Morgan Levine: ‘Only 10-30% of our lifespan is estimated to be due to genetics’

Zoë Corbyn

The Yale scientist explains her research into biological and chronological age – and why she’s joined a $3bn startup funded by the likes of Jeff Bezos

This article is a repost which originally appeared on The Guardian

Edited for content. The opinions expressed in this article may not reflect the opinions of this site’s editors, staff or members.

Our Takeaways:

· It’s thought there are two ages: a fixed chronological age and a malleable biological age

· Biological age is considered more important in that there’s a lot which can be done to affect it

· Biological age should be checked by a professional 1-2 times a year

It can be said we have two ages: a fixed chronological age based on when we were born and a malleable biological age – the age at which our body is functioning, which can be affected by our lifestyle choices. Dr Morgan Levine designs tools that measure the latter. In her new book, True Age, she argues that we should regularly measure our own biological age – giving us information we could use to monitor, and even gain control over, our own individual ageing process. Levine, 37, is an assistant professor of pathology and epidemiology at Yale University’s school of medicine. This June she will join Altos Labs, a new $3bn (£2.2bn) anti-ageing biotech startup whose funders are said to include Jeff Bezos.

What got you interested in the science of biological ageing?
Growing up with an older father. He was 54 when I was born and people always assumed he was my grandfather. Most kids aren’t pondering their parents’ mortality early on, but I was already consumed with the fear that he might not be around. My mother, who works on ageing policy, also influenced me. I saw the resources it takes to care for older adults and wondered if there was a possibility to delay that need.

Why is biological age important?
It is more informative than chronological age for predicting risk of disease or death. That’s because it is not chronological time that drives the development of disease, but rather the biological changes taking place among the molecules and cells in our bodies. Most people’s biological age will be within plus or minus five years of their chronological age, but you can have outliers of up to 10 or more years. The wonderful thing, compared with chronological age, is that biological age is modifiable. We don’t yet know exactly how to modify it to the greatest extent, but the clock can be made to tick slower, or even possibly go backwards, in response to our behaviours (though it can also speed up). The first step is getting a valid and reliable measure of it, which my lab has been working on.

“The process – biological ageing – that gives rise to cancer also causes diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and others”

 

You advocate getting our biological age measured regularly – once or twice a year. Is the science really advanced enough for that?
It is early days for these tests, and they still need improvement. There is no standard, agreed upon way yet for measuring biological age – different methods give different numbers – and there’s probably no “perfect” way either, because there is nothing to compare against. But they are good enough to give people a general sense of their health status. Both my and others’ labs have shown these measures are better than just the standard cholesterol or glucose level tests that physicians currently use. Doing it regularly gives a more accurate picture: people can put too much weight on a single measurement and things like being sick or uncharacteristically stressed can misconstrue it.

There are various consumer tests available. How might we best measure?
Right now, probably the cheapest and easiest way is based on regular clinical lab tests that people would get done as part of an annual physical. I have published a method of estimating biological age that combines nine blood measures and the calculator to do it is free online.

But there are other ways too. Counting the diseases and/or high-risk conditions a person has and adding this up into a single score is one method, though it is much less predictive for younger people. Molecular-level methods include the measurement of telomere length [the protective sections of DNA at the end of our chromosomes which shorten with age], though I don’t think it is such a powerful predictor. Another, which my lab has worked on, is epigenetic clocks. These use machine learning to decode some of the patterns of DNA methylation – chemical tags on our DNA throughout our genome that can alter quite dramatically with ageing. Results from our epigenetic measure match with the clinical test because we trained the former on the latter.

You have a vested interest here. You helped develop “Index”, a $499 epigenetic age test which uses a saliva sample and is offered by Elysium Health…
Elysium Health did license [my lab’s] epigenetic measure. I decided to work with them because I wanted to make sure what they provided to consumers was the most valid and reliable version possible. I stopped work with the company last year and I am not receiving any compensation from them (though it was too late to correct for this book). I’ve never received a dime for the clinical test, which is freely available and I promote equally to the epigenetic test.

Your own biological age is five years younger than your chronological age. But it might not feel so great to discover you are older biologically. Do you understand why people might not want to know?
Completely. It is a personal choice. For me it is just a way to start evaluating things; a potential early wake-up call that could lead to behaviour change. And, because it is potentially modifiable, it is less worrisome than a genetic test, where these are the cards you’re dealt at birth.

Is it just the usual lifestyle factors we all know about but find so hard to implement that can alter biological age?
The patterns we observe are nothing surprising. People who tend to age slower don’t smoke, don’t really drink, exercise regularly, eat lots of plants, get better sleep, and experience less stress. On average, only 10-30% of our lifespan is estimated to be due to genetics. That means how we age will largely be down to our behaviours – along with some random chance. Something we don’t have control over which has a huge impact is socioeconomic status. Being poor reduces your life expectancy by about 10 years on average, which is on a par with being a current smoker. We think it is chronic stress to some degree.

Caloric restriction (CR) is popular in the tech world as a way of increasing longevity. What evidence is there it works in humans to slow ageing?
The Calerie study [Comprehensive Assessment of Long-term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy] is really the only randomised clinical trial. Some of the biological age estimates I have created have been applied and they do seem to show some impact from CR, though whether it is down to the restriction of calories or just the lack of overeating, we don’t know. There is also a question about whether the benefit would be maintained over the long term. Obviously, CR should be at a level where you’re still getting adequate calories. In the Calerie study it was only a 12% reduction. I am not a proponent of CR for most people – there are better ways – but there are probably less health risks with moderate CR versus what is more common, which is overeating.

You and your husband – who also studies ageing – are leaving your current positions at Yale to join Altos Labs, which is focused on turning back the ageing clock through cellular reprogramming. What will you be doing?
One goal is developing biological age measures to a level that they could be a surrogate end point in clinical trials to slow or reverse ageing (using lifespan or disease incidence isn’t really feasible because results can take decades). I’ll also continue to study epigenetic clocks. They are a bit of a black box. We can estimate ageing epigenetically, but we don’t really understand what is going on.

The mega-rich have a penchant for funding anti-ageing research and Altos Labs seems no exception. Isn’t this just an effort to extend the lives of plutocrats?
That’s not why I joined [Altos Labs]. I would actually have a big problem working on anything that increased health disparities. I joined because I want to keep the majority healthier for longer. Scientists involved in ageing research need to make the case that our involvement is for the greater good.

Wouldn’t anti-ageing research funding be better spent on combating diseases such as cancer, heart disease and so on, which we know are killers?
We look at diseases in a very siloed way, and our medical system goes after one at a time. But the process – biological ageing – that gives rise to cancer is the same one that gives rise to diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and others. If we can tackle the thing that causes all of them simultaneously, it could deliver a bigger benefit. You would be saving people from, or at least postponing their incidence of, not just one but many major chronic diseases.

At what point does an obsession with staying young and healthy become negative? Shouldn’t wisdom, wrinkles and grey hair be celebrated rather than fought and derided?
I struggle with this. I don’t want to stigmatise ageing. For most people wrinkles and grey hair don’t have a huge effect on quality of life. Delaying biological ageing is about preventing or slowing the accumulation of diseases, which do affect quality of life. A lot of people in the field want to call ageing a disease. I disagree. Not only does it further stigmatise ageing, but I don’t think we could settle on a chronological or even biological age where you could say: you are diseased now, and you weren’t diseased before.

Is there such a thing as too much exercise?
If you bottled the effect of exercise and sold it as a pill, it would be one of the best anti-ageing interventions on the market. And it is never too late! But, yes, there is probably a sweet spot for optimal benefits. Past a certain point and there seem to be diminishing returns. It is difficult to know the optimal level and type of exercise for each of us, but likely most of us aren’t even getting close to it.

What do you do to lower your own biological age?
I try to eat a mostly plant-based diet, stay active and exercise. Sleep and stress levels are the areas where I know I need to pay more attention. I do intermittent fasting where I restrict the time window in which I eat. I don’t know if it is CR – I don’t really count my calories – but implementing it isn’t hard. I always calculate my biological age based on my clinical numbers from my annual physical and I’m due another epigenetic test. But I’m no biohacker: I leave my experimenting to the lab.

Any advice for those who want to go further with biohacking their ageing process to quantify the specific effect of their regimes?
I would caution those interested in self-experimentation not to put too much faith in every single metric. While hypothetically in the future we could have these applications, we aren’t there yet. If anything, I think this kind of testing might dissuade people from unproven interventions: most of the regimes people might test I doubt will show a sustained effect on biological age.

Sunglasses can be bad for your health and sleep hormones; here’s why

Wearing sunglasses all the time can mess with one’s circadian rhythm which can lead to fatigue, insomnia and even depression.

Published on May 07, 2022 04:38 PM IST

By Parmita Uniyal

This article is a repost which originally appeared on Hindustan Times

Edited for content. The opinions expressed in this article may not reflect the opinions of this site’s editors, staff or members.

Our Takeaways:

· Blocking sun exposure may alter hormone production and can cause problems with sleep.

· The pineal and pituitary glands need specific wavelengths of light every day.

· Sunglasses should be used only as needed during activities such as driving or skiing.

Sunglasses are known to protect eyes from UV (ultraviolet) damage and harmful sun exposure at certain times of the day, but did you know they can they can also play havoc with your hormones and lead to insomnia and depression? Sunglasses are considered one of the coolest accessories among youth today and people tend to overuse them even when they aren’t required. Wearing them all the time, however, can meddle with the body’s circadian clock and cause several health issues.

Tim Gray, health optimising biohacker, psychology specialist, entrepreneur and global speaker says wearing sunglasses can starve the pineal gland and tricks the brain into thinking it’s cloudy and stops the skin from preparing for skin exposure.

“On a sunny day, specific wavelengths of light from the sun filter into the eyes. This feeds the pituitary and pineal glands and lets the brain know it’s sunny. The skin then prepares for direct sunlight exposure and gets ready to make vitamin D,” Tim Gray writes in his recent Instagram post.

The health expert says sunglasses can also mess with one’s circadian rhythm which can lead to fatigue, insomnia and even depression (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

Talking about the importance of sunlight, Gray says it helps regulate your hormones by stimulating the hypothalamus in the brain, which is connected to your pineal gland. The expert says when your eyes aren’t absorbing sunlight naturally, your hormone cycles can be severely altered, messing with many different body systems and your moods.

“They can cause your eyes to become tired because they have to work harder to get natural light. This can lead to poorer vision over time,” adds Gray.

The health expert concludes that sunglasses have their role to play in shielding eyes when skiing, on the water or driving when the sunlight is bright but not all day and every day.

 

Girth Training Advice: Ask The Experts

Girth Training Advice: Ask The Experts

Big Al, of MaleEnhancementCoach.com, answers questions about training the penis for girth.

If you have questions you’d like answered in an Ask the Experts article, please PM Big Al

Q. I’ve just started with the Squeeze for my girth workouts and I’ve gotta say I love em!

I’m doing the recommended 70 percent average but I feel I can do much more. Can I try a higher erection for this?

Al: You can use a higher level of erection to make the Squeezes more intense, but you have to be careful with this- since the degree of force needed to manipulated a higher erection increases almost exponentially. If you don’t have the necessary conditioning, you might find the higher erection Squeeze LESS efficient.

*                *                *

Q. You had stated that for jelqs, I should be holding one hand at the base so the skin doesn’t move up with the jelq.

However, isn’t it preferable to start from as far back of the penis as possible? And if I hold that base, I that means I have to start further ahead?

How about instead of holding the base, I just use more lube so that when I’m jelqing, it’s not actually moving up the skin?

Al: You’re correct in that you should be getting the stroking hand as deep into the base as possible. This may require you hold back skin with the other hand and spread your fingers enough to allow the stroking hand to get the proper range of motion.

You can also try using more (thick) lube. IMO, this is preferable as it simplifies the exercise. Please let me know how it goes if you decide to try this.

*                *                *

Q. Why is it that I feel the Squeezes better for me for girth than jelqing even if I use about the same level of EQ?

Aren’t they both for girth?

Al: The Squeeze is considered to be a girth-direct exercise, whereas the jelq is an exercise which can be used for a variety of functions. That being said, even the Squeeze can yield some degree of length gains since the tunica is being expanded. Some have also commented on EQ improvement using Squeezes, though the [light] jelqs are, IMO, better for contributing to more blood flow.

*                *                *

Do you want Al to answer your questions?  Please check out MaleEnhancementCoach.com

Biohacking for beginners: The 4 basic things a doctor wants you to know before thinking about biohacking

Posted by Chloe Gray for Wellbeing

This article is a repost which originally appeared on Stylist

Edited for content. The opinions expressed in this article may not reflect the opinions of this site’s editors, staff or members.

Our Takeaways:

· Research and a medical check up should be performed before engaging in biohacking

· There’s been a greater than 8-fold increase in Google searches for biohacking information

· Focusing on strengthening the foundation should be a priority over niche treatments

If you’re curious about biohacking, here’s what a doctor wants you to know beforehand.

The term “biohacking” came into the public consciousness a few years ago via Silicone Valley execs who sought to improve their efficiency by attempting to hack their biology. Their habits ranged from taking slightly obscure supplements to adding microchips into their body to “improve their magnetic field” and life span (yes, really).

Now these habits have gone mainstream (OK, maybe not the microchip one) and it’s easy enough to land on the term with a two-minute scroll on social media. Google searches of “biohacking for beginners” have increased 850% over the past 12 months, and many of us have tried something a little obscure that’s promised to improve how our body functions, whether that’s fasted exercise or SAD lamps.

But things have gone too far. At least, that’s according to Dr Adrian Chavez, who is fiercely anti-biohacking. His concern? “It’s marketing. People end up spending time doing these things that are half-truths when they could have spent that time actually doing the things that people need to do to improve their health,” he tells Stylist.
Why anti-biohacking?

Dr Chavaz’s anti-biohacking journey began after he fell for the trend himself. “I started being interested in nutrition because of a health issue that I had. I went to a doctor and they didn’t really help me out very much, so I changed my diet and I was able to improve my digestive health.

“At that point, I started googling information and I landed on a lot of fringe sites. I was in my early 20s, getting a master’s degree in exercise science and I believed a lot of the obscure ‘biohacking’ stuff I was finding, so I completely shifted my degree to nutrition. But as you do a PhD programme, you learn science. And I learned that a lot of the stuff that I believed before is pretty ridiculous in some cases, but oftentimes dangerous.”

The real frustration for him is that we want to (or believe we should) start with the niche treatments before we’ve even nailed the basics. And when things like greens powders or cryotherapy don’t work, people give up at improving their health.

“The evidence for cold water exposure, for example, is a few poor papers. But we know that and have the evidence for 30 minutes of exercise every day reducing your risk of almost every chronic disease known to man. We need to be doing more of that than we do getting into a cold pool and seeing how that might hack our biology,” he says.

So why don’t we? Why do some people feel that “nutrigenomics” (eating in line with your genes) is more important than just eating their five a day? “The basics are boring,” he says. Meanwhile, bio-hacking ‘experts’ have sussed out the Instagram algorithm to excite us with new buzzwords that mean we forget about broccoli and bedtime in favour of expensive solutions.

In fact, that’s why Dr Chavez focuses his content on the concept of anti-biohacking. “​​I realised a long time ago that if I said, ‘Hey guys, eat fruits and vegetables,’ there’s no way people would respond. So I try to frame my content in a way that will take off, but all I’m saying is focus on the basic stuff before spending money and time worrying about the extremes,” he said.

What exactly is that basic stuff then? What should we be doing, if not taking IV vitamin drips?

The four basic elements of health

Sleeping

“I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met that claim they are lacking energy and are trying to find the solution when they just need to sleep more,” says Dr Chavez.

Around three-quarters of people in Britain get less than eight hours of sleep a night, according to YouGov, and a recent study from Southampton University found that one in four also suffer sleep problems (mainly impacting women and people from marginalised backgrounds).

The scenario is similar in America, where 35% of people report less than seven hours of sleep. Yet 40% of people in the US have tried CBD. But the toughest pill to swallow is that the sleep crisis is real, and we can’t hack our way out of our biological need to sleep.

Hydrating

Dr Chavez jokes: “I think you guys in the UK get more hydration because you drink tea.” But in any case, he recommends drinking half your body weight in pounds in ounces of water (this is an American customary calculation, but you can work it out with a digital converter or stick with the average recommendation of two litres of water a day).

“A lot of people complain about constipation or headaches who just don’t drink water. Not always, but often some of that stuff will go away when you just drink more – ideally non-caffeinated – water,” he says.

Eating well

71% of UK adults take food supplements, according to the Health Food Manufacturers’ Association. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially as we need to top up on essential minerals like vitamin D. The problem is when we compare that to the stats showing only 27% of us eat our five a day.

“Nutrition is the most complicated area of all,” Dr Chavez says. “But my general recommendation is to focus on having balanced meals throughout the day – it doesn’t matter if it’s two, three or four,” he says. “Just make sure that you have a decent amount of protein, some vegetables, some carbohydrates that are high in fibre (or not, depending on how many vegetables you have) and that all of your meals are set up to meet your energy needs,” he says.

That sounds simple enough, but in a world that recommends excluding a lot of main food groups or adding in obscure ingredients, it’s actually pretty hard to ignore the noise and eat the basics. “Less processed food, more fruits and vegetables, not too many fatty meats,” Dr Chavez summarises. You can walk away from the £50 greens powder for now.

Exercising

“I always recommend this is the one everyone starts with because it’s the easiest and has the biggest knock-on effect on all of the other elements,” he says. “Simply move every day. It doesn’t have to be a crazy workout routine – the bare minimum should be a 30-minute walk around the block. But make it any type of movement you enjoy – running, chasing around your kids, anything!”

Around 39% of people in the UK don’t hit their recommended 150 minutes of activity a week, and a lot of the people who are missing out are from poor or minority backgrounds. But one huge issue is that our lives are designed for inactivity, Dr Chavez says.

“Many of us are sitting for work and then we sit in a car and then sit at home to watch television and then go to sleep and we’re just getting no movement whatsoever. Going from that to 30 minutes is a massive benefit for most people,” he says.

Personalised additions

I ask Dr Chavez if, when those four basics are nailed, there’s anywhere else to go. Are these basics the upper threshold of health-promoting habits and everything else a biohacking lie, or can we still implement additional behaviours?

“One million percent there is more you can do,” he says. “I can get into all of the nuances of nutrition that someone might try for various reasons, but that’s specific advice that doesn’t suit the whole population. The problem is people get too lost in the details and on tailoring their habits before focusing on sleeping, exercising, etc and it’s just a waste of time. There’s a time for the extras, but you have to start with the basics.”

It’s important to emphasise the “personalised” aspect of any extra habits, he says. They need to be figured out based on your health or illness and ideally with an expert or at least an inquisitive eye so you can monitor what is working and what isn’t. “But there are 175 other things I’d recommend before cold exposure,” Dr Chavez concludes.

More than human: What is biohacking?

FROM OUR ARCHIVES: More Than Human?

By Emma Dollery 06 May 2022

From age-old practices like meditating and fasting, to cutting-edge genetic engineering software like CRISPR, and Elon Musk’s brain-machine interfaces, Neuralink. What is biohacking?

This article is a repost which originally appeared on DAILY MAVERICK

Edited for content. The opinions expressed in this article may not reflect the opinions of this site’s editors, staff or members.

Our Takeaways:

· Biohacking can best be described as optimizing physical and mental function

· “Biohacking celebrities” are known for taking the concept to extremes

· Actions as simple as controlled breathing can have profound effects on the body and mind

Twitter founder Jack Dorsey does it (he only eats once a day and never on a weekend); so does Elon Musk (he’s developing a microchip that can be inserted straight into the brain); and even the half-naked guy shivering in the frigid tide-pool at 7am – biohacking.

In its most rudimentary form, the practice of biohacking can be described as doing things that optimise your body and mind’s function. Essentially, having a regular sleeping schedule or cutting out sugar could be considered a biohack (though most of us would just call that healthy living). American entrepreneur and founder of Bulletproof nootropics Dave Asprey who has been boisterously claiming that he is the “father of biohacking”, provides a second definition: biohacking is “the art and science of becoming superhuman”.

In fact, “biohacking” personalities like Asprey, Josiah Zayner, Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey are doing all that they can to transcend what we have come to think of as “regular” humanness. Often claiming to be at the forefront of life-hacking technology and theory, they are constantly experimenting with the human body in attempts to make it stronger, faster, smarter, younger, more efficient. Some of their fellow biohackers around the world – painstakingly track every bodily consumption and function in order to reach optimum performance, or implant chips into their hands for maximum technological efficiency, or engage in the vampire-like practice of replacing one’s blood with that of young donors in an attempt to find the fountain of youth.

There is a reason these biohacking celebs have become people of intrigue: they often take things to the extreme, further than most of us would be comfortable. And indeed, using science and technology as a sort of shortcut to enhancing your body and mind, as well as potentially increasing your lifespan, is arguably appealing to most people.

But luckily there are also ways to biohack that don’t involve endless hours of tracking, calculating and inserting foreign objects into your body, methods much closer to the realm of comfortable that are purported to actually help with things like boosting the metabolism, the immune system and concentration without going all the way cyborg.

All the way to extreme wellness

Remember the guy, semi-naked, frigid in the tidepool at 7am? This practice, a combination of cold therapy (diving into very cold water), dynamic stretching and breathing techniques is part of the Wim Hof method, which is said to help you “realise your full potential”.

As per the many deep breathing, scantily clad bodies on the beaches and in the tide pools early in the morning, the method is seemingly popular in Cape Town (perhaps because of the accessible ice water that is the ocean) and is thought to do a wealth of awesome things, including burn fat, reduce stress and boost the immune system.

The Wim Hof method is named after its founder, a self-proclaimed “crazy Dutchman” from the Netherlands. Also known as the “ice-man” for the varied but equally death-defying feats he has accomplished in exceedingly cold climates, including (but not limited to) climbing Kilimanjaro in shorts, running a half-marathon above the arctic circle barefoot, and finishing a full marathon in the Namib desert without drinking a single drop of water, Hof has made it his mission to spread his superhuman, cold-enduring abilities to those of us lesser beings who struggle to get our noodle arms out of bed in the winter.

According to Hof, all noodle arms can get out of bed and “tap into happiness, strength and health” by following his simple three-tier method. The tiers –breathing exercises, gradual exposure to cold and training of concentration and commitment – must be done in parallel with one another to feel the full effects.

The practice, usually done in the morning before breakfast, should look like some iteration of this: The first step, the breathing exercises, are surprisingly simple. They include breathing in and out purposefully (but without forcing anything) for a couple of minutes. The idea is that there is no pause between the inhale and exhale, “like a cycle” Hof explains in a tutorial video, “like a wave.” At the end of this short but intense breathing period, Hof asks you to exhale and hold your breath – the tutorial starts with holding for one minute, but the idea is to hold for as long as you feel comfortable (which will get longer and longer with practice), after which you release and start all over again.

In simplified terms, the breathing technique has been developed over time by Hof to expand the diffusion surface of your lungs, thereby increasing oxygen and decreasing carbon dioxide levels in your blood. The altered ratio of oxygen/carbon dioxide allegedly raises the PH of your blood, alkalising your body and lowering the number of acids (like lactic acids) produced by your cells that are often responsible for feelings of pain. Oxygen, while not always essential, is a pretty central aspect of energy production on a cellular level, so the heightened levels of it in your blood should – said Hof – energise your entire body.

Next, Hof recommends push-ups and yoga-based stretching. To get your body warmed up, of course, but also to flex just how much energy the breathing exercises give you.

The last physical step of the process is the cold exposure. This can take the form of an ice bath, a very cold shower, or floating around in a freezing tide pool for a significant amount of time. “Significant” here, means at least one minute when you are starting out with the method, but for as long as you can once you have been practising for a while.

It is believed that the shock that your body experiences when suddenly exposed to the cold water triggers a release of norepinephrine, which, similar to adrenaline, mobilises the brain and body into action. This represses the immune system, which decreases the number of inflammatory proteins (which cause swelling and aches and pains of all sorts) produced and catalyses the cardiovascular system to redirect blood around the body in order to warm itself up. It also supposedly causes the body to burn “browned fats” which are energy-rich fats that burn immediately for the sake of providing the body with heat and energy. If practised regularly, the physiological systems learn and become more efficient (your veins are strengthened and white blood cell count increased) and you may even become (somewhat) cold resistant. A more in-depth explanation of the biological details (how exactly the mitochondria break down the fats into energy) can be found here.

The third tier, the training of concentration and commitment, is a little less concrete. The idea is that you have to commit and concentrate while going through the steps of the Wim Hof method, but also that, through the practice of doing the method, you will strengthen your powers of concentration and commitment. A winning cycle.

Some studies, like the one published in 2018 and dubbed “‘Brain over body’ – A study on the wilful regulation of autonomic function during cold exposure”, raves about the positive effects of the Wim Hof method, especially those pertaining to a decrease in inflammation, an increase in metabolism and a strengthened immune system.

In fact an experiment was done on Hof himself in 2010 by scientists from UMC St Radboud, in which he was injected with components of E.coli that, while harmless, would make a normal person pretty sick with flu-like symptoms. Hof believed that through his method he could regulate the autonomic nervous system (the system that regulates breathing, internal organs, digestion, heartbeat and all the other things we do subconsciously) and thereby directly influence his immune system. Hof not only did not feel any symptoms from the E.coli, but also produced fewer than half of the inflammatory proteins that usual test subjects produce.

In 2014 a follow-up study titled “Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans”, was done to determine whether Hof was an innately superior human being who could control his own immune system, or whether other people could learn how to do it, too.

Twenty-four volunteers were involved – half of them trained with Hof beforehand and half were controls. Incredibly, the 12 that were trained in the Wim Hof method showed significantly fewer flu-like symptoms, lower body temperatures and fewer inflammatory proteins in the blood. They too had benefited from Hof’s teachings.

What would it mean to be able to control our immune systems? Imagine being capable of out-concentrating a disease! In the context of today’s Covid-riddled world, it sounds like an incredible promise.

However, the studies only proved that Hof and his trainees were able to suppress the immune system by stimulating cortisol, a stress hormone. A suppressed immune system means fewer inflammatory proteins in the blood, which means fewer symptoms. But the E.coli components injected into Hof and co were dead, they were harmless; the symptoms they should have felt because of the injection would have been the body’s reaction to a trick, a reflex. When it comes to active and harmful diseases, there is a reason our immune system flares up. These studies did not prove that Hof could by any means avoid a real illness at all.

On that note, it’s important to point out that some of the more complex alleged benefits, like fibromyalgia relief, autoimmune disease relief, COPD management, and the ever-expansive and ambiguous umbrella of “health improvements” are not well researched enough to be considered as conclusive.

In addition, as with any method or experiment on one’s body, one should be cautious about practising the method without the supervision of a medical expert or advice. In 2017, it was reported that two people had died while trying a breathing technique called “controlled hyperventilation”; they allegedly “drowned from doing these yoga relaxation exercises in the water”; the method is one promoted by Hof, although his website warns not to “practise it before or during diving, driving, swimming, taking a bath or any other environment/place where it might be dangerous to faint”.

Yet, Hof, having once been thought of as a fringe character – a freak of nature if you will, capable of unbelievable and inhuman accomplishments – is beginning to make waves in more mainstream science: from appearing in 2008, on EenVandaag, a Dutch television programme, saying, “I want to take it from circus act to scientist, my body is my laboratory”, to being part of a 2020 episode of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Lab series.

The episode in question features the Goop ladies on a trip to Lake Tahoe, California, to do a workshop with Hof himself. After jumping into a dangerously cold body of water, Goop executive editor Kate Wolfson, twitching in her chunky knit sweater with tears in her eyes, tells Hof: “Like… I don’t mean to sound cheesy. But that was like a turning point in my life.” Her vocal fry touches Hof in a way that the ice never could.

To do the Wim Hof method safely and effectively one needs an instructor, or to buy a subscription to Hof’s video series, starting at $300 (about R4,280), for the fundamentals course.

In the realm of biohacking products, and for something a little less extreme, there are Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof products, called nootropics and known to some as “smart drugs”.

Avowing cognitive enhancement, these little nuggets of (alleged) genius come in the form of prescription drugs, like Adderall and Ritalin, as well as less-regulated alternatives. Asprey’s brand Bulletproof falls into the latter category. The brand is most famous for its coffee, a mixture of coffee beans, MCT oil and butter which the website maintains helps you feel full while increasing your focus and metabolism. Other nootropics that the site offers include supplements that aid your mood, memory, gut health, performance, immunity and sleep. With Bulletproof, the idea, as mentioned by Jenna Wortham in a New York Times article from 2015, is “that you can outsource that work. ‘That fundamental laziness, where I want everything to be easier, is part of what drives me,’ he (Asprey) told me that first day. ‘I don’t want to do more work than is necessary to do great things. I don’t see why anyone should do more work than is necessary to do great things.’”

But, as Wortham also pointed out in this article, “there are more than a few nutritionists who are dubious about Asprey’s bold claims. It’s hard not to be – there’s little research outside his own that backs them up […] We all want to live forever, and if changing one thing in our diets can do that, we can all hope. The success of the dietary-supplement industry is best explained by wish-fulfilment fantasies.” That’s not to say that other nootropics do not work, just make sure to do your due diligence before spending any significant amount of money on them.

Apart from his own products, Asprey is also an advocate for intermittent fasting, an increasingly popular diet that calls for extended periods of not eating. There are a few different ways to do it, the most popular being the 16/8 method, in which one fasts for 16 hours and has an eight-hour feeding window. Within the feeding window (usually falling between 12pm and 8pm), an intermittent faster may eat what they want. Other approaches include the Eat-Stop-Eat (a 24-hour fast two times a week), and alternate-day fasting (fast for a day, eat normally for the next, and so on.)

Intermittent fasting is reportedly highly effective in weight-loss endeavours, though it’s up for debate as to whether it is superior or similar to other calorie-restrictive diets. The reason for its alleged effectiveness has to do with metabolic switching – the idea is that after 10 to 12 hours the body depletes its glycogen (stored glucose) and starts burning ketones (energy made in the liver by breaking down fat.) Ostensibly, the presence of ketone bodies also has some influence over glucose regulation, blood pressure, heart rate and abdominal fat loss.

In 1988, a study called “Retardation of ageing and disease by dietary restriction” showed that intermittent fasting has a direct correlation to extended life span in rodents, although it is still highly debated as to whether this translates to humans. It has become clear that a number of variables, like sex, genetic composition and age, also determine whether or not intermittent fasting works for you.

Still, as mentioned before, Dorsey eats one simple meal (usually salmon or chicken) on weekdays, and on the weekend he fasts from Friday to Sunday. The man is, one could say, robotic in his discipline, but his method also raised concerns, drawing parallels with diets that can sometimes trigger more obsessive behaviours around food, such as eating disorders.

The Wim Hof method, nootropics and intermittent fasting are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hacking life. Some biohackers, like Asprey, believe that the first person who will live to be 1,000 years old is already alive today. The question becomes, if you lived to 1,000 years old, what would you look like?

As Mark Grief, co-founder of literary magazine N+1, aptly puts it in his book Against Everything, “the haste to live mortal life diminishes. The temptation towards perpetual preservation grows. We preserve the living corpse in an optimal state, not so we may do something with it, but for its own good feelings of eternal fitness, confidence and safety. We hoard our capital to earn interest and subsist each day on crusts of bread. But no one will inherit our good health after we’ve gone.” DM/ML

 

 

10 Free and Natural Bio-hacks

10 Free Natural Bio-hacks

The best hacks in life are free. Here Andreas Breitfeld presents the ten greatest gifts Mother Nature has given us, why they’re good for us, how to make the most of them and who knows more about them

Written by Andreas Breitfeld

Published on 04.12.2021 · 6:00 EST

This article is a repost which originally appeared on RedBull

Edited for content. The opinions expressed in this article may not reflect the opinions of this site’s editors, staff or members.

Our Takeaways:

· Exposure to sunlight for 10-15 minutes straight is useful for the body’s production of Vitamin D.

· Sleep is not only important for recovery but also for development and improvement

· “Earthing” can be used to positively charge the body

LIGHT: The conductor for our cells

What’s in it for me?

Our cells, our organs and our whole body can only work in harmony; the liver, lungs, kidneys, heart, brain, skin and muscles do have to know what each other are to make the whole system work. It all needs to be finely tuned, and the body uses hormones and messenger substances for that purpose. But the most important thing is light, which we absorb via the eyes and skin. Light is the most important conductor in our lives; the right light at the right time transforms this chaotic mass of 100 trillion cells within our body into a perfectly tuned orchestra. UV-B light is also the ingredient that our body turns into the vital vitamin D.

What should i do?

Go outside. Absorb natural light morning, noon and night, and do so with as much exposed skin as possible for 10 to 15 minutes in the afternoon. (Tip: your skin forms vitamin D when the sun is higher in the sky than 42°, so if the shadow you cast is shorter than you, all is good for vitamin D formation.) Avoid the blue light of your computer screens and/or use blue-light-blocking glasses. And while we’re on cell interplay, I’ve stopped wearing sunglasses for one reason: wearing them increases the risk of sunburn. The body is receiving two contradictory signals—shade on the eyes yet light on the skin – and just cannot deal with them properly.

Who knows more?

Dr Alexander Wunsch does. He’s the world’s most important photobiologist and there are multiple fascinating podcast episodes about him. Also, be sure to look up his channel on Vimeo. He’s also written a book about photobiology in his native German language: Die Kraft des Lichts [The Power of Light].

SLEEP: The number 1 Biohack

What’s in it for me?

It couldn’t be simpler and we can’t say it often enough: sleep better and you’ll live better. Sleep is the best, most important and most effective agent for relaxation, rest, regeneration and recovery there is. It’s the foundation upon which our performance, health and longevity are built. Sleep makes us wiser because it’s when we sort out the stuff we’ve learned that day. We get stronger and more resilient because we don’t just repair the damage that training has done but we also improve our starting condition; this is what we call the training effect. We get healthier because the lymphatic system cleanses our brain of all the waste products. Cell damage anywhere in the body is repaired, too.

The oft-used comparison of sleep to recharging your mobile battery is incorrect because we humans recharge our own battery, and more than that, we even improve our batteries’ charging capacity. And all we have to do is make sleep our top priority.

“In sleep we get smarter, we get stronger and more persistent, we get healthier. Let us make sleep the number one priority in our lives.”

Andreas Breitfeld pays attention to many small factors to maximize on sleep.

What should i do?

You can actively improve your sleep by not eating anything for the last three hours before you go to bed, switching off stimulating light impulses for the last two hours (as little screen light as possible and wear blue-light-blocking glasses) and avoiding stress in the evenings wherever possible. Your bedroom should be very dark and cool, preferably between 16°C and 20°C. Magnesium works for many people, though not all, as does ashwagandha, but give both a try. Two to three hours before going to bed, I take melatonin, the so-called sleep hormone, which can do so much more than just make us tired. Some doctors advise against it, but current studies claim that your body’s own production of it isn’t affected by you taking it. Melatonin really is worth a try.

Who knows more?

Austria’s Professor Günther Amann-Jennson has devised the Samina sleep system; it’s expensive but probably the best thing currently on the market. Amann-Jennson, a doctor and psychologist, makes lots of excellent content [in his native German] available for free on his website at einfach-gesund-schlafen.com.

EARTHING: The positive in the negative

What’s in it for me?

This may all sound like esoteric magic, but it is crystal-clear physics. Ion exchange with the negatively charged Earth reduces oxidative stress and the horribly dangerous chronic inflammation processes that come with it because it positively charges our body. (Oxidative stress is, incidentally, a turbo boost for the ageing process.) All we have to do is come into direct contact with the planet and let the electrons flow by walking barefoot in a meadow or going swimming in a natural body of water, for example. Another benefit of coming into direct contact with the Earth: the 7.83 Hertz at which the Earth vibrates is what we call the Schumann resonance and it might even reduce electromagnetic stress.

What should I do?

Take your shoes off and walk barefoot in a garden, in the woods or through a meadow. Leap into a natural body of water every now and again instead of just splashing around in the ice-bath. You can also earth when you sleep, but that’s another topic because it only makes sense to use earthing sheets or other similar items when there’s no electric smog caused by Wi-Fi and the like. Otherwise earthing will turn you into a human antenna – pretty much the exact opposite of what we’re trying to achieve here.

Who knows more?

Austria’s Marco Grosch, the self-titled minimalist bio¬hacker, has excellent knowledge of a broad range of topics in this field. One of those topics is earthing, to which he devotes his German-language website (minimalist-biohacker.com) and his Instagram feed.

BREATHING: Our brain’s remote control

What’s in it for me?

Breathing is an incredibly powerful tool; I can breathe myself into a calm state or breathe myself into a rage and frenzy. No other action has such direct access to my brain and autonomic nervous system. Try box breathing, for example – breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for another four, breathe out for four, hold your breath for four seconds again. It helps calm the nerves. Wim Hof’s method of breathing can strengthen the immune system and, when combined with the cold, it can even relieve depression. But just by consistently breathing through your nose, not your mouth, every day, you’ve already taken a big step towards improved health.

“The mouth is there for eating, for kissing and—I know that particularly well—for talking. But not for breathing. Especially not to breathe in!”

Breitfeld says to breathe through your nose in everyday life should be the goal

What should i do?

Breath through your nose. I’ve focused a lot on this subject recently, including mouth-taping: by taping my mouth up when I go to bed, I force myself to breathe through my nose, which takes a lot of getting used to but improves my sleep. The mouth is for eating, kissing and – I know this very well – talking, but not for breathing and definitely not for breathing in. The advantages of breathing through the nose are huge. It removes particles from the air we breathe, it moistens and warms or cools it and it means the body gets more nitric oxide, which broadens the blood vessels. Nitric oxide also decreases blood pressure, and some will know that it even helps medication like Viagra achieve success. I recommend that everyone experiments with their breathing. There’s so much to discover, so familiarise yourselves with the ideas of Wim Hof and the still relatively unknown Konstantin Buteyko. It’s really fun and can change your life.

Who knows more?

Kasper van der Meulen is my breathing guru. He offers really amazing breathing training in the Netherlands. He’s an extremely nice guy who is good at what he does. Find out more at kaspersfocus.com or find him at @kaspersfocus on Instagram.

FASTING: Cleanse, don’t eat

What’s in it for me?

Fasting is when the body gets no source of energy from solids or liquids. (Light is also really a form of energy but doesn’t count here.) After a while, the body begins to take the energy it needs from its reserves – and it has plenty of them. Glycogen in the muscles and liver gets depleted first and then, of course, there’s all that body fat, which even thin people have. But it’s all much smarter than the body just using up stored energy. While fasting, the body begins to break down its own cells and uses them to produce energy. The fascinating part is it burns only damaged cells – not fully operational ones. This process, known as autophagy, turns out to be the most efficient form of inner cleansing.

What should i do?

I eat O.M.A.D.—one meal a day—usually a very early dinner. Strictly speaking, I’m not fasting at all because I have coffee with butter and MCT [medium-chain triglyceride] oil in the morning and before noon. Fasting covers a fairly broad spectrum. For some it’s enough to avoid carbohydrates and protein, while others are more radical and think that even drinking tea or coffee or taking vitamins or magnesium would break the fast. But however you define it, start by skipping breakfast a couple of days a week (water, black coffee and unsweetened tea are fine). In step two, don’t eat the first meal of the day until at least 16 hours have passed since the last meal the day before.

Who knows more?

Julia Tulipan, of Vienna, Austria, is one of the top experts in ketogenic nutrition. The keto diet is sort of preliminary fasting, and Julia and her husband have brought their own Tulipans range of keto convenience foods to some supermarket shelves. Her website, juliatulipan.com, and Instagram feed, @paleolc, provide a lot of free German-language content and her Evolution Radio Show podcast [also in German] is fascinating listen.

FOREST: Green bathing

What’s in it for me?

The term ‘forest bathing’ has really taken off of late. It sounds spectacular, perhaps, but all it means in reality is going into the woods on a regular basis for a very slow and deliberate walk. What can that give a biohacker? Much more than you might think. The forest air contains thousands of terpenes, aromatic plant-based substances that fire our immune system and could even lower the risk of some cancers. The green of the forest and the natural calm reduce stress hormones—and not just during your forest bath because the reduction is still detectable for several days afterwards. Thorough research into forest bathing has been carried out in Japan and South Korea, where it’s applied as a recognised form of medicine. So in future, perhaps GPs will be telling their patients to take a hike, and I think that’s wonderful.

“In Japan and South Korea, doctors send their patients out for walks in the forest. ‘Shinrin-Yoku’, forest bathing, is a highly effective therapy.”

Aromas in the forest are even said to reduce the risk of cancer.

What should i do?

Walk through the forest for an hour or two a week, preferably alone and, importantly, without your mobile or any other electronic devices. It does everyone good. Ideally take a few steps barefoot or, if nobody is looking, hug a tree every now and again for the earthing and ion exchange, as mentioned above. But if you want to make your trip to the forest even better, the greatest concentration of terpenes occurs during misty or rainy weather. We humans have a need for nature. And once you learn—or relearn—to tune into it, you understand that your body has a sort of level indicator to show whether we have absorbed enough nature or not.

Who knows more?

Rolf Duda, aka Peakwolf, from Switzerland, is a former management consultant and a hero among biohackers. He has a soft spot for nature and the forest, but whatever he talks about, it’s always well-founded, intelligent and entertaining. I’m a true fan. His German-language website (peakwolf.ch) is a good introduction to Rolf’s world—from there you can go to his blog, podcast and Instagram feed.

WATER: 99/100

What’s in it for me?

Only every 100th molecule in our body isn’t a water molecule. Yes, you read that right. 99 out of 100 molecules in our body consist of two hydrogen and one oxygen atom. We humans are a (cleverly structured, admittedly) watery solution. So water is a prerequisite for everything working —every metabolic process, every detox, every nerve impulse, every thought, every emotion. Just a couple percent too little water in the body—I’m speaking one or two litres here—and our capacities are radically decreased.

What should i do?

Drink water. Personally, I drink filtered and revitalised water but in most countries you can mostly drink the tap water without a second thought. How much should you drink? Anything under 0.3 of a litre per 10 kilos of bodyweight is actively harmful to your performance and health. If you weigh 70 kilos, 2.1 litres a day is enough if you don’t work out, have almost no stress and don’t go to the sauna. But 0.3 litres per 10 kilos of bodyweight is the minimum. Make sure that you really drink enough for a full week. (Mostly in the morning so that your urine is very clear by noon.)

Who knows more?

Thomas Hartwig. His Berlin start-up Leogant creates perfect water filtration and treatment systems. Thomas is a water philosopher. The best sources of knowledge are the podcasts he has appeared on, such as the Flowgrade Show, with my friend Max Gotzler.

MEDITATION : The brain improver

What’s in it for me?

There’s not much more to add to what thousands upon thousands of studies confirm; meditation makes us smarter, happier and more creative. It’s probably the best and simplest thing we can do for our brain health. Meditation is something like the continuation of breathing and sleep’s little brother. There’s no right or wrong in meditating, and the only mistake you can make is not meditating regularly.

What should i do?

During my summer holiday last year, I did a sort of huge mindset reset where for two weeks solid I meditated my back side off for literally four, five, six hours a day. In my daily life, I now very consciously take a couple of minutes out, where I close my eyes, breathe in calmly and breathe out more calmly still, focusing solely on my breath. I really like playing around with the Muse headband that supervises how deep my meditation goes. There are some incredible meditations apps out there – and the best one that’s free of charge is Oak.

“If you want to take advantage of digital support: The best free meditation app is ‘Oak’, the best German-speaking one is ‘7Mind’.”

Apps and gadgets can be helpful meditation tools, according to Breitfeld.

Who knows more?

Germany’s Manuel Ronnefeldt, who founded the 7Mind meditation app – take a look at 7mind.de/en, where you’ll find a lot of free and detailed information.

HEAT: The life-lengthener

What’s in it for me?

Heat for free? Yes, by sitting in a thermal spring or going out in the blazing sun in the summer. Where I really like to go is the sauna. All types of sauna work, even though the effects differ depending on whether you’re using infrared or heated rocks – but the principle is the same. The main benefit is that sweating cleanses our bodies via its largest detoxifying organ, the skin. The second and third most important benefits (and there are a whole lot more besides) are an improved cardiovascular system and the so-called heat shock proteins the body forms. The sauna is, to put it simply, a boot camp workout for our cells. There are mind-blowing studies from Finland about how effective regular sauna visits are. The result is up to 40% lower mortality rates. In other words, during the reference period – the study ran for more than 20 years – regular sauna-¬goers reduced their risk of death by almost half.

What should i do?

My lab has an infrared sauna that I use several times a week. Sometimes I treat myself to a hot bath one to two hours before going to bed as perfect preparation for a good sleep. But, beware, heat and digestion do not make good bedfellows. Don’t go to the sauna for two, or even three, hours after eating. Heat means stress for the body, and you don’t digest well when stressed.

Who knows more?

Johannes Kettelhodt, the mastermind behind the Clearlight infrared cabin. He and his team have achieved something special. They make their saunas without creating any electric smog. That is a significant help as the body detoxes.

COLD: Inflammation’s natural enemy

What’s in it for me?

Inflammation can be a good thing because it triggers an alarm signal in the body at the start of a healing process. An injury doesn’t heal despite the inflammation; it heals because of the inflammation that forms around it. But inflammation can do serious long-term damage if it goes on too long. Low-threshold inflammation is definitely not something you want to have in your body, and the cold helps reduce it, while accelerating regeneration after sport and injury and improving the immune system. it stimulates the vagus nerve and with it our heart rate variability and ability to relax.

What should i do?

I take a five-minute ice-bath where the water is about 3°C almost every day in a repurposed deep-freeze in my lab. But how to get started? The easiest tip for beginners is to alternate your showers. At the end of your morning shower, just let the water run cold for 30 seconds and then do another 30 seconds in warm water. The hot-cold alternation is also very effective for recovery after sport. A little tip for amateur bodybuilders: taking a cold shower for longer than ten minutes (in 10°C water) or an ice-bath for longer than three minutes (in 3°C water) after training will make you recover more quickly, but it will also slow down muscle growth quite a lot, so take a shorter cold shower or only do the next cold therapy the following morning.

Who knows more?

Josephine Worseck, a doctor of molecular biology from Berlin, Germany, who specialises in the Wim Hof method. She’s also the author of a groundbreaking German-language book—Die Heilkraft der Kälte [The Healing Power of Cold]—which I thoroughly recommend, along with her workshops. There’s also a lot of content on Josephine’s website at: josephineworseck.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How it works: The protein that stimulates muscle growth

Research findings may help identify drug targets for neuromuscular disorders

Date:  April 27, 2022
Source:  University of Houston
Summary:  Using genetic approaches, researchers have demonstrated how a certain protein is involved in skeletal muscle growth. The findings open new avenues to develop drug targets for neuromuscular diseases and other pathological conditions.

This article is a repost which originally appeared on ScienceDaily

Edited for content.

Our Takeaways:

· Consuming specific proteins can accelerate muscle growth

· Protein TAK1 (Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β)-activated kinase 1) helps with immunity and recovery

· Current research in TAK1 focuses on preventing muscle wasting from disease or sarcopenia

In the gym, you are not just pumping iron, you are oxygenating muscle cells which keeps those muscles healthy, strong and growing — a process called hypertrophy, or an increase in muscle mass due to an increase in muscle cell size. Conversely, under the covers, lounging, your muscles may begin to atrophy, or shrink.

Scientists understand that a few signaling proteins are activated in various conditions of muscle atrophy and hypertrophy, but they have been stumped about the role and mechanisms by which TAK1, a protein that regulates innate immunity and the proinflammatory signaling pathways, regulates skeletal muscle mass, until University of Houston researchers began exploring.

“We demonstrate that supraphysiological activation of TAK1 in skeletal muscle stimulates translational machinery, protein synthesis and myofiber growth,” reports Ashok Kumar, UH College of Pharmacy Else and Philip Hargrove Endowed Professor and chair, Department of Pharmacological and Pharmaceutical Sciences, in Nature Communications.

Using genetic approaches, Kumar and research assistant professor Anirban Roy demonstrated that TAK1 is indispensable for maintaining healthy neuromuscular junctions, which are involved in transmitting nerve impulses to skeletal muscle and allow muscle contractions.

“Our findings demonstrate that targeted inactivation of TAK1 causes derangement of neuromuscular junctions and severe muscle wasting, very similar to muscle wasting observed during nerve damage, aging and cancer cachexia. We have also identified a novel interplay between TAK1 and BMP (Bone Morphogenetic Protein) signaling pathway that promotes muscle growth,” said Roy.

Nutrients, growth hormones and weight training all result in an increase in skeletal muscle mass in healthy individuals. Conversely, many disease conditions often lead to a loss in lean muscle mass. Understanding the mechanisms regulating protein and organelle content is highly important to identify drug targets for various muscle wasting conditions and neuromuscular disorders.

The team also reports that activation of TAK1 in skeletal muscle beyond normal levels can prevent excessive muscle loss due to nerve damage. Loss of muscle mass has a devastating impact on standard-of-care treatment during aging and terminal illnesses, such as cancer, COPD, kidney failure and in many genetic neuromuscular diseases.

“Recognizing the impact of TAK1 signaling in supporting muscle growth, our research opens up new avenues to develop therapies for these and many other pathological conditions and improve quality of life,” said Roy.

Future studies will investigate whether the activation of TAK1 using small molecules is sufficient to promote muscle growth and prevent atrophy in the elderly and various disease states.

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Houston. Original written by Laurie Fickman. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

Anirban Roy, Ashok Kumar. Supraphysiological activation of TAK1 promotes skeletal muscle growth and mitigates neurogenic atrophy. Nature Communications, 2022; 13 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-29752-0

Beyond longevity: The DIY quest to cheat death and stop aging

Would you take your (extended) life into your own hands?

Peter Ward

This article is a repost which originally appeared on Inverse

Edited for content.  The opinions expressed in this article may not reflect the opinions of this site’s editors, staff or members.

Our Takeaways:

· Self-experimentation often yields breakthroughs when done correctly

· Critical thinking is necessary to ensure self-experiments are performed correctly

· There are many tools which can be used to help you in the process of self-experimentation

Ken Scott plans to live until he’s 500.

At 79, he’s already outlived the CDC’s official life expectancy by two years and he has no intention of dying — or even slowing down — anytime soon. An active man, Scott jets between his homes in upstate New York and Florida, flies to exotic locations such as Panama City for business and still finds time for the odd cruise. His secret? A DIY regime of self-experimentation and untested therapies he believes will keep him going well past the next century.

Self-experimenters litter the history of medical science. Dentist Horace Wells dosed himself with nitrous oxide in 1844 to see if it could kill pain, Nicholas Senn inflated his innards with hydrogen a few decades later to work out if it could diagnose a ruptured bowel, and more recently, Barry Marshall drank a solution containing H. pylori in 1985 to prove the bacterium caused ulcers.

These scientists risked their own health to make a medical breakthrough or prove a theory, but Scott is not a scientist. He’s an amateur enthusiast, also known as a biohacker. Biohackers engage in DIY biology, experimenting on themselves to enhance their brain and body. And many of them — like Scott — see longevity as the ultimate prize.

Now, longevity research is being transformed by mega-cash injections by the likes of Peter Thiel and Jeff Bezos. In 2021, Bezos helped fund a start-up called Altos Labs, which deals in “rejuvenation” science — essentially, trying to science our way out of the aging process. Biohacker Reason (his legal and only name), who runs the website fightaging.org, tells Inverse that Bezos and others’ success in their endeavors will come from the experiments he, Scott, and other biohackers do now.

“You don’t get companies with money coming in and running half-million-dollar or million-dollar clinical trials that are semi-formal without a community of self experimenters to ferment and give rise to that. And you don’t have people running huge formal trials without support from this community,” Reason says.

Life Extension for the Masses

Scott’s interest in longevity has grown over time. He first got involved in the 1980s after reading Life Extension: A Practical Scientific Approach by Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw, which preached healthy eating and rigorous exercise, but really got serious in 2002 when he was frustrated by continual sinus infections.

“I remembered something my grandmother had told me when I was 10 or 12, she told me ‘You are what you eat.’ I said to myself, I need to stop eating, this eating is poisoning me,” he recalls. Scott didn’t eat for five days and by the fourth, his sinuses were cleared. He realized he had a gluten problem and apparently never suffered from sinus issues again.

From there, Scott’s experiments got gradually more extreme, from adopting a vegan, sugar-free, processed food-free diet, to regular intermittent fasting. In the past two years, he started taking untested and unregulated interventions like amniotic fluid injections.

Over the same time period, longevity and anti-aging research were picking up pace and getting some serious private cash flow — giving hope to people like Scott who want to live radically longer lives.

This has happened before. Biohacker Reason describes a wave of enthusiasm for life extension which began in the 1970s, but those involved ended up building an industry delivering “nothing except hope and fraud.”

This horrified the scientific community, he says, which took a step back from the whole concept of intervening in aging.

“It took several decades of intense advocacy and a lot of philanthropic help and some advances in the science to change that,” Reason says.

The thing is: While there are more researchers interested in aging and longevity, perhaps in part due to the fact the world population is aging, clinical treatments for aging-related problems are not keeping pace. That leaves people like Scott with a choice: DIY or die.

Scott now spends a large portion of his time researching and seeking out treatments that have not yet been approved for human use — and at a great cost.

“We’re letting people die while we continue to cure mice of conditions.”

Every three months, Scott injects himself with 1cc of amniotic exosomes, a type of extracellular vesicle containing protein, DNA, and RNA of the cells that excrete them, in this case, extracted from the fluid which surrounds and nourishes fetuses as they grow in the womb. He also takes Dasatinib, a drug approved to treat certain types of cancer, believing it will help kill damaging senescent cells in his body. The FDA has not approved amniotic exosomes as a treatment for anything and Dasatinib has not been given the green light for anti-aging purposes, although it has been shown to work in mice when taken with Quercetin, a plant pigment.

In the future, Scott plans to travel outside the United States to undergo a plasmapheresis treatment he describes as a “cleansing” of the blood and eventually gene therapy to reverse the aging in his body’s cells. Plasmapheresis involves taking blood from a patient, removing the plasma, and then mixing the remaining blood with a plasma substitute. It’s used as a cancer treatment, particularly in some forms of blood cancers, but Scott believes it also has regenerative potential for the elderly.

The treatments are not cheap. Amniotic fluid injections cost around $2,000 a pop. Clinics offering amniotic fluid exosome treatments are easily found with a quick Google search, and Scott says their regulation falls into a gray area. Dasatinib is similarly difficult to obtain and costs hundreds of dollars. Scott gets his online, and it’s shipped in from abroad, although he isn’t sure exactly where from in the world. His plan to undergo gene therapy could rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills.

“What we’re talking about here is first adopters, and first adopters always pay more,” he says, predicting the cost of treatments will be lowered in the same way computers or cars have become cheaper over time.

Jonathan Moreno, a professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania, who authored the book Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven but Nobody Wants to Die, tells Inverse he didn’t see the point of this type of self-experimentation.

“It can be dangerous and most often I think it doesn’t make much difference at all, depending on what you are doing to yourself.”

But he added that he didn’t believe self-experimenters like Scott were doing anything wrong, even if they were wasting their money. “They’re lining the pockets of some fraudsters, and if you don’t mind being exploited that’s the way it is.”

Journey of self-experimentation

Liz Parrish is one of the most well-known self-experimenters in the world. She traveled to Colombia in 2015 to undergo a gene therapy treatment her company made with the intent of slowing down aging.

Parrish flew to Colombia because regulations in the United States prevented her from trying out the treatment. This is an extreme form of medical tourism — when people travel to countries with more lax regulation in order to undergo treatment not available at home. Parrish believes this type of self-experimentation is becoming increasingly popular.

“It’s like a kettle boiling over,” she says. “People are looking for new technologies. They’re looking for the translation of the technology that they read about in the newspaper.”

“The longevity self-experimentation community is sadly little better than the weightlifters and those guys are crazy.”

The desire to try new medical technology is frustrated by the FDA rules which govern clinical trials, according to Parrish, who says too much time is spent on animal trials that cannot predict how a drug will work on a human.

“We’re letting people die while we continue to cure mice of conditions. It’s at the point of absurd. Millions of people will die this year from age-related diseases, they should be given access to technology that not only can help them but make a better world for everyone else,” she says.

There’s also the matter of cost. A study led by the London School of Economics found the average price of bringing a drug to market was $1.3 billion. And research by BIO, a trade association for biotechnology companies, found it takes on average 10.5 years for a drug in phase 1 of a clinical trial to attain regulatory approval.

“The regulatory systems are more burdensome and more costly than ever so how are companies going to get that data?” asks Parrish.

Her company Bioviva is attempting to solve that question and collects data from clinics taking medical tourists as clients, hoping it can help bring new technologies like gene therapies to humans in the United States faster. She also says self-experimentation will play an important role at home in the United States, but only if it’s done right.

“Collecting data and expressing your data and keeping track of adverse events, working with groups that can help you do that, is critical,” she says. “But if you don’t track what’s happening it’s not super useful.”

Look inside yourself

Fortunately for biohackers, the tools to measure what’s going on inside their bodies are cheaper and easier to access than ever. InsideTracker, a Boston-based health tracking company, charges customers $589 for its “ultimate’ tracking service, which includes blood tests tracking 43 biomarkers, and then offers clients a full breakdown of how they can improve their health.

Gil Blander, the company’s CEO and co-founder, does not describe himself as a biohacker.

“A lot of them are doing it more to impress others than to do it for themselves,” he says. “I call them pretenders.”

However, he says his company’s services can offer them the chance to produce meaningful results from experimentation. “You measure your 43 blood biomarkers before, do whatever you want — it’s crazy, it’s not crazy, that’s your problem — then measure again and you’ll see what’s happening.”

Biohacker Reason has gone one step further on fightaging.org, posting detailed how-to guides for self-experimentation. He does so because he wants to improve standards in the community.

“The longevity self-experimentation community is sadly little better than the weightlifters and those guys are crazy,” he says. “Bar raising is definitely needed.”

“One thing I can guarantee you, I guarantee you are going to die.”

Scott takes a barrage of health tests every year to ascertain what’s working and what isn’t, but he’s not as eager to make a wider scientific impact. He admits that although he does record the results of his various self-experiments, his data is not lab standard. “I’m very much concerned with doing this for myself,” he admits.

But is he putting himself at considerable risk? Judy Campisi, professor of biogerontology at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, is concerned by some of the measures taken by people who want to live longer. She says with many drugs and interventions intended to slow down aging, one issue which is always overlooked is the potential stimulation of cancers.

Campisi is also worried about anyone taking amniotic fluids as Scott does.

“I think that people who are not trained in science are not necessarily trained to think critically and that’s a problem. If you’re not thinking critically you could be led astray and that could lead to actual harm because you’re not thinking about the intervention in a way that’s holistic,” she says.

Because of the paucity of data, nobody would really know for certain if a solo experiment had caused serious illness, but the same goes for extended life. Campisi believes the focus should be on extended healthspan, not lifespan — in other words, living your best life for longer. And while she shares concerns over the cost of getting drugs to market, she can’t get on board with lofty goals like immortality.

“Evolution has set species-specific lifespans probably by tweaking hundreds if not thousands of genes and it’s not going to be a single intervention that will be able to do what evolution could do,” she says.

“One thing I can guarantee you, I guarantee you are going to die.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to make clear Liz Parrish flew to Colombia in 2015, and not Mexico. We regret the error.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biohacking of diets and how does it help?

This article is a repost which originally appeared on Times Of India

Edited for content.

Our Takeaways:

· Dieting is one of the most fundamental ways to transform the body

· Experimenting with eliminating certain foods from the diet can be helpful

· Fasting is an ancient and proven method towards preserving health and mental function

What Is Biohacking? If we bring down that term by hacking, we see that the bio has to do with our biology to do with our body? The way our body functions are natural processes in the body from eating to performance and so on and hacking is, of course, trying to decode something. Biohacking of diet is trying to use science or technology to improve our body’s functioning by way of eating. “I think our bodies are incredibly intelligent and given the right diet in the right lifestyle, we can elevate ourselves and feel amazing. Everyone has a scope of self-improvement and living their best life and biohacking of diets can make that possible without spending all money on fancy foods and a million different tools, gadgets and medicines to feel good. It’s a natural way to optimise the body’s performance,” says Nutritionist Ritu Khaneja

Diet Hack #1
Elimination Diet

An elimination diet is one where you can eliminate certain foods based on medical research to see if you react to them. You can generally start by eliminating the most common food allergens for a few weeks then you slowly add them back one at a time and note any symptoms better or worse. The main benefit is that by turning into a body’s reactions to certain foods you can’t pinpoint sensitivities and intolerances that you may not otherwise know of experiencing results.
It is less expensive and, in some cases, more reliable than standard allergy testing. It can also be very empowering to be in control of what you eat learn about food and the compounds they contain and try new recipes that exclude eliminated foods. Having a good diet plan makes things much easier and beneficial.

Diet Hack #2
Intermittent Fasting

There are several approaches to intermittent fasting but the easiest to achieve is the one that simply extends the usual timing of the night fast. A daily cycle of a 1 6 hour fast followed by an 8-hour eating window is usually sustainable for intermittent fasting. It must be combined with balanced meals that provide good nutrition. The goal of IF is to systematically starve the body long enough to trigger fat burning but the method may not be suitable for everyone. When done correctly intermission fasting can help lose weight, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, prevent or control diabetes and improve the brain’s health.

Diet Biohack#3
Adding More Fibre To The Diet

The normal fibre in our body has been eliminated just with the processing of food. One of the best way to eat fibre is by adding more fruits and vegetables to our diet. The benefits of fibre are weight control and maintaining bowel movements.lt also helps in lowering cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Diet Hack #4
Adding Superfoods

The first step that I take to treat my clients through diet is adding superfoods. There is a whole list of superfoods with numerous benefits. 1 st category of superfoods is seeds not just any seeds but 2 seeds which one should hack into the diet are chia and flax. Chia seeds are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, They have more calcium than milk and there are great sources of anti-inflammatory compounds. They’re great for growing skin and mental health and clarity and much much more. Flaxseeds are another great source for omega 3 fats and dietary fibre as well as essential vitamins minerals name powerful anti-cancer hormone-balancing compounds called lignans. It’s a great way of curing constipation as well.

Diet Biohack #5
Protein-Rich Diet

Eating plenty of high protein foods include a generous portion of at least 1 protein rich food at every meal will help you lose body fat or improve your body composition. Eating protein-rich meals can help you feel full and satisfied so you will eat less and lose weight. A high protein diet can help reduce insulin resistance so if you have diabetes or prediabetes, a high protein diet could be a good strategy for improving your blood sugar control.

To conclude, I think Biohacking of diet should be done mindfully as if something can be very beneficial for one body, It doesn’t mean it will suit everyone.