Biohacking: Why I'll live to be 180 years old
From computer hacking to biohacking, Dave Asprey has embarked on a quest to reverse the aging process.
DAVE ASPREY: When I was 14 I was diagnosed with arthritis in my knees. And I remember, going home, I was shaken. Because in my mind, as a 14-year-old, I said, look, this is a disease that old people get. And now that I'm 46-- when I say "old people," I'm talking about people that I respect and admire, the sources of wisdom. And I cultivate friends, when I can find them, at least twice as old as I am, because they know all the stuff that I haven't learned yet.
But at the time, I said, I'm young. I'm a teenager. I'm not supposed to be experiencing this. And I was dealing with metabolic issues. I already had stretch marks that still cover me. I hit 300 pounds in my very early 20's. And I started having brain fog in my mid-20's. I was diagnosed with high risk of stroke and heart attack-- very high risk-- as circled by the doctor when I was 29 years old. It turns out I was dealing with all the stuff that normally hits you when you're 60-plus. And I was doing it as a young man. And it scared the heck out of me. And it did that because no one likes to look in the mirror at a time you're supposed to be growing your career and say, I can't remember what happened in that meeting. It's just gone. And I'm so tired. I just can't put one foot in front of the other. But I'm going to do it someway anyway.
It turned out that the people who knew how to fix this weren't my doctor. My doctor told me vitamin C would actually kill me, believe it or not. So I fired him. And for four years, I became my own scientist. Fortunately, I'm a computer hacker, and I know how to do that kind of thing. But then I hooked up with an anti-aging nonprofit group. And I started hanging out with these people full of wisdom who are making themselves younger. And the stuff that they knew, the things I was learning from them and from the top researchers in the world, they made me better.
They gave me the tools of what became biohacking, a movement of people that's now even a word in the dictionary. It didn't exist eight years ago. Well, it turns out that those tools that make older people young make younger people kick ass. And that's been a foundational thing for what I've done with Bulletproof and for what's changed my life in a very dramatic way. I'm about 10%, maybe 10.2% body fat right now. I don't experience hunger on a regular basis. I love what I eat. I have more energy at 46 than I did at 26. I feel amazing. My brain works. I can remember all the things I want to remember. I don't drop words. And it's been absolutely liberating. It also cost a million dollars along the way. And that is completely unfair.
Now, I am very fortunate that I was able to do that, because I worked at the company that held Google's first servers when Google was two servers and two guys. So I had a leg up early on, and I was able to spend myself to wellness, to make a lot of mistakes, to waste a lot of money getting younger, and then to say, all right, how do I go beyond getting younger? And it is that deep knowledge of 20 years of working with the world's best anti-aging researchers and scientists, and reading the papers, and doing the work, and trying it myself that led me to say, with reasonable confidence, look, I'm going to make it to at least 180 if I want to. And that's not the cap, that's the floor.
All right, let me see. Now, if we wanted to be ridiculous and you wanted to be like, here's an anti-aging thing, I can do something like this on camera. I'll just be like, how many people do you know with flexibility like they're teenagers? Do you want to do that? BIG THINK: We just got it. DAVE ASPREY: [LAUGHS] BIG THINK: Yeah.
- As a teenager, founder of Bulletproof, Dave Asprey, began experiencing health issues that typically plague older adults.
- After surrounding himself with anti-aging researchers and scientists, he discovered the tools of biohacking could dramatically change his life and improve his health.
- He's now confident he'll live to at least 180 years old. "It turns out that those tools that make older people young make younger people kick ass," he says.
- 10 Ways Technology Will Transform the Human Body in the next ... ›
- How DIY Biohacking May Revolutionize Medicine and Business ... ›
These questions can help us think more critically about new developments in artificial intelligence.
- The media often exaggerate and overhype the latest discoveries in artificial intelligence.
- It's important to add context to new findings by asking questions: Is there a demo available? How narrow was the task the computer performed?
- A more robust approach to artificial intelligence involves solving problems in generalized situations rather than just laboratory demonstrations.
Most elderly individuals' brains degrade over time, but some match — or even outperform — younger individuals on cognitive tests.
- "Super-agers" seem to escape the decline in cognitive function that affects most of the elderly population.
- New research suggests this is because of higher functional connectivity in key brain networks.
- It's not clear what the specific reason for this is, but research has uncovered several activities that encourage greater brain health in old age.
At some point in our 20s or 30s, something starts to change in our brains. They begin to shrink a little bit. The myelin that insulates our nerves begins to lose some of its integrity. Fewer and fewer chemical messages get sent as our brains make fewer neurotransmitters.
As we get older, these processes increase. Brain weight decreases by about 5 percent per decade after 40. The frontal lobe and hippocampus — areas related to memory encoding — begin to shrink mainly around 60 or 70. But this is just an unfortunate reality; you can't always be young, and things will begin to break down eventually. That's part of the reason why some individuals think that we should all hope for a life that ends by 75, before the worst effects of time sink in.
But this might be a touch premature. Some lucky individuals seem to resist these destructive forces working on our brains. In cognitive tests, these 80-year-old "super-agers" perform just as well as individuals in their 20s.
Just as sharp as the whippersnappers
To find out what's behind the phenomenon of super-agers, researchers conducted a study examining the brains and cognitive performances of two groups: 41 young adults between the ages of 18 and 35 and 40 older adults between the ages of 60 and 80.
First, the researchers administered a series of cognitive tests, like the California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT) and the Trail Making Test (TMT). Seventeen members of the older group scored at or above the mean scores of the younger group. That is, these 17 could be considered super-agers, performing at the same level as the younger study participants. Aside from these individuals, members of the older group tended to perform less well on the cognitive tests. Then, the researchers scanned all participants' brains in an fMRI, paying special attention to two portions of the brain: the default mode network and the salience network.
The default mode network is, as its name might suggest, a series of brain regions that are active by default — when we're not engaged in a task, they tend to show higher levels of activity. It also appears to be very related to thinking about one's self, thinking about others, as well as aspects of memory and thinking about the future.
The salience network is another network of brain regions, so named because it appears deeply linked to detecting and integrating salient emotional and sensory stimuli. (In neuroscience, saliency refers to how much an item "sticks out"). Both of these networks are also extremely important to overall cognitive function, and in super-agers, the activity in these networks was more coordinated than in their peers.
An image of the brain highlighting the regions associated with the default mode network.
How to ensure brain health in old age
While prior research has identified some genetic influences on how "gracefully" the brain ages, there are likely activities that can encourage brain health. "We hope to identify things we can prescribe for people that would help them be more like a superager," said Bradford Dickerson, one of the researchers in this study, in a statement. "It's not as likely to be a pill as more likely to be recommendations for lifestyle, diet, and exercise. That's one of the long-term goals of this study — to try to help people become superagers if they want to."
To date, there is some preliminary evidence of ways that you can keep your brain younger longer. For instance, more education and a cognitively demanding job predicts having higher cognitive abilities in old age. Generally speaking, the adage of "use it or lose it" appears to hold true; having a cognitively active lifestyle helps to protect your brain in old age. So, it might be tempting to fill your golden years with beer and reruns of CSI, but it's unlikely to help you keep your edge.
Aside from these intuitive ways to keep your brain healthy, regular exercise appears to boost cognitive health in old age, as Dickinson mentioned. Diet is also a protective factor, especially for diets delivering omega-3 fatty acids (which can be found in fish oil), polyphenols (found in dark chocolate!), vitamin D (egg yolks and sunlight), and the B vitamins (meat, eggs, and legumes). There's also evidence that having a healthy social life in old age can protect against cognitive decline.
For many, the physical decline associated with old age is an expected side effect of a life well-lived. But the idea that our intellect will also degrade can be a much scarier reality. Fortunately, the existence of super-agers shows that at the very least, we don't have to accept cognitive decline without a fight.
Can Impossible Foods beat other brands — like Beyond Meat and Tyson — in the war to dominate the alternative meat industry?
- The Impossible Burger will be available in 27 Gelson's Markets stores in Southern California starting Sept. 20.
- Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods sell plant-based burgers in restaurants, but only Beyond Meat sells products in grocery stores.
- Tyson could begin to edge out these smaller companies with its unique meat product that contains plant and animal components, appealing to health-conscious "flexitarians."