Immortality Potions

“Poisoned potions of immortality caused the death of up to seven Chinese emperors – the last less than three centuries ago.”

-“Death by immortality potion.” The Generalist Academy. May 4, 2021.

It occurs to me that the modern equivalent of the immortality potion is nutritional supplements, which offers extended or healthier life but are more likely to be causing harm. But, the good news is they won’t kill you as quickly as mercury sulfide.

Alpha-ketoglutarate (AKG) and Aging

“AKG is part of the metabolic cycle that our cells use to make energy from food. In addition to its use by bodybuilders, doctors sometimes treat osteoporosis and kidney disease with the supplement.

The molecule grabbed attention as a possible antiaging treatment in 2014, when researchers reported AKG could extend life span by more than 50% in tiny Caenorhabditis elegans worms. That’s on par with a low-calorie diet, which has been shown to promote healthy aging, but is hard for most people to stick with. Other groups later showed life span improvements from AKG in fruit flies.

In the new study, Gordon Lithgow and Brian Kennedy of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and colleagues turned to mammals. They gave groups of 18-month-old mice (about age 55 in human years) the equivalent of 2% of their daily chow as AKG until they died, or for up to 21 months. AKG levels in blood gradually drop with age, and the scientists’ aim was to restore levels to those seen in young animals.

Some differences jumped out within a few months: “They looked much blacker, shinier, and younger” than control mice, says Azar Asadi Shahmirzadi, a postdoc at the Buck Institute who did the experiments as a graduate student. In addition, the AKG-fed mice scored an average of more than 40% better on tests of “frailty,” as measured by 31 physiological attributes including hair color, hearing, walking gait, and grip strength. And female mice lived a median of 8% to 20% longer after AKG treatment began than control mice, the group reports today in Cell Metabolism.”

Jocelyn Kaiser, “Bodybuilding supplement promotes healthy aging and extends life span, at least in mice.” Science. September 1, 2020.

Biohacking: Smart People With Money Being Science-Based and Stupid 

“Over the last 4–5 years, my main hobby has been to get that by hacking my body and mind using a logical, science-based approach…

…People like me will be able to pay for this out of pocket and use off-label prescriptions from private doctors who focus on upgrading and prevention rather than merely healing. Downstream the extra mood, energy, focus, health, willpower and social skills — enhanced over decades — will accrue further and further advantages to people who upgrade themselves, which will lead to a cycle of further concentration of wealth.”

—Serge Faguet, “I’m 32 and spent $200k on biohacking. Became calmer, thinner, extroverted, healthier & happier.hackernoon.com. September 25, 2017.

N of 1 experimentation is valuable. The problem in this case is he is arguing hockey stick, compounding returns when the more likely scenario is that he’s going to give himself some form of chronic illness over the long-term. You’re only 32. Do you believe 40 years of thyroid supplementation isn’t going to lead to a health problem?

There is useful advice in write-ups such as this one. Thinking about sleep hygiene, eliminating sugar from your diet, intermittent fasting, weight-training built around deadlifts and squats, HITT training for cardio, meditation/cognitive therapy are probably all good ideas.

The place it goes off the rails is with medications and supplements. A low dose of 5mg of lithium is probably alright. If you take ~100-150mg as he is, you better have normal kidney function. Magnesium supplementation is also probably a good idea, since most of us aren’t eating big leafy vegetables at the same rate our ancestors did.

I could even get behind the very occasional therapeutic use of psychoactive compounds such as MDMA, psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, etc. If they were used to to augment a program of meditation and periodic hours in an isolation tank.

But hormone therapy? Playing sorcerer’s apprentice with your hormones strikes me as a singularly bad idea.