Longevity Meme Newsletter, June 30 2003

June 30 2003

The Longevity Meme Newsletter is a biweekly e-mail containing news, opinions and happenings for people interested in healthy life extension: making use of diet, lifestyle choices, technology and proven medical advances to live healthy, longer lives.



This newsletter has garnered a fair few new readers since I last discussed practical ways of extending your healthy lifespan using presently available techniques. The past few months have largely seen me talking about:

a) Activism in support of medical research, and
b) Legislation that blocks or will block important medical research

These have been at the top of my mind over topics such as supplements and calorie restriction. So for the benefit of the new folks, here is the Longevity Meme take on healthy life extension in three easy steps.

1) Stop Damaging Your Long-Term Health

Smoking, junk food day in and day out, obesity through overeating, and not having a good relationship with a good physician: all these things will hurt you far more than current healthy life extension techniques can compensate for. The most important of these is finding and making good use of a good physician. Get regular checkups and listen to what you physician has to say about your health.

2) Adopt a Better Diet and Lifestyle

After you've sorted out the most pressing problems from step (1), you can look at how to really work on a longer, healthier life.

Adopt a calorie restriction diet. Calorie restriction is currently the only scientifically proven way of extending healthy life in mammals. It has a number of other beneficial effects on health, and is highly praised by practitioners. You can find out more about calorie restriction at the CR Society website:


Take a modest amount of supplements appropriate to your age and health. There is a wealth of supplement information available, but most of it is worthless, propagated by irresponsible sellers. This is perhaps the hardest topic to research, and in the end you will have to make a number of decisions yourself. A good starting point is to become a member of the Life Extension Foundation. Membership benefits include a wealth of very useful and fairly independent information on supplements, physicians and healthy life extension delivered to your door.


Exercise as recommended by your physician. The benefits of a modest level of exercise for most people have been well known for long, long time.

Living a longer, healthier life is really just common sense: calorie restriction, supplements in moderation and modest exercise.

3) Support and Advocate Medical Research

The previous steps will only help you to live a healthier, longer natural lifespan – still a valuable increase over the alternative. However, you will be just as dead and buried two centuries years from now. The future of healthy life extension, of the defeat of aging, of living for as long as you want: this will come from the medicine of tomorrow rather than the techniques of today.

Speaking out in favor of medical research is just as important as practicing present day healthy life extension. The medicine of the near future holds great promise, a promise that can only be realized if research and development is adequately funded. The fields of aging, anti-aging and regenerative medicine are currently very poorly funded. Politicians and bioethicists oppose the most promising medical research. If we do not speak up to defend our future health and longevity, then medical research and investment will decline. By failing to speak out against legislation that slows or criminalizes vital medical research, we hurt ourselves.

Do you want to live a longer, healthier life? Then you have to stand up and say so!

As you may have noticed, step (3) returns us to the topic of advocacy and legislation. I believe that this is an essential part of any personal healthy life extension strategy. If you want to live a long, long time in good health, then you must work towards the medicine of the future.

For a longer and more useful version of his commentary, see the "Start Here" section of the Longevity Meme:



That's all for my commentary this time: a news roundup for the past two weeks follows below.


Have comments for us, or want to discuss the newsletter?


Founder, Longevity Meme



Exploring The Genetic Roots of Longevity (June 29 2003)
From EurekAlert, news of more good research work on the genetic underpinnings of the aging process. This whole process is much like unraveling a ball of tangled yarn. Scientists know some of the basic mutations that extend lifespan, and now they are much closer to understanding how these mutations actually work. This latest set of results was for the humble roundworm, but is still very applicable to further research in humans. It is very exciting to see our understanding of the mechanisms of aging advancing in such leaps and bounds in a few short years!

More on Link Between Cancer and Aging (June 27 2003)
Here is a much more comprehensible article (at the LEF News) on the recent research on the fundamental links between cancer and aging. It certainly raises some interesting questions. It looks more and more likely that defeating cancer will be a prerequisite for creating healthy life extension medicine that blocks the biochemical processes of aging. Fortunately, as regular readers will already know, cancer is on the way out as a threat. There are currently many viable cures in development or trial around the world.

"A Small Window of Opportunity" (June 27 2003)
Some more clear, concise commentary on current and pending anti-research legislation in the US and abroad is over at BioMed Central. They take the glass half-full view in seeing that there is opportunity for research amid the slow turning of legislative screws. But still, one can't help but look at the sum total of all the obstacles thrown up by politicians and wonder why they don't want better medicine and longer, healthier lives. Visit our "Take Action!" section to see how you can help make things better.

Life Extension By Dealing With Heart Disease (June 26 2003)
Every now and again, someone points out the enormous benefits to healthy life span that can be attained by universally preventing the most common fatal illnesses of aging. Here is one from the New Scientist: researchers estimate one or two decades of additional healthy life could be gained by having everyone over 55 take a daily pill containing the most effective drugs to prevent stroke and heart attack. The prevelance of these sorts of violent heart problems are quite possibly a consequence of poor diet, however. A person on a calorie restriction diet might gain the benefits offered by the drugs in any case. Still, food for thought.

BIO 2003 Again (June 26 2003)
Another update from BIO 2003 is at Reason Online. This one largely focuses on bioethics and (bad, overly restrictive) legislation. It's all interesting, but scroll down to the "Stem Cells and Cloning" heading for items of interest to the healthy life extension community. As I have long been saying, vital work on regenerative medicine is in danger of being shut down in the US. It has already been greatly damaged by legislation passed in 2001, and further legislation will be further delays before better medicine reaches us all.

Canada Moves Ahead With Stem Cell Research (June 25 2003)
BioMed Central notes that the Canadian Institutes of Health Research are pushing ahead with funding stem cell research. This has been delayed for three years due to legislative back and forth; yet another example of politicians holding up vital medical research and thereby damaging the prospects of future health and longevity. From the article: "Public opinion polling has consistently shown 60 to 70% support for unrestricted stem cell research."

Rapid Regeneration From Stem Cells In Mice (June 24 2003)
(From Betterhumans). Researchers have triggered rapid organ regeneration in mice using adult stem cells taken from bone marrow. This is indeed "very, very cool" as one of the researchers puts it. A quote from the article: "We were unaware that an adult mammal of any kind was capable of regenerating organs that fast." This raises further questions and opportunities for investigation in this rapidly evolving field of medical research. We have to hope that recent demonstrations of the utility and promise of stem cell therapies convince the US Senate not to ban this research. You voice counts, so make yourself heard!

Genetic Link Between Cancer and Aging Identified (June 24 2003)
EurekAlert reports an important discovery in the fight against both cancer and aging. The article is a little heavy on the scientific language, but the digest would appear to be that this is a large step forward in understanding the fundamental links between the processes that cause cancer and the processes that regulate aging. The more researchers understand of the grant scheme of cellular biochemistry, the closer we will be to cures for cancer and aging.

BIO 2003 (June 23 2003)
Ronald Bailey is reporting on the BIO 2003 conference over at Reason Online. Most of this first report is on GMOs, but there is a fair amount on stem cells, biotech medicine and the disappointing legislation of same. The anti-GMO and anti-medicine crowds seem to be two sides of the same anti-progress coin. It's sad to see so much energy expended by people bent on ensuring that we don't have better medicine, that science doesn't help the poor and hungry, that we don't live longer, healthier lives. Remember to speak out if you want your voice to be heard.

Stem Cells: The Potential To Cure All (June 23 2003)
A new section at InfoAging provides a comprehensive, readable introduction and overview of the future of stem cell medicine. Here are replacement organs grown to order from your own cells, cures for degenerative diseases of aging, and a call for the US government to stop blocking research. Also included are links to good resources for further reading. If you've been wondering what the big deal about stem cells is, go and take a look at this article.

Take Care With Weight Loss Strategies (June 22 2003)
Losing that excess weight is widely agreed to be a good strategy for improving your general health and lengthening your life (by reducing your risk of early onset of many aging conditions). As this MSNBC article points out, however, the weight loss industry is rife with deceptive practices, scams and misinformation. Always, always do your research carefully before adopting a weight loss strategy. While you're researching, you should take a look at calorie restriction diets as an option. It's the only proven, available way to extend your healthy lifespan at this time.

Regenerative Medicine For Broken Bones (June 20 2003)
(From the New Scientist). Work on repairing shattered bones is where to look if you want to see the cutting edge merger between developing replacement body parts and biotechnology. The new work described in this article creates scaffolds in a 3-D printer (or fabricator) that can be implanted into the body. Advanced materials science means that these artificial bone fragments can be shaped as needed, are strong enough for use and are slowly replaced with real bone as the body heals. As usual, this wonderful, promising regenerative medicine is years away from human trials due to the onerous requirements of the FDA.

More on FDA Blocking Lifesaving Stem Cell Therapy (June 20 2003)
Betterhumans is carrying more on the recent hard-line move by the FDA to block a successful stem cell therapy from being carried out again. It is worth noting that it takes five to ten years and tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars for any procedure to pass through FDA testing; an enormous waste of time and effort on inefficient bureaucracy. This slow-down bodes ill for the rapid development and wide availability of real regenerative medicine in the US.

Longevity Section at MSNBC (June 19 2003)
I noticed today that MSNBC has a longevity section in amongst the health news part of the site. This is good to know; seeing the mainstream press paying more attention to longevity, life extension and aging studies is very gratifying. The more that this area is drawn into public debate and the mainstream media, the better. This is an important part of the process of legitimizing research and obtaining greater support for real, meaningful anti-aging medicine.

Summary: Low-Fat Vrs Low-Carb Diets (June 19 2003)
From Veritas Medicine, a good summary of the recent back and forth over Atkins vrs other diets (such as calorie restriction or more traditional low-fat approaches to dieting). While this is written from the point of view of diabetes patients, the conclusions are applicable to most of the rest of us also. The conclusion to listen to, I think, is that low-calorie diets (like calorie restriction) are the way to go. Although, like the author of this article, I too know of a few people who have had good results from low-carb diets.

Stay Mentally Fit As Well As Physically Active (June 18 2003)
From Yahoo!, another study adds to the value of keeping mentally fit. "Use it or lose it" appears to be the order of the day for our mental as well as physical fitness as we age. This is all good, commonsense health advice, to go with the occasional pieces posted here regarding general physical health. So exercise your mind today, and you'll be helping to ward off the onset of age-related dementia tomorrow. As usual, we should still be cheering on and supporting the medical research that will lead to a cure for these horrible degenerative conditions of aging. Merely practicing preventative techniques is certainly not good enough for those of us who want to live long, long, healthy lives!

Aging Never Gets Old (June 18 2003)
There are some colorful characters in the field of aging studies. Here, The Times profiles Dr. Denham Harman, who first developed the free radical theory of aging. His views are interesting, to say the least, especially since he thinks life expectancy will not increase much past 85 years! Of course, I and many scientists differ with Dr. Harman on that count, but I can't fault his dedication to his work. It's an interesting article, well worth reading.

Stem Cells Fix Neurological Damage (June 17 2003)
An article from Betterhumans covers recent work that demonstrates stem cells to be effective at repairing neurological damage. In light of recent very successful trials involving direct injection of stem cells into patients with heart damage, this new finding is not unexpected. Of course, the FDA stepped in to stop the successful heart trials, with no real reason beyond the fact that they can. Unless something changes there, you and I are unlikely to see the benefits of this research any time soon.

AMA Endorses Theraputic Cloning Research (June 17 2003)
(From CNN). The American Medical Association has stepped up to the plate to endorse theraputic cloning and stem cell research. This is an important event in the ongoing political fight over medical research. In addition to taking a pro-science stance, the AMA is backing a future in which real anti-aging, regenerative medicine will be widely available. Every major group that takes this position will make it harder for the anti-research forces in the halls of power to legislate against medicine.

Back and Forth on Vitamin E (June 16 2003)
Supplements, supplements, supplements. Here's a good summary of recent exchanges between parts of the scientific and supplement communities on vitamin E, from the LEF News. Up front, I'll say that modest supplementation is undeniably good for you. This article highlights two things: 1) don't base your own healthy life extension strategies on recent news, 2) the supplement industry as a whole generates far more noise than useful information. Meaningful future longevity will come from regenerative medicine, while supplements are an important way to maintain your health now.

FDA Blocks Successful Stem Cell Therapy (June 16 2003)
Disappointing, frustrating news from Detroit News. The FDA is blocking further use of a successful stem cell therapy for heart damage. There are 400 people waiting to try this new therapy after it likely saved the life of a teenage accident victim, and as the article says: "About 100,000 to 200,000 people a year could benefit from this." Once again, people in the US government have shown themselves to be anti-research and disinterested in the future health and wellfare of people like you and I. This attitude, displayed so flagrantly over the past few years, is a real problem. Legislation and short-sighted politics threatens to hold back real progress in medical science.


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