Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Review: Spring Chicken

Spring Chicken is Bill Gifford's book about life extension. Karl Pfleger recommended it on the ex-Googler's mailing list, and since it was easily available at the library via Kindle checkout, I gave it a try. It's a reasonably good book. Let me see if I can summarize what I learned in the book:

  • Many of the popular life-extension schticks are basically big business scams. They try to push expensive therapies like Human Growth Hormone, which is suspect and may lead to increased probability of cancer.
  • Aging is to some extent a cellular event. That means many things that you think might be good for you might not be. For instance, anti-oxidants might actually undo the effects of exercise, so over-supplementing on vitamins might be bad for you.
  • Reservatrol got a lot of press but apparently its effects were mostly only seen in mice which were engineered for susceptibility to diabetes and obesity. Those results do not generalize to humans.
  • Diet: you know this stuff: more fruits and vegetables, less meat, and less carbohydrates. The jury is still out on calorie restriction, though some results indicate that intermittent fasting is easier to stick to, which makes it much more likely to be usable.
  • Exercise is a miracle pill. You probably already know this. It is the one guaranteed way to improve mental capacity and reduce or even reverse aging at the cellular level. :

One well-done study found that merely walking twenty minutes a day was enough to slow or reverse the decline in cognition of patients who had already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s—something few drugs have been able to achieve. (Kindle Loc 3531)
  • Telomeres supposedly indicate longevity, but a large study of more than 4,500 people found that, if you control for unhealthy behaviors like smoking and alcohol abuse, there is no link between shorter telomeres and mortality. (Kind Loc 1866)
All in all, a bunch of surprising results, and totally worth my time to read the relatively short book. We still haven't found any radical life extension technology yet, and it's not for the lack of trying. But we do know how to make the life that you do have more healthy and enjoyable, and that's a good thing! Recommended.

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