My Plan to Slow Down Aging
Finding inspiration in Jeff Bezos
I’ve never been sure how seriously to take anti-aging research. To learn what I could, I recently picked up David Sinclair’s Lifespan: Why We Age—And Why We Don’t Have To. Given the credentials of the author, I was expecting a sober analysis about how maybe, perhaps, one day, we could live a bit longer.
That’s not what this book is. Sinclair, a professor at Harvard Medical School, all but guarantees the reader immortality. Again and again, he tells you the end of aging is coming. And not only that, it’s coming soon. And not only will we stop aging, but we’re probably going to reverse aging any second now, if we can’t already. In fact, his dad began an anti-aging regimen in his mid-70s when he was at death’s door, at which point the old man “was losing his hearing, and his eyes were starting to go bad. He would tire fast. He repeated himself. He was grumpy. He was hardly a picture of exuberant life.” But then he started taking metformin and NMN. Here’s what happened next:
These days, he runs around like a teenager. Hiking for six days through wind and snow to reach the peak of the highest mountain in Tasmania. Riding three-wheelers through the Aussie bush. Hunting remote waterfalls in the American West. Zip-line touring through the forest in northern Germany. Whitewater rafting in Montana. Ice cave exploring in Austria.
Sinclair clarifies he’s not a doctor and is not giving medical advice. He just wants you to know that a certain number of supplements and drugs work really well, he uses them himself, his dad went from a frail old man to a young James Bond, and basically you’re an idiot if you’re not similarly taking advantage of the fruits of modern science.
Some other examples of Sinclair’s over-the-top optimism:
Once you recognize that there are universal regulators of aging in everything from yeast to roundworms to mice to humans…and once you understand that those regulators can be changed with a molecule such as NMN or a few hours of vigorous exercise or a few less meals…and once you realize that it’s all just one disease…it all becomes clear: Aging is going to be remarkably easy to tackle.
In another generation, we’ll be well accustomed to seeing movie stars in their 60s and 70s riding motorcycles at high speeds, jumping from great heights, and delivering kung fu kicks high into the air. Because 60 will be the new 40. Then 70 will be the new 40. And on it will go.
When will this happen? It’s already happening. It is not fanciful to say that if you are reading these words, you are likely to benefit from this revolution; you will look younger, act younger, and be younger—both physically and mentally. You will live longer, and those extra years will be better.
Yes, it is true that any one technology might lead to a dead end. But there is simply no way that all of them will fail.
Today, many of my colleagues are just as optimistic as I am, even if they don’t admit it publicly…International conferences specifically about longevity interventions are now held every few weeks, the participants not charlatans but renowned scientists from the world’s most prestigious universities and research centers. In these gatherings it is no longer unusual to hear chatter about how raising the average human lifespan by a decade, if not more, will change our world. Mind you, the debate is not about whether this will happen; it is about what we should do when it happens.
In the future, no one will do a double take upon seeing a marathoner in his or her 90s step up to the starting line among a chronologically younger crowd. The truth is that it will be hard to tell how old the veteran runners are.
That will be the case in every other facet of life, too. In our classrooms, where ninety-year-old teachers will stand before seventy-year-old students embarking on a new career, as my father did. In our homes, where great-great-grandparents will play rough-and-tumble games with their great-great-grandchildren. And in our businesses, where older workers will be revered and fought over by employers.
Today I have a hard time understanding how anyone could look at this vast and brilliant army of researchers and not believe that a tremendous change in human aging is coming—and soon.
I have some compassion for those who say “It can’t be done.” They are, in my view, the same kind of people who said vaccines couldn’t work and humans couldn’t fly.
I’m reminded of the CS Lewis argument that you have to admit that Jesus was either a lunatic or the Son of God. It seems that Sinclair is either a complete charlatan, or bringing you the most important and optimistic news of your life.
Something certainly appears to be happening with athletes and celebrities. This photo of a 59-year-old Jeff Bezos has been making the rounds on Twitter.
Buff Jeff Bezos makes Saagar seethe, but I want rich guys to inspire us with their attractive bodies rather than hide their fat bellies under expensive suits. Clothes are undemocratic, which fills me with anger as a democracy defender, while body building requires you to regulate your caloric intake and put in the work no matter how wealthy you are. Bezos is showing us he might have more money, but his muscles burn just like yours do. The only thing I hold against him is he isn’t sharing exactly what he’s doing with the rest of us.
I remember when I was a kid a professional basketball player would go into serious decline around 30; now superstars keep preforming at a high level for an extra 5-10 years. Some of this might be due to better diet, training, and medical procedures, but I’d be shocked if drugs and supplements weren’t involved.
I decided to write a review of Lifespan. While working on it, however, the idea of checking whether Scott Alexander had already published one popped into my head, and of course he did. I wasn’t planning to write much that was too different. Rather than trod the same path, I’ve decided to focus on the practical advice Sinclair gives, and explain how I think about which steps to take in my own life.
Sinclair conveniently spells out exactly what supplements, vitamins, and drugs he takes to stop or reverse aging through bullet point format in the conclusion of his book. I’ve put together this chart based on what he says, and added the estimated costs of each drug or supplement based on my own research.
One thing that stands out to me is that he takes exactly 1 gram each of NMN, resveratrol, and metformin. What are the odds that the three compounds we have discovered that prevent aging all have to be consumed in the exact same dosage to have the desired effect? But let’s just ignore that and assume Sinclair knows what he’s doing here. He doesn’t say how much Vitamin D or Vitamin K2 he takes, so I’m calculating price based on a one-capsule a day regimen from a typical bottle sold at the drug store.
There are some weird variations in pricing, which depend on the claims being made by each supplier. Take resveratrol in pill form. Something called aSquared Nutrition gives you 180 capsules of 500mg each for about $30, which means four bottles will keep you supplied the whole year for $120. The product says it has an 8% potency yield, and that sounds bad. Here’s a seemingly better product I used for my estimate, which comes out to $360/year.
Meanwhile, something called Renue by Science gives you 90 capsules of 125 mg each for $41.95. They recommend only taking 1 capsule a day, and say that they have some proprietary blend that will let your body absorb it better. That comes out to about $170 a year, but you’re taking less of the supplement, and hopefully absorbing more of it.
Meanwhile, I see you can get a powder version of resveratrol for $225/yr. I think I’ll go with Renue by Science, because they have the shiniest bottle, and mixing powder every day sounds very inconvenient.
For NMN, the price difference might make going with the powder over pills worth it. But Elysium gives you an annual subscription of a blend that includes an NAD+ booster for $480. They have a fancy website and the testimonials of many impressive scientists, and I’ll take that to mean at the very least the company is not selling cardboard.
What I’ll Be Doing
I think I’m going with the following combination of supplements:
Aspirin, Vitamin B, and Vitamin K: $150/yr
Elysium blend: $480
Resveratrol from Renue by Science: $170
NMN is expensive, and may be redundant given the Elysium blend, so I’ll not do that for now.
I plan to devote about $800/yr then to anti-aging. Is this a good investment?
I’m 37-years-old now, so let’s say I have 40 years left. If I spend $800 a year, that’s $32,000 over 40 years. Let’s say that there’s a 1 in 5 chance this works, and if it works I can expect one more year of life. That means I’m paying $32,000 for an expected 2.4 months of life, or $160,000 per life-year. That seems definitely worth it.
Having to take like 5 pills a day is pretty inconvenient though. At the same time, the $32,000 cost is likely a massive overestimate, because I expect the prices of all these things to go down in real terms over the decades. And I also think there’s probably better than a 1 in 5 chance all of this works, and I may get more than an extra year out of it. If I was going to give my real guess, I’d say there’s a 50% chance it gives me 2 years of life. That estimate is based on nothing but my feelings, but assuming it’s true makes the decision even easier.
Sinclair also recommends working out, intermittent fasting, less meat and cheese, fewer processed foods, and staying thin. The only way I’ve ever been able to maintain a good weight though has been through eating a lot of meat, including processed foods like bacon, cold cuts, and jerky. Fasting also makes me angry and less productive, so I’m probably going to keep my diet the same even if it is more likely to kill me. Sinclair’s dietary recommendations seem to be completely based on observational studies too, which is a problem.
Sinclair believes extreme temperatures are good, especially coldness. So saunas and ice baths supposedly make sense, but who has time for that? I’ll be more likely to wear t-shirts when it’s cold out though, and he seems to think this is a good thing to do.
In sum, taking pills and spending a bit of money seem worth doing for an uncertain effect. Major lifestyle changes are not, given that I already work out and limit my calories. If you’re currently overweight, though, I would advise not being fat anymore.
If people have other recommendations on how to maximize benefits and minimize costs in the quest to stop aging, please let me know.
HGH, Testosterone, etc.
The one thing Sinclair takes that I can’t buy over the counter is metformin. There are websites that seem to promise it after a quick “consultation.” I plan to look into that and see if it’s as easy as it looks.
I’m also considering going to an anti-aging clinic and seeing what else they can do for me. There appear to be a lot of them in my area. I’m open to treatments that don’t necessarily have any known longevity effect but can improve quality of life.
I’m assuming insurance won’t cover it, and worried about the price. If you have suggestions for a good anti-aging clinic in the Los Angeles area, or if you’re a fan and would like to sponsor my project to live forever, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. We could work something out, where I could perhaps promote whatever you’re doing, or we can just become friends.
If I do end up going to a clinic, I’ll post my biomarkers and provide regular updates through this Substack, to hopefully teach and inspire others. Either way, I plan to write about any changes I see resulting from the new supplements I’ll soon be taking.
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