5 Life Extension Myths
Many products promise to extend life. Do they deliver on their claims?
All around the world, people are adopting certain behaviors in order to live longer and healthier lives. Some of these practices may actually help them, while others definitely won’t. As we work in the field of longevity and we know what it means to want to live longer, we have decided to take a look at some of the most common myths about life extension. Perhaps, after reading this article, you will quit some not-so-helpful behaviors and focus on the more effective ones such as eating healthy, doing some sport and signing up for cryonics 😉
5 things that probably won’t make you live longer
Think about good and bad habits that influence your life span. Some of them are rather straight-forward. By eating a healthy and varied diet, you provide your body with all the nutrients needed to function properly — and this can’t be but a good habit. On the other hand, lighting up a cigarette several times a day and filling your lungs with gas particles and a mixture of over 7000 chemicals simply can’t be healthy.
But some recommendations for living longer are far less obvious (and accurate). Maybe it’s something you heard from grandma, a longevity claim read in some quasi-scientific magazine, or misleading advertisements. Let us shed some light on the most common myths about life extension.
Fish oil tablets
Are you familiar with the scene of parents making their children swallow a spoonful of fish oil because it’s “good for the brain”? Whether you have experienced it yourself or seen it in some film, the idea of using cod liver oil for health and longevity has been around for hundreds of years. Nowadays, fortunately, it’s also made in tablet form — which makes it way better to ingest. Is this practice really necessary or is it a bit of a myth?
Fish oil, as the name suggests, is an oil derived from the tissues of various fish (mackerel, herring, tuna, and salmon). It’s rich in the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These acids are an essential contribution for the functioning of our bodies. A plethora of research shows how having the required intake of omega-3 acids may be good for our health. People who eat a lot of fish usually have a lower rate of heart diseases, improved cholesterol levels and reduced blood pressure. In addition, these acids may improve the symptoms of mental health conditions such as depression. They may support eye health, reduce inflammation, and improve asthma symptoms. Now, there is a “may” in front of all these sentences because the researchers couldn’t give any conclusive result. Some other studies in fact showed no correlation with omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular diseases or cancer prevention.
The thing is, while fish oil tablets could help people with certain diseases, they are mostly unnecessary for healthy people. That said, we are not claiming that taking fish oil tablets is useless. If you don’t eat fish or nuts and seeds rich in omega-3 on a regular basis, you may consider adding a supplement to your diet. It could help you be healthier. Yet, it won’t probably make you live longer than currently possible.
For decades, antioxidants have been advertised as the antidote to aging. You might be disappointed to discover that stuffing yourself with berries, antioxidant-rich skin care products and supplements won’t make you live longer. But before explaining why antioxidants aren’t the solution we are looking for, what exactly are they?
Let’s start from the roots. Oxidation is a chemical reaction where electrons are transferred from one molecule to another. You can see oxidation happening in nature all the time: when a slice of apple becomes brownish for example, or when copper turns that pretty aquamarine color. Oxidation happens in the human body as well, causing the release of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms that, in high numbers, can cause serious damage to the cells. This is where antioxidants come in, making sure that there is just the right amount of free radicals in the body. When the number of antioxidants and free radicals is unbalanced, the body enters a state called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is involved with several age-related conditions that you might want to avoid if your plan is to live longer.
That said, how good are antioxidants really for our bodies? While it is important to follow a diet that includes antioxidant-rich food, supplements may have the opposite effect. Oxidative stress occurs both when we have too many or too little free radicals in our body. Keeping a good balance is the key. As for skin products containing antioxidants, it has been proven that they can protect against UV rays, calm inflammation and slow down premature aging (but not intrinsic aging). So to sum up, make sure you get a balanced income of antioxidants and remember free radicals are not the enemy!
In the last few years, there has been a boom of products with added probiotics. Every respectable supermarket has its fair share of probiotic-rich yogurts, juices, granola bars and so on. It seems like everybody is trying to add more of these little microorganisms to their diet. Now, is it misleading advertising to make people choose a certain product over another unnecessarily, or do we really need probiotics in our lives?
You may have already heard that in our body there are around 39 trillion bacteria (0.3% of our body weight). Most of them are located in our gastrointestinal tract and form the so-called gut microbiota. Gut microbes influence many aspects of human health including immune, metabolic and neurobehavioural traits. Additionally, without helpful microbiota we are vulnerable to several diseases: inflammatory conditions, diabetes, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, depression, and skin irritations just to name a few. It therefore makes sense that you want to nurture your gut guests. And this can be done with the help of probiotics.
The main issue here is that there are several strains of microbes and they interact with our bodies differently. While your gut may need some strains of bacteria, others could be unnecessary and even create an unhealthy imbalance. So, if you plan to use probiotics to prolong your health and life, buy products that contain the type of bacteria you actually need. And make sure they also contain prebiotics (probiotics food). Without them, your stomach acid would kill most probiotics before they reach your gut.
During a normal day, our body comes into contact with various substances that, in large quantities, could be toxic to us. Potential sources of toxicity include medicines, alcohol, substances in our disinfectant, plastic packaging and cleaning products, pesticides on our food, and tobacco smoke or smog. So, if someone told you that by following a certain diet you could rid your body of these toxins, wouldn’t you do it?
Most of us would and, thanks to this, the global market for detox products is valued at about 50 billions USD. This market ranges from detox diets, juices, supplements and face masks to complete cleansing of the large intestine tract by flushing it with water and herbs.
In reality our bodies don’t need any help in disposing of toxins. In fact, most healthy bodies are able to process and get rid of toxins on their own. We are equipped with an in-built detoxification system: our liver, kidneys and colon. However, if a toxin manages to get into our bloodstream, our body is going to process it. The idea that we have harmful toxins in our bodies that we have to get rid of is, for the most part, a marketing myth.
Obviously, nobody is going to stop you from going for a detox diet after the Christmas holiday binges. Avoiding alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, processed food and refined sugar for a while is very likely going to be good for your body. But rigid detox diets will probably not save you from diseases caused by the accumulation of toxic substances over the years.
About 1% of the population worldwide suffer from a genetic disorder called celiac disease. Their body has an autoimmune reaction when they ingest gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. This causes villous atrophy, resulting in malabsorption, which can cause abdominal pain, weight loss, and malnutrition. Researchers identified the celiac condition around the 1900s but it wasn’t until 1953 that they managed to discover that gluten was the cause (and that a gluten-free diet was the solution).
As many Western diets heavily rely on wheat, it took some time before products such as gluten-free bread, cookies, beer and more were produced. To the great delight of celiac sufferers, gluten-free products became the new life extension fad of the last few decades, boosting the production of an incredible variety of products. But it’s not all sunshine and roses. The trend has overshadowed a rather serious condition, with the risk that some restaurants might pay less attention to gluten contamination.
Now, many people advocate for the benefits of a gluten-free diet even for those who aren’t coeliacs or gluten-sensitive. Gluten has been blamed for several conditions: asthma, skin conditions, hair loss, joint pain, lactose intolerance, headaches, bloating, being overweight, and having high blood sugar. But the truth is, if you have no medical need to avoid gluten, it would be better if you didn’t. Gluten-free food isn’t healthier:
- Eating only gluten-free food could lead to nutritional deficiencies. In fact these products are usually highly processed and lack the nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber your body needs.
- By following a gluten-free diet you may fail to ingest the recommended daily servings of carbohydrates. Consequently, the level of sugar in your blood may drop to below the normal range, causing hypoglycemia.
- While gluten-free products are often advertised for healthy weight loss, you have to make sure you select healthy gluten-free products. Many of them are higher in fat and calories than their gluten-containing counterparts.
- Last but not least, gluten-free products are significantly more expensive.
Could cryonics make you live longer?
Now, cryonics could be the one thing capable of actually extending your life and health span. Cryonics, also known as Biostasis, is an advanced medical technology that has been developing over the last 60 years. Through the use of very low temperatures, a person can be kept in a state of biological pause after their legal death. A process called vitrification allows us to preserve the body with the lowest level of damage possible for an indefinite amount of time.
What is the purpose of all this? Considering developments in medical technology, we expect that causes of death, which are incurable today, will be curable in the future. If and when this happens, cryopreserved people could possibly be treated and revived. They would then have the possibility of living an extended life in the future.
For various reasons, we cannot predict with certainty that this method will work. Since the technology required for revival is complex, it will take some time before it is developed. On top of this, we can’t really tell what awaits us in the future. Looking at the patterns from our past, we expect that technological breakthroughs will continue to improve our lives, as they have always done. Perhaps they will allow us to develop revival technologies and save the lives of those that, with current technology, would be doomed.
Cryonics may be the only means known today that allows us to live longer. A little more complex than swallowing a few vitamin supplements or following a certain diet but most likely effective. It is up to you to decide whether it is worth trying.
While most people enjoy living a longer and healthier life, current knowledge is still quite far from finding a cure for aging. This is mostly because aging is a complex process consisting of several smaller processes and medical technology has to find a cure for all of them before being able to finally defeat aging as a whole.
More and more people are looking at cryonics as possibly the only solution. It may or may not work. But if it does, you’d have the chance to experience the future. If you think this may be something for you, sign up and join our community. If you want to learn more, schedule a call with one of our experts. We are always happy to answer your questions.