Sonya Collins.
“I think in the next 5 to 10 years, FDA will have approved the first drug to target aging biology,” predicts Dr. Joan Mannick, CEO of Tornado Therapeutics. For now, the means to turn back the clock are mostly lifestyle changes.
Wealthy California entrepreneur Bryan Johnson, 45, is one individual who doesn’t want to just feel 18 years old again. He wants his body to “act” 18 years old, and he is putting his money where his mouth is. According to a profile of his efforts published in Bloomberg, “he has spent millions of dollars to track his body’s functions to find the ‘blueprint’ for reversing aging becoming medically younger.” It appears he is leaving no stone unturned in his quest to make this happen.
Writes Popular Mechanics’ Tim Newcomb, “Johnson eats a 1,977-calorie vegan diet daily, follows an exacting exercise routine, and sticks to a steadfast sleep routine. But he also tracks his body relentlessly via MRIs, ultrasounds, and more invasive measures like blood tests and colonoscopies.” In addition, he “takes two dozen supplements and medicines every day” and monitors and tests everything from his body fat, blood glucose and more. “He applies creams, undergoes laser therapy, and employs electromagnetic pulses.”
Reports Fortune’s Alexa Mikhail, “He’s already biologically at least five years younger than his age, according to his team of doctors.”
As to how long he could live, Dr. Andrew Steele, longevity scientist and author of “Ageless: The New Science of Getting Older Without Getting Old,” says putting a number on it is impossible. “First, because Johnson has dedicated his life to adhering to various approaches simultaneously, it will be difficult to understand which modalities, if any, really made the difference … The real challenge is that we just haven’t got anything that I would confidently recommend that can slow down the aging process beyond the obvious stuff of diet and exercise.”
“We cannot control everything,” he adds. “While a bulk of living longer and avoiding debilitating chronic illnesses lies in lifestyle changes, another factor is genetics, and the other is mere luck.”
These things on his checklist are “expensive financially, physically and psychologically,” says Dr. Shoshana Ungerleider, an internal medicine physician in San Francisco and the founder of nonprofit End Well. “Additionally, even if there is proven benefit, the majority of people are not able (or interested) in dedicating every waking hour to preventing aging.”
“Steele and Ungerleider hope people instead see that there are accessible ways to control some of life’s potential health outcomes without having to cash a check,” writes Mikhail.
“Our time is the only thing we can’t get back or buy more of,” says Ungerleider. “From my experiences caring for many patients at the end of their lives, it’s not about the number of years lived, it’s about the quality of that life.”