Living Longer by Art Kunkin, Mr. Life Extension
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia on the internet, has an important overview of life extension science that I would like to introduce to the readers of the Weekly Desert Star..
Life extension science is also known as anti-aging medicine, experimental gerontology and biomedical gerontology. It is the study of the slowing down or reversal of the processes of aging to extend both the maximum and average lifespan.
Some researchers in this area believe that future breakthroughs in tissue rejuvenation with stem cells, molecular repair and organ replacement, perhaps with artificial organs, will eventually enable humans to have indefinite life spans with a healthy, youthful condition. (Personally, for seven years I have been experimenting with regularly eating a “Magic Apple” prepared from a common radioactive mineral as being the key to a lengthened life span of many hundreds of years. Such an apple, I suspect, is the basis for the biblical legend of the apple tree providing longevity in the Garden of Eden).
The sale of anti-aging products featuring nutrition, physical fitness, skin care, hormone replacements, vitamins, supplements and herbs is a lucrative global industry. The U.S. market for these anti-aging products generates about $50 billion of revenue each year.
Medical experts including the American Medical Association state that the use of such products has not been shown to affect the aging process.
However, it has not been shown that the goal of indefinite human life spans is necessarily unfeasible. Some animals such as lobsters do not die of old age.
The longest a human has ever been proven to live is 122 years. This record was established by Jeanne Calment who was born in 1875 and died in 1997. On the other hand, the maximum life span of the mice commonly used in research on aging is about four years.
Genetic differences between humans and mice that may account for these different aging rates include differences in efficiency of DNA repair, types and quantities of antioxidant enzymes, rates of free radical production and rates of occurrence of DNA damage. Telomere limitation of each individual species, the rate at which the protective caps at the ends of DNA molecules are shortened, also may contribute to the differing aging rates of species.
Average life span in a population is lowered by infant and child mortality, frequently linked to infectious diseases or nutrition problems. Later in life, vulnerability to accidents and age-related disease such as cancer play an increasing role in mortality. Extension of life span can often be achieved by access to improved medical care, vaccinations, good diet, exercise and avoidance of hazards such as smoking.
Maximum life span is determined by the rate of aging for a species inherent in its genes and by environmental factors. One widely recognized method for extending maximum life span is calorie restriction.
Much life extension research focuses on nutrition – diets or supplements – as a means to extend life span. The many diets promoted by anti-aging advocates are often contradictory.
The free-radical theory of aging suggests that antioxidant supplements such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Q10, lipoic acid, carnosine and N-acetylcysteine might extend human life. Other substances proposed to extend life span include oxytocin, insulin, human chorionic gonadotropin (hcG) and erythropoietin (EPO). Resveratrol, a stimulant found in red wine, appears to extend life span in simple organisms such as short-lived fish.
Some supplements including the minerals selenium and zinc have been reported to extend the life span of rats and mice. However, no mineral supplements have been proven to do so in humans.
There are many traditional herbs said to increase human life span. These include a Chinese tea called Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphylum) dubbed “China’s immortality herb.” Ayurveda, the traditional Indian system of medicine, describes a class of longevity herbs called rasayanas including Bacopa monnieri, Ocimum sanctum, Curcuma longa, Centella asiatica, Phylanthus embica, Withania somnifera and many others.
The anti-aging industry offers several hormone therapies. Some of these have been criticized for possible dangers to the patient and a lack of proven effect. For example, the American Medical Association has been critical of some anti-aging hormone therapies. (The Wikipedia article we are citing contains numerous specifying footnotes that we can not include here for lack of space).
The evidence for use of growth hormones as an anti-aging therapy is mixed and only based on animal studies, not human.
Some scientific critics dispute the portrayal of aging as a disease. Leonard Hayflick and fellow biogerontologists Jay Olshansky and Bruce Carnes have strongly criticized the anti-aging industry in response to what they see as unscrupulous profiteering from the sale of unproven anti-aging supplements.
Art Kunkin is the 84-year young journalist who founded the alternative weekly newspaper, The Los Angeles Free Press in 1964 and later became president of the Philosophical Research Society of Los Angeles. A free download of a magazine cover story interview with Art about his research into stopping aging is now available at www.alchemyrevealed.com. Art’s eBook, “Life Extension Alchemy: The Secret of Immortality Finally Revealed” is also available at a reduced sale price of $9 at that web site. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Email him about the book he is writing, “The Los Angeles Free Press: Internet of the 60’s.” Copyright 2013 by Art Kunkin. All Rights Reserved. Photo by Michal Alaniz.