Biohack yourself into a long & healthy life
By Fredrik Ölmqvist
Originally published in the summer issue 2015 of The Outdoor Journal
While summertime trekking in Chamonix, France I meet a group of older (+70) walkers. I’m amazed to see how fit they are, and with such joy they stroll down the mountain on pretty steep trails. Possibly they have ascended with the telecabine but anyway, you need to have strong legs and a good balance also to descend these narrow trails without stumbling. I also want to be strong and healthy when I get older. And walk in the mountains with my friends. But statistally the odds aren’t on my side. More likely one of the typical Scandinavian lifestyle diseases will limit my old days, if I ever get there. So what did I do wrong? Or better: to improve my odds, what can I do now?
In some cultures people have developed a lifestyle that keep them healthy and strong, thus enabling them to live longer and live an active life much longer than most of us. These longevity ”hot-spots” with exceptionally high percentage centenarians per capita are called ’Blue zones’. There are five official Blue Zones in the entire world: Okinawa (Japan), the mountains of Sardinia (Italy), the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica, Loma Linda, California (USA) and the Greek island Ikaria.
Scientists and demographers have studied and determined which healthy traits and life practices they have in common. While the scientists found that good genes make up for 30% of the Blue Zone’s secret formula to longevity, they concluded that the other 70% can be up to us, if you adopt the right lifestyle that is. So what is the right lifestyle? People living in the blue zones have a number of common traits: very little stress, more socializing, strong family ties, a fresh natural plant based diet with lots of beans, very little red meat and daily exercise. Little or no Alcohol, no tobacco, clean air and water, and not eating too much food were other similarities. Living their lives with a sense of purpose was another important factor. A favourable climate with plenty of sunshine is probably also beneficary.
Maintaining the longevity is however another story. The general health statistics have deteriorated in Okinawa since the arrival of US Navy bases in the 50’s and fast food has invaded Sardinia. But Loma Linda in California have maintained their longevity better than the other blue zones. Appearently education is a key factor: the Loma Linda University graduates one of the highest percentages of registered dieticians and nutritionists in the world.
”Bio Hacking” into health
Many people in persuit of longevity have learned from the ’Blue Zone people’, but lifestyle habits aren’t easily transformed. And, even if you’re dedicated some health factors will always be out of control: genetics, environment, work situation and basically everything your body has ever ingested or absorbed. Enter ’The Bio Hacker’, who will make use of cutting edge science and alternative health knowledge in order to turn back the ’body clock’. Bodybuilders experimenting for fast muscle growth is a form of ’Bio Hacking’. Another type is the ones who will take a few extra measures to stay healthy – in the long term. This basically means avoiding the really bad stuff while giving their bodies the best possible treat from a nutritional and toxicologic perspective. The pursuit of longevity is a popular theme among self-proclaimed health connoiseurs and ’gurus’, who many times have built their knowledge on beliefs rather than science. And there are lots of myths to be tested.
Using his body as laboratory in his quest for becoming ’Bulletproof’ and improve his bodychemistry Silicon Valley millionaire and professional ’biohacker’ Dave Asprey used hacking techniques and have ’tried everything on himself’ the past 15 years – a quest that have cost him roughly 300.000 USD. His book ”The Bulletproof Diet” from 2014 is a comprehensive collection of guidelines for optimal health based on cutting edge scientific research and traditional alternative medicine. He includes a wide array of lifestyle choices: from which exercise is the most effective, to 24 ways to improve the sleep quality, and learning hidden knowledges about the mind from buddist monks, but also what to exclude. ”It used to take a lifetime to radically rewire the human body and mind this way, but technology has changed the rules” writes Asprey who’s Bulletproof Diet is an anti-inflammatory eating program designed to emphasize quality of food rather than quantity. It tells you the right amount of food and the right type of food to eat – plus when to eat it and how to cook it without damaging the nutrition, or in worst case: making your food toxic. According to Asprey ”there is no more powerful variable than your diet when you’re trying to control your body to get the outcome you desire. Even exercise pales in comparison. Your diet is the foundation behind not only your weight, but also your IQ, stress levels, risk of disease, physical performance, aging, and even willpower. You are what you eat.”