Longevity or Life Extension-There is a difference!!!

I might be splitting hairs here

But I think its important to understand the difference between Longevity and Life Extension. We can throw both topics under the bus of “Anti-Aging and or Regenerative Medicine”. I suppose we could also call them part of Functional Medicine because try as I might I have not really been able to distinguish the differences in the mission statements of all of the above other than the existence of different certifying bodies and conference machines that rake in a ton of money for any one of them.

That said I DO distinguish between Longevity and Life Extension as concepts (not companies!).

To me Longevity is living as long as one can within the current understanding and parameters of our genetics and far more importantly, our epigenetics.

The Grand Dame of Longevity has to be Madam Jeanne Calment who holds the longevity record of 122 years at her death. Her life also bears a little bit of looking at but understand that there is truly not all that much to be learned from people who are either their own personal blue zones or those who live in them.

Madam CalmentMadam Calment smoked cigarettes and cigars until age 117. She also drank wine daily (The French Paradox?). But she did neither in excess. As a matter of fact, if you look at our own government’s unofficial statements smoking less than 5 cigarettes a day or less than 2 cigars a day is probably not affecting one’s health. I would not recommend it since one does not know one’s own epigenetic response to these toxins and why tempt fate but those are the facts. Madam Calment’s wine consumption was well within the recommended dose and if you look at studies there is suggestion that people who drink some small amounts of alcohol daily actually live longer than tee totalers.

Again, make your own conclusions- I do not smoke or drink on a regular basis personally.

Madam Calment also road her bike daily past 110 years so she would be considered physically active. She was also short at 4’11” but this may not have been short for her time. So far there is not a correlation between height and longevity unless short stature is caused by poor nutrition early in life and the womb.

There were not stem cell assays or telomere measurements around when Madam Calment died but she did have a few CT scans of the brain in her last decade. The results showed brain atrophy consistent with a normal 80-90-year-old. Reportedly she remained mentally intact for her entire life.

This brings up an important fact: The super centenarians (people who live past 110) die of the same things people in their 70’s and 80’s do- they just do it a few decades later.
In addition try as they might researchers have not found “longevity genes” active in these people.

Popular candidates for longevity genes include the Sirtuins, Klotho, Foxo, and a whole host of others.

So far there is no definitive evidence that these genes confer longer lives in humans

But the research continues at least for the last 3. The sirtuins have pretty much been relegated to metabolic gate guardians after the failure of GSK to make any of David Sinclair’s magic molecules work in people.

That brings us to Longevity versus Life Extension

I am not 100% sure the pathway to one leads to the other. I can recall Dr. Lenhard Hayflick the unwilling father of anti-aging medicine and the originator of the Hayflick Limit (at least in theory- the fruit fly scientist Michael Rose claims in his book he originated the term for Hayflick’s findings) making the following statement about the current machinations of science and aging (this includes Mtor inhibition, calorie restriction, resveratrol, sirtuins, klotho, Foxo, Hif-1a and others).

He said, “All you are doing is finding the natural maximum life span of the organism when it is subjected to the most perfect conditions you can create.”

That is longevity but not life extension. That is Jeanne Calment, not the singularity!

Now before we make that sound trivial

It’s not, it’s hugely important. Many people think that to achieve Life Extension you have to have achieved longevity. That may sound obvious but consider this.

Maria Blasco’s experiments in mice with 10X telomerase over extension took typical animals (remember all of the above candidates have only animal data so far.) and added 25% to their lives and old animals and extended their lives by 13%. This was BEYOND the known natural life spans of these animals and, it happened in a majority of them not just a few as in calorie restriction (unless you count fruit flies!).

It is my assumption that in order to do that you have to fix all the other stuff including DNA repair, protein misfolding, metabolic aberrations and mitochondrial uncoupling and epigenetic switches towards inflammation and genome wide demethylation or you would have at the very least sick old animals. Frankly I don’t see how they could survive and live healthier than the controls if all that stuff were not fixed to a degree.  This suggests that their may be a more direct path to longevity that actually goes through life extension rather than the other way around!

All in all, longevity is a great goal. So is Life Extension.

But both only become meaningful with a Health Span that matches them.

Stay lean, eat a bit less, exercise regularly, get good regular sleep, don’t sweat the small stuff and find productive ways to deal with the big stuff.

And take meaningful doses of fish oil, not the doses used in meta-analysis!


Dr. Dave

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