Two Independent Approaches Have Just Been Announced for, Putatively, Slowing Your Rate of Aging to 75% or Less of What It Is Now
Is this really true, or is this hype?
This is the 64 billion(?) trillion(?) dollar question. It should be stated that neither of these approaches has been formally tried on humans, although some humans are trying them. (Some volunteers have been taking them for several years.) At this time, these are new, unproven therapies. Still, there's reason to be optimistic about the effects on human beings, based upon the effects upon other organisms. For instance, there are age markers that give a measure of one's physiological age as well as one's rate of aging..
These claims are being made by leading gerontologists.
I'm trying to gather as much information as I can to help you... and me... evaluate this.
If these approaches are independent of each other, then your aging rate might be slowed to as little as 50%-60% of what it is now. If they involve the same underlying mechanism, then the aging rate would be about 70%-to-75% of what it is now. Furthermore, these approaches both involve common food, and/or or over-the-counter food supplements. They're not expensive, and they should be safe.
But is it really happening?
The Implications of Such a Development Would Be Monumental!
Something that would render you physiologically 15 when you were 25 or 30, or physiologically 50 when you were 100, or 100 when you are 200 would rock the world (though see below for a less-revolutionary assessment). Many changes will have to be made if this is true. In particular, the mere possibility that this can be done should attract a lot of attention once the public comprehends the reality of this promise. Furthermore, we aren't talking about slower aging alone. We're also talking about a major reduction in the current rates of cancer, heart attack, stroke, Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, and all the other degenerative diseases. These are diseases that accompany aging, and should be postponed if aging can be postponed. This would affect Medicare, hospital construction, insurance rates, and a host of other medical matters, not to mention wills, the job market, and so forth. However, even if everyone starts gulping these supplements tomorrow, it would take a while to establish that age retardation is really occurring.
One exciting implication is that if either of these approaches really work, it should prime the pump for further advances.
There Is a Third Approach to Possibly Ameliorate Aging Waiting In the Wings
This consists of the efforts to identify the genes that make some among us centenarians. Here again, it would depend upon whether these genes rely upon the same underlying mechanism as the two approaches cited above.
The material below presents these prospects for slowed aging in somewhat greater detail..
How Can It Be
Caloric restriction is the only proven way to slow rates of aging, and this has only been proven in animal models. I'll discuss it first because it provides a backdrop against which the two new techniques, mentioned above, may be showcased.
In all other organisms, including dogs and mice, caloric restriction (cutting caloric intake by 30% to 40%) slows the rate of aging and increases the life spans of organisms by 30% to 40%. This has been confirmed in numerous experiments conducted over the 68 year interval since Dr. Clive McKay first discovered, at Cornell, in 1935, that rats that were undernourished but not malnourished lived longer and aged slower than rats fed on ad libitum diets.
A controlled caloric restriction experiment is about half completed in monkeys (with 25-year life spans). Preliminary results are promising, but are not yet statistically significant.
What Would It Mean?
It's recommended that no one start such a restricted caloric intake regimen before the age of about 20. In that case, 80 would be physiologically 65, 100 would be physiologically 80, and 120 would be physiologically 95.
How Soon Can It Be Tested?
Once a controlled experiment testing caloric restriction begins in humans, it may be decades before it can be proven whether or not caloric restriction works in humans the way it does in other organisms.
On the other hand, there are markers that may at least suggest that aging has been slowed. One of these might be the caloric intake itself. If your metabolism has been "tuned up" so that you're getting by on 1,500 calories a day where you previously required 2,200 calories a day, then you're burning fuel 30%-or-more slower than you were before.
"Longevinauts" Are Testing This Caloric Restriction (CR) Concept
In the meantime, there are people ("longevinauts"?) who have been on restricted calorie diets for a number of years. The acknowledged leader in this field is Dr. Roy Walford, who has been on a restricted calorie diet for more than 20 years. Dr. Walford, who turned 79 this year, has suffered nerve damage that has left him barely able to walk. He attributes this to nitrous oxide exposure stemming from his two-year stint as the medical doctor in the Biosphere II experiment.
There are discomforts to living on a restricted calorie diet. Its habitués become thin and emaciated-looking, and experience hunger, weakness, and a tendency to chill easily because of their lack of body fat. (Since there's no excess body fat, could a long-enduring illness eat into muscle mass?)
Breakthrough? Approach #1: The Red Wine Connection
There has been keen interest in discovering the mechanism through which caloric restriction acts to see if some "signaling chemicals" can be identified that trigger the same slowed metabolism that caloric restriction activates.
Now these may have been found, in the form of resveratrol and other "stress signalers" that have the same effect as caloric restriction in extending life spans (although so far only in yeast and fruit flies). Resveratrol, found in grape skins and red wine (and at Walmart, as grape extract), extends the lifespan of yeast by 70% (Red wine ingredient makes yeast live longer - Nature),
It seems that organisms have an ace in the hole when food becomes scarce. When food becomes scarce, they switch to a lower metabolic rate*. This is the basis of the increased longevity that a restricted calorie diet confers. It is thought to be an ancient survival strategy that allows organisms to live longer, and to postpone reproduction until conditions improve. The Sir2 gene (for "silent information regulator2" gene) appears to mediate this slower-aging strategy by sensing inimical environmental conditions. (Dr. Leonard Guarente and his brilliant graduate students at MIT have made key discoveries concerning the role of the Sir2 gene in extending the life spans of yeast.)
Now, a set of compounds has been identified that also trigger the Sir2 gene One of the most effective of these is resveratrol, found in grape seed skins and in red wine.
* - This
is my own hypothetical interpretation of what's happening. My reasoning is that
if the daily calories that are consumed drop to, viz., 70% of their normal
level, then I'd be inclined to suppose that one's metabolic rate has dropped to
that level, also. However, that's a guess on my part.
Another group of compounds are the flavones, found abundantly in olive oil.
One problem with resveratrol is that it is "unstable on exposure to the air and 'goes off within a day of popping the cork,' he (Dr. David Sinclair) said." This article also states, "Dr. Sinclair said that he and Dr. Howitz were working on chemical modifications of resveratrol that would be more stable. Ownership of the patent will be split 50:50 between their parent institutions, the Harvard Medical School and Biomol."
Dr. Sinclair received his Ph. D. for work done and discoveries made in Dr. Guarente's lab at MIT.
Unfortunately, the development of a more stable analog of resveratrol will presumably have to undergo FDA testing at a cost of, presumably, $850,000,000 over a period of many years. On the other hand, if a way can be found to capture and preserve resveratrol in its active state, no FDA approval should be required since its a natural plant product.
It will be necessary to track this down to see if the resveratrol that's currently for sale is biologically active.
10-28-2003 Update: Resveratrol has been in the news today regarding its role in ameliorating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (11/1/2003: Red wine could protect against lung disease, say researchers - BBC). "The team is now working with industry to find a drug candidate based on resveratrol. 'One of the problems is it is not terribly bioavailable,' says Donnelly. "So even if you drink lots of red wine, you are not going to get enough concentration to have an effect.'"
A drug based upon resveratrol would presumably face an 8-to-10 year-approval period, and a cost that's already pushing one billion dollars. How about grape skins from Canadian grapes? How much of these would be required to achieve necessary dosages? How about genetically modifying red grapes to produce more resveratrol? Can natural resveratrol be synthesized? Where did this research group get its resveratrol, and how about its stability in air? How much did they use to treat each patient?
I'll try to find out.
Like many others, I'm a proponent of eating foodstuffs where feasible. Living organisms produce thousands, if not tens of thousands, of unique, biologically active compounds Further, their concentrations are regulated by chemical feedback-control loops that adjust their release to fit instantaneous conditions within the organism.
Another caveat that needs to be mentioned is that "the concentration-dependent effects of resveratrol as observed by Howitz et al. were complicated. At relatively low doses these molecules stimulated sirtuin activity, but, at least in certain assays, higher doses had the opposite effect. This is not an ideal characteristic for a pharmaceutical drug." (Toren Finkel, "Aging: A toast to Long Life") This is very important in terms of the tendency we might have to run out and take large doses of surtuin-mobilizing polyphenols or flavones. It's established that the resveratrol in a glass or two of wine won't hurt us, and that's probably all the resveratrol that I think I'll take until more is known about these mechanisms.
Resveratrol is also alleged to be a cancer fighter, as well as anti-inflammatory.
In other words, hopefully, these foods and/or food supplements would allow you to enjoy the life extension afforded by caloric restriction without the accompanying hardships. (However, you might have to reduce your caloric intake to avoid gaining weight... like someone who's hypothyroid.)
Resveratrol is found in red wine, peanuts, and olive oil.
Walmart's Spring Valley Grape Seed Extract advertises 50 micrograms of Trans-Resveratrol, extracted from the root of the polygonum cuspidatum.. By contrast, a glass of an upper-New-York state red wine might contain something like 160 micrograms (mcg.) of resveratrol per fluid ounce, so it would take eighteen Spring Valley Grape Seed Extract capsules to match one glass of an appropriate red wine. The only uncertainty here is that resveratrol is said to be unstable when exposed to air. The question becomes that of how the grape seed extract was extracted and packaged. (I'll try to track this down.)
It will be at least ten years before an FDA-approved pill will be available that can trigger the slowed-aging effects of a caloric-restricted diet. However, the "trigger" substances that cause this are found in red wine (especially from muscatel grapes grown in cold climates such as Canada and upper-state New York).
These compounds are known to be beneficial for cardiovascular health, and have been more recently associated with reduced rates of cancer. It probably makes sense to take them at the kind of dosage level that would be found in foods (but not in megadoses).
Another possible source might be six ounces of dark purple grapes from Canada or upper-New-York state.
A third possible source of resveratrol might be unroasted peanuts (although one might be well-advised to beware of aflatoxins). Peanuts are a good source of resveratrol. Half an ounce of peanuts is said to contain as much resveratrol as six ounces of red wine. Of course, the wine may have other important constituents, but then, so may peanuts.
It may be necessary to eat the peanuts as peanuts rather than as (processed) peanut butter.
However, "Apart from rather small amounts in peanuts, red wine is virtually the only source of these compounds in the normal human diet says Dr David Goldberg, Department of Clinical Biochemistry, University of Toronto."
So who's right? Maybe that answer will emerge over the next few days.
The flavones in olive oil are other possible candidates for surtuin-triggering agents. The most significant of these is said to be quercetin, found also in citrus fruits.
Bottom Line: Why Not Try Resveratrol Supplements or Foods That Are Rich in Resveratrol?
Rather than waiting for a drug company to market an expensive prescription analog of resveratrol or some other flavone, why not try to get them now? (Must it be expensive? Remember that it takes nearly a billion dollars and many years to get a new drug approved by the FDA.)
So the proper strategy would seem to be to try to include resveratrol in one's diet for its cardiovascular and cancer-retarding qualities If it also turns out to slow the rate of aging, so much the better.
It may be that resveratrol or other flavones could be supplied to children from early childhood without incurring the penalties that may accrue from caloric restriction. In that case, an 80-year-old would be physiologically 60, a 100-year-old would be physiologically 75, and a 120-year-old would be physiologically 90.
The Second Approach: "The New Pill That Can End Aging"
The November, 2003, issue of Reader's Digest has an article with that title.
It's not true, of course, but it sounds good.
The truth is that in February, 2002, Dr. Bruce Ames (University of California at Berkeley) announced that experiments conducted in his laboratory indicated that a combination of the food supplements alpha lipoic acid (thioctic acid) and acetyl-l-carnitine seemed to act synergistically to produce dramatic improvements in aged rats, restoring them to neurological levels typical of middle-aged rats. ( To his formula, the Life Extension Foundation has added carnosine.).
There is reason to believe that there is more to this than just neurological improvements. The theory that underpins these experiments postulates a reduced rate of free radical production and an improvement in the efficiency of the mitochondria themselves.
I've been taking acetul-l-carnitine and alpha lipoic acid intermittently since February, 2002, but only at a partial dosage. Within the past week, I have upped the dosage to 200 mg. of alpha lipoic acid and 500 mg. of acetyl-l-carnitine). I have just read tonight that alpha lipoic acid clears the body rapidly, and should be taken in divided doses, so I'll begin taking it in smaller doses and more often. I've also just read that a full dosage of these two biological response modifiers is 400 mg. of alpha lipoic acid and 1,000 mg. of acetyl-l-carnitine so I'll increase my dosage to that level.
. Has it made a difference? I believe it has, although it would take controlled experiments to prove it. (I'd like to tell you that I look decades younger, but I'd be lying in my teeth if I did.)
In the original studies, as I recall, two cohorts of control rats lived a maximum of 22 and 26 months, while the experimental arm survived for 38 months... a gain in maximum lifespan of, perhaps, 50%. However, 38 months, while a centenarian among rats, is still within the normal life span for a rat.
An alternative (and official) source of supply is the company founded by Bruce Ames and his colleagues: Juvenon. Their capsules cost $39.95 plus 4.95 shipping for 60 capsules, and contain 500 mg. of acetyl-l-carnitine and 200 mg. of alpha lipoic acid, for a cost of 75¢ per capsule. Two bottles cost $36.95 each, plus $4.95 for shipping both bottles. Four bottles would cost $148, + $4.95 for shipping, for a unit cost of about 63¢ per capsule. However, Juvenon recommends taking two capsules a day, bringing the cost per person to $1.25 a day. This compares with the $14 (including sales tax) I'm paying here locally for sixty 500-mg. tablets of acetyl-l-carnitine, plus about $4.64 (including sales tax) for sixty 100-milligram capsules of alpha lipoic acid. Thus, the cost for 200 mg. of alpha lipoic acid and 500 mg.acetyl-l-carnitine is about 40¢ per dose. Taking two of these doses a day would bring the total cost to about 80¢ a day. However, there's some question about whether to use the R-enantiomer of acetyl-l-carnitine or the racemic mixture of both the R- and S-enantiomers. Juvenon would ensure that the correct formula is used.
I also like the idea of buying pills from Juvenon, since it has been founded by the researchers who have developed this product, rather than paying a profit to entrepreneurial middlemen who might 'reap what they have not strawed'.
Benjamin Treadwell, Ph. D., the Scientific Advisor to Juvenon Corporation, has been kind enough to clarify this point. Dr. Treadwell says that Juvenon is using the racemic mixture of alpha lipoic acid. Dr. Treadwell observes that the R-enantiomer has a short shelf life when isolated from the S-enantiomer, He also says that "virtually all studies to date going back over thirty years have been done with the racemic mixture... it has a great safety record".
The Life Extension Foundation advises the use of carnosine in concert with acetyl-l-carnitine and alpha lipoic acid, and says this about it:
"Carnosine is a multifunctional dipeptide made up of a chemical combination of the amino acids beta-alanine and L-histidine. Long-lived cells such as nerve cells (neurons) and muscle cells (myocytes) contain high levels of carnosine. Muscle levels of carnosine correlate with the maximum life spans of animals. Research has shown that carnosine protects and extends the functional life of the body’s key building blocks - cells, proteins, DNA, lipids. It is also safe and naturally occurring in food and in the body. The remarkable life-extending benefits of carnosine can be seen in numerous physiological processes throughout the body.
|Carnosine appears to be the most effective anti-carbonylation agent yet discovered. (Carbonylation is a pathological step in the age-related degradation of the body’s proteins.)|
|As an antioxidant, carnosine effectively quenches the most destructive of free radicals, the hydroxyl radical, well as superoxide, singlet oxygen, and the peroxyl radical.|
|Carnosine has the remarkable ability to rejuvenate cells approaching senescence (the end of the life cycle of dividing cells), restoring normal appearance and extending cellular lifespan.|
|Carnosine has the ability to rejuvenate connective tissue cells and thus to benefit wound healing.|
|Carnosine eye drops can delay vision senescence in humans, being effective in 100% of cases of primary senile cataract and 80% of cases of mature senile cataract.|
|Carnosine can protect the microvasculature of the brain from plaque for mation that may lead to senility or Alzheimer’s disease.|
|Carnosine enables the heart muscle to contract more efficiently through enhancement of calcium response in heart myocytes.|
|Carnosine can protect cellular DNA from oxidative damage that accumulates with age.|
|Carnosine can help prevent skin collagen cross-linking which leads to loss of elasticity, wrinkles, macro- molecular disorganization, and loss of extracellular matrix.|
In order to derive carnosine’s multiple benefits, it is critical to consume enough carnosine to saturate the carnosinase enzyme so as to make free carnosine available to the rest of the body. Small dosages of supplemental carnosine that are often sold by commercial companies provide no benefit because this small amount of carnosine is degraded by the carnosinase enzyme before it can produce beneficial effects in the body.
If you're a member of the Life Extension Foundation, Super Carnosine will set you back $1.00 a day.
has contributed the following information to this discussion:
Thanks very much, Brendan. It just occurred to me that Creatine, which is used
to improve athletic performance, has now been found to considerably improve IQ
scores. And as your letter observes, alpha lipoic acid and acetyl-l-carnitine
are in use for improvements in athletic prowess.
Maybe there's a similar relationship between other supplements that boost IQ and other supplements that boost athletic performance.(?)
Both Juvenon and the Life Extension Foundation warn against pregnant or lactating women taking the above products.
Third Approach: Centenarian's Genes
The centenarian I know personally, Miss Ola Wicks, entered the Whitesburg Gardens nursing home at the age of 99, having lived by herself before that. (I used to see her at church, but had no idea that she was in her 90's.) She just celebrated her 101st birthday.
My neighbor's mother served as his bookkeeper when she was in her latter 90's, when he sold his business. She died at the age of 101.
One day, I was on a Rapid Transit car in Cleveland. I noticed that the man sitting across from me was reading an article that said, "Local Man 103." I looked at the picture and saw that it was a picture of the man who was reading the newspaper! He appeared to be, perhaps, 75.
If it becomes possible to emulate the effects of longevity genes, might we see centenarians comparable to today's 55- or 60-year-olds? Eat your raw peanuts (see below), and stay tuned to this channel, and you might be around long enough to find out.
Interestingly-enough, slowing the metabolic rate, however accomplished, would require reduced caloric intake in order to keep one's weight under control.
Another interesting question is that of how acetyl-l-carnitine and alpha lipoic acid relate to caloric restriction. It's my current impression that the metabolizing of food (including breathing) drives the aging process, causing most of the free radical damage in the body.
I'll try to learn more about this.
Last Friday night, I ran a search on Google for cancer and aspirin. There were 268,000 hits. I learned that aspirin (and other NSAIDs) appear to reduce by something like one-third the chances of getting "bladder, pancreatic, prostate, cervical, breast, lung and ovarian cancers". There are articles and papers by the bucketful. Considering the fact that the National Cancer Institute website estimates that 30% of cancer in the developed world may be attributable to poor diet, that's stunning news. I had kicked off my article last year in GoF on Cancer Prevention Diets with this paragraph,
The surprising power of aspirin
Several recent studies have indicated a powerful role for aspirin in reducing the risk of developing cancer of the breast and the colon by as much as 50% (and, possibly, of other types of cancer as well, though typically by 20% to 35%). Inflammation has been recently discovered to play an important role in the etiology of cardiovascular disease and of cancer. Also, aspirin appears to provide salicylates, which, allegedly, have largely disappeared from our 20th/21st-century diets. Perhaps this plays a role in aspirin's cancer protection role. (I'll try to add references for these assertions.)
Now I've found the references and they're startling. (Apparently, aspirin and other NSAIDs work by facilitating apoptosis... programmed cell suicide that kills off pre-cancerous cells before they can reproduce.)
I think everyone should know about the broad base of studies that support the role of aspirin in preventing certain kinds of cancer (and perhaps all kinds of cancer). It could save our lives.
Warnings and Caveats
Besides the obvious pitfall of gastric disturbances that aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause, there might be another peril. There are suggestions in the literature that aspirin promotes apoptosis (programmed cell death) As cells age and their telomeres shorten, they begin to mutate at ever higher rates, and to become more and more defective. Nature has provided a mechanism, mediated through the p53 gene, that causes them to self-destruct (undergo apoptosis) so that replacement tissue arises from other cells that are in a better state of repair. Occasionally, however, a cell fails to self-destruct and continues to divide. If the mutation occurs that causes them to express telomerase, they become immortal and malignant, and a cancer is born. Anything that accentuates apoptosis reduces the risk of cancer, but at the expense of a faster rate of aging. If you are strongly protected against cancer, you are more apt to die young of some other degenerative disease (or so the reasoning goes).
Nature has (putatively) maximized average lifespan. The lower the rate of aging, the higher the risk of dying of cancer.
Of course, lowering the metabolic rate, as caloric restriction seems to do, slows down the overall rate of aging, with no "cancer penalties" imposed for "living cooler". And if we could wholly or partially rejuvenate cells, we could probably enjoy extended life spans while simultaneously lowering our risks of cancer.
This is probably more complicated than what I'm describing here, but these are a few ideas I've picked up about how this might work.
For these reasons, I've decided that until I learn otherwise, I'll hold my aspirin consumption down to one baby aspirin a day.
10-28-2003 Update: Underscoring the perversity of epidemiological studies, our local newspaper today cites a just-reported study yesterday that among 88,378 nurses who were initially cancer-free, those who reported taking two or more aspirin a week for twenty years or more showed a 58% greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
This flies in the face of a similar study of 28,283 post-menopausal women in Iowa who showed a 43 percent lower rate of pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic cancer strikes about 31,000 people a year in the United States.
Ernest Hawk, chief of gastrointestinal cancer prevention at the National Cancer Institute, said that studies have "shown that aspirin use can help reduce the risk of developing polyps that may lead to colorectal cancer".
Dr. Hawk said that there are precedents for this kind of conflicting findings. Two earlier observational trials on the possible benefit of aspirin in avoiding colorectal cancer also yielded conflicting results.
This points toward the necessity of establishing controlled prospective studies rather than retrospective studies based upon patient recall.
10-28-2003 Update: Speculations Concerning Socioeconomic Changes if One or More Life Extension Techniques Succeeds
I've touched on this elsewhere, but here are some more wild speculations.
First, it would probably take at least a little while to verify that a reduction in the rate of aging were actually occurring.
Still, if people started talking about it at parties, and the supplements could be purchased at Walmart, it might not take long before a significant share of the U. S. population began trying it, even in the absence of solid confirmatory evidence. In particular, if its celebrants began to feel better, and to show better performance on age-related tests, adoption might be rapid. So what would happen if it really did slow the rate of aging by 25% or more?
First, it would take a certain amount of time to verify that aging rates were slowing. Presumably, this might show up in the form of some marginal reduction in medical activity. A lot of medical problems would probably remain unchanged: pediatrics, allergies, sports medicine, trauma, and so on. Many individuals would wait to see what happened to others before taking supplements.
The first changes to be made might be the raising of retirement ages. There would have to be solid actuarial evidence that such a move would be appropriate. Another maneuver might be the gradual reduction of retirement benefits. This could take the form of reduced tax breaks, for example, as well as other, greater reductions.
Raising the retirement age would offer the added benefit of keeping workers longer on the productive side of the retirement fence, thereby reducing the ratio of retirees to the gainfully employed.
Only if existing retirees could be rejuvenated sufficiently to render them physiologically below retirement age would there be efforts to recapture them in the work force.
One of the problems with restoring them to the work force is the need for the creation of new jobs, especially as we continue to outsource jobs to low-wage offshore locations.
Balanced against this would be the need to avoid paying a large, non-productive segment of the population out of the earnings of its productive workers.
But I think the process would be gradual.
After thinking about it, I don't think that quietly lengthening our lives by 30% to 40% would be very noticeable. We already have a few people who are physiologically 20%-to-30% younger than others their same age. Our centenarians-to-be fall into this category. And there are many 60-year-old women who look 40-to-45. (Tommie Jean fell into that category when we were married. Today, at 68, Tommie doesn't begin to look it. People mistake her for my daughter.) So this is nothing new. We'd simply have more men and women who would be young-looking for their ages by the standards of the past. This would happen gradually, and we'd take it in stride. It would become the norm.
When I was a child, there was no hormone replacement therapy for women, and at 60, most women looked old. And 19th-century women looked older yet after having 6 or 7 children, plus a few stillborns. There are probably 70-year-old women today who look younger than some 40-year-old women in 1900. It's quite different today, and yet, no one comments about it, or is even aware of it.. I've observed that average life spans have increased from 47 in 1900 to 76 in 2000, and yet, our institutions have handled this transition with aplomb. Right now, populations in Europe are falling. Extending the pregnancy window from a nominal age of 35 to a nominal age of 49 probably wouldn't change our population growth situation noticeably. It's already become possible, with recent medical technology, for women to bear children years longer than they could 50 years ago, and yet, we aren't seeing a surge in population growth because of it.
I think the principal changes effected by a 40% extension in "youth spans" would be the elevation of retirement ages and corresponding modifications to Social Security. We might see the full-retirement age gradually move up to 80 or 85, with reduced retirement available at younger ages, but this would take place over a period of decades. If children who are born next year were to age at 70%-to-75% of the current rate, it would be 80-to-85 years before they reached retirement age. In the meantime, some adjustments might have to be made for extended life spans of existing retirees. However, there's so much more to this than the theoretical rate of aging. As short as peoples' lives are now, they still indulge in substance abuse, smoking, junk food, too much food, no exercise, and other life-shortening practices. These factors may continue to play a role if the underlying rate of aging can be lowered.
If we could lower the rate of aging to 50% of its current value, then changes would be more noticeable. Still, the changes that have occurred during the past half century are dramatic, and they've been accommodated in due course..
The Role of the Omega-3 Fatty Acids in IQ
The fourth major news item is that the human body finds it difficult to synthesize the omega-3 fatty acids, which must be synthesized from linolenic acid.. The average person may get something like one-tenth as much of the omega-3 oils as they should. Now, studies at Oxford University and Northumbria University show that administration of capsules containing fish oils and oil of evening primrose can ameliorate the symptoms of hyperactivity and ADD in school children, while boosting IQs. (Apparently results haven't been published yet in peer-reviewed journals.)
Similar studies at the University of Sheffield, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the National Institutes of Health indicate that fish oils appear to be as effective at treating the symptoms of depression (presumably, clinical depression) as prescription anti-depressants such as Prozac. Is depression vitamin-deficiency disease?
At the same time, as this article shows, the presence of omega-3 oils in breast milk can boost a child's IQ 8 points at the ages of seven or eight! (Note also that research suggests that a dietary intake of ½ to 1 gram of omega-3 fat per day reduces the risk of cardiovascular death in middle age by 40% over the rate of death for those the average daily intake of 0.5 grams of omega-3 fats. Note also that these studies were conducted 20 years ago among, among other institutions, Sheffield University.
Another study, "DHA and possible effects on the IQ of children", published in the journal Pediatrics, found a 4-point gain at 4 years of age. This study entailed the administration of DHA only (docosahexaenoic acid) for a six-month period beginning three months before birth and ending three months after birth, as opposed to extended feeding with breast milk.
Here is a seasoned discussion of maximizing children's IQs. This publication also observes, "A survey of 20 different studies comparing breast to formula feeding by University of Kentucky nutritionist James Anderson concluded that breast-feeding can increase an infant's IQ by up to 5 points"
There are additional benefits to providing omega-3 oils to pregnant women, particularly during the third trimester when foetal brain development peaks.
Combining these results with the preceding gains, one wonders what would happen if a child's diet contained omega-3 oils and other central nervous system nutrients such as choline. How much of a boost in IQ would occur? Research studies usually have restrict themselves to one, or at most two or three experimental variables at a time in order to obtain unambiguous results.
Perhaps the most important message in this is that it possible to permanently raise IQ's with environmentally supplied nutrients. This opens the door to other peri-natal environmental IQ-boosting maneuvers that are independent of a subject's genetic complement.
We're living in interesting times.