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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Is aging preventable? Any credible science?

I'm soon to be 74. Some days, increasingly (notwithstanding my now being back on the hoops court 14 months after my open heart surgery), I feel like the guy on the above right, holding his aching lower back and leaning on his cane. But, hey, "check ball."

Comes a book review at Science Based Medicine.

We are living longer, but not much better. The average lifespan has increased, but the limit has not. 95% of people are dead before 100, and almost no-one reaches 115. The years at the end of life are filled with suffering and illness. Conventional wisdom tells us we will all experience a decline as we age, and we will all eventually die. Ben Franklin said nothing is certain but death and taxes. But what if death is not certain? What if we could stay healthy and live forever? Science is investigating some intriguing clues suggesting that aging and death may not be as inevitable as we thought.

David Sinclair believes aging is a disease, the most common disease, and he believes it should be aggressively treated. His book Lifespan: Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To was published in September 2019. A PhD professor and researcher at Harvard Medical School and cofounder of the journal Aging, he is well informed. He explains how recent scientific breakthroughs have reversed the effects of aging in animal models. He has applied many of the scientific findings to his own life…
I've not bought this one yet. The SBM review seems excellent, thorough, appropriately critical.

Not all readers are amused. A 1-star Amazon review:
This is one of the latest self-promotion books by authors affiliated with Harvard and other once respected American academic institutions. Only small parts of the book actually address the questions posed in the title: "Why We Age--and Why We Don’t Have To." These questions are addressed in more concise form in various You Tube videos featuring the author (among other sources), and in more reliable form in publications by other investigators of foundational research in peer reviewed journals.

The remainder of the book involves numerous autobiographical interjections and discussions of various political (or politicized) topics including the environment, vaccines, the American health care system, nutrition and sustainable diets, over-population, and the social issues associated with an increasingly aged population in the developed world.

Overall, one cannot help being impressed that a man like the author, who reports working so hard within his field of expertise, could also become such a purported expert on so many other topics! However, readers who purchase this book because of an interest in the biology of aging may be disappointed or annoyed by the onslaught of unsolicited opinions presented by the author, in part due to the lack of foundation for the opinions, as well as the general absence of originality. Most of these opinions line up obediently with tired leftist cliches that have infected academia over recent decades. Beyond that, the reader will not be surprised to find that the author strongly supports the use of longevity increasing techniques (should his work out), notwithstanding the social and ethical issues that result.

Likewise, the reader will not be surprised at the author’s extended argument that aging should be classified as a “disease” so that more funding for his type of research will be made available. For the time being though, the reader may just have to purchase and ingest various supplements promoted by the author (in which he may or may not have some business interest)--although there is currently no human research showing the efficacy of these supplements to increase longevity. I guess, from the author’s perspective, this is in some sense “visionary.”

The book does summarize some of the author's animal-based research. The author should disclose, clearly and completely, any and all financial interests (direct and otherwise) in the supplements he discuses for increasing longevity or other purposes. The author uses his relationship with Harvard to promote the book and his Harvard-based research, apparently with the school's consent. Harvard itself, through its administrators, has an obligation to insist on appropriate disclosures that comply with applicable professional and ethical standards. (Providing a laundry list of entities that the author has some affiliation with does not meet these standards.)

Those who read this or any other author’s book or published research regarding supplements should be able to determine whether the author or those who fund his research have a financial interest in the promotion of those supplements. This general principle is especially applicable in the case of this book, given the author's history. Over a decade ago, the author began promoting resveratrol through various business entities which he founded and/or has had a financial interest.

Of course, the author is not just another hustler pushing the most recently hyped supplement. After all, he is a Harvard Man (he references his association with the school dozens of times in the book), and refers to his products not as mere supplements, but rather euphemistically as “molecules.” While the potential relationship between resveratrol and longevity was widely recognized when the author began selling it as a supplement, his optimistic promotion of that “molecule” was unique among serious investigators given that its very limited bioavailability in humans was also widely recognized. There is still no evidence supporting claims that supplementing with resveratrol enhances longevity in humans. There is, however, ample clinical experience that this “molecule” causes diarrhea in many people. So although the author’s former customers may not spend any additional time on the planet, many of them probably did did get some extra time in the bathroom.

Ultimately, this book might be a worthwhile read for someone who enjoys sophomoric socio-political monologues, expects to live to be 150 years old or longer (as the author maintains will be imminently possible), and is looking to kill some time.

Usually, when I'm considering buying a new book, I look at negative reader reviews first. Many times they are show-stoppers. Not always, but often.

Two prior reads seem relevant: "Elderhood" and "Can Medicine Be Cured?" How about "A billion tons of human bones"?


My latest issue of AARP Bulletin came in the mail (may be paywalled).

Could Decreasing Inflammation Be the Cure for Everything?
Managing your body's immune response is key to diseases of aging
Mike Zimmerman, AARP

It hardly sounds serious at all. An inconvenience, perhaps, like maybe a mild fever or a creaky joint. In the lexicon of aging and disease, there are far more worrisome words: cancer, heart disease, dementia, diabetes. But researchers have suspected for years that all of these health issues, and more, have at their heart one common trigger: low-grade inflammation. And now they may finally have proof.
Cardiologists in Boston have reported on a clinical trial with more than 10,000 patients in 39 countries (mean age: 61) that tested to see if an anti-inflammatory drug could lower rates of heart disease. They discovered that it could. But they also found that the same drug, canakinumab, reduced lung cancer mortality more than 77 percent, and reports of gout and arthritis (conditions linked to inflammation) also fell.

"Inflammation plays a role in everyone's health,” says Dana DiRenzo, a rheumatologist and instructor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. When inflammation levels increase, so does the risk of disease. But understanding inflammation can be tricky because, when you get a disease, inflammation levels naturally increase as your body fights the condition. Inflammation, in other words, is both good and bad.

Given how crucial this issue is to your health, AARP spoke with some of America's top experts in the field, pored over the latest studies and created this guide to understanding — and overcoming — inflammation…

From Naked Capitalism:

Millennials’ Health Deteriorating, Projected Mortality Rates Higher Than GenX; “Deaths of Despair” a Major Culprit

Posted on  by 
You thought deaths of despair were an affliction of deplorables. Silly you. In case you weren’t paying attention, young people are under a lot of stress too and many don’t have reason to think their state will get much better. Short job tenures and the rise of McJobs mean not just uncertain incomes, which are bad enough, but weak social attachments due to shallow relationships with co-workers and often too little discretionary income to mix regularly with contemporaries. Student debt is another major source of anxiety. We’ve also written, virtually from the inception of this site, that high levels of income inequality are bad for health, even for the wealthy. 
And the reality of the accelerating effects of global warming weighs more on the young than the old, who can hope to die before serious dislocations kick in. The Jackpot is indeed coming.
Psychological, income, and time stress have knock-on health effects, including depression, poor coping mechanisms (alcohol and substance abuse; overeating), lack of time and/or money to take care of oneself well (good diet and exercise, as well as stress reducers like vacations and spending time with friends). And no or crappy health insurance means a lot of people who would benefit from health treatment or therapy won’t get it or won’t get enough. Look at the stories of deaths from inability to afford insulin...
Read all of it, including the comments.


Venice, Italy today:

 apropos of my "Covering Climate now" posts.

More to come...

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