Monday, January 3, 2011

Nootropics, Longevity and More: The Year 2010 in Review

Comments or suggestions for the year 2011? Drop a comment!
Comments or suggestions for the year 2011? Drop a comment! (Photo by Altus)

Happy New Year everyone! I hope your holidays went well and you're ready to make 2011 even better than last year. But before we do that, let's take a look at some of the best bits and pieces from 2010.

In January, I finally got a chance to see Aubrey de Grey for the first time. His presentation in Helsinki, Finland was mostly familiar to me already, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Perhaps the most interesting part was when the audience got to ask questions; I thought Aubrey's answers were good, especially given that some of the comments were pretty frustrating (apparently some people think going through their entire family history somehow qualifies as a question). If you want to check out the presentation, the video is still available online through the link above. And in case you want to know more about Aubrey himself, he was also interviewed in Wired.com a while ago.

Nootropics are gaining more and more attention these days. Even 60 minutes ran a segment on students boosting brain power to do better in their studies. Amphetamine derivatives are still the most popular choice – but whoever comes up with an "organic herbal formula" that actually works as well as Adderrall is going to be rich. I also did an experiment with Ashwagandha to see whether it had a nootropic effect. It didn't, at least not the brand I was using.

And then there was the experiment with BioSil, the stuff that is supposed to make your hair and nails stronger. The science seems solid, but as I wrote in my conclusion, the price of the liquid supplement doesn't seem worth it, since orthosilicic acid, the active ingredient, is also present in my favourite beverage.

Speaking of hair, a lot of people have asked for an update on the soy isoflavones + capsaicin experiment, another one of my attempts at finding a magical hair growth formula that will make me filthy rich. The experiment has been going on for six months now, which is longer than the five months that the original study lasted, so perhaps a proper update is indeed due. So far I haven't seen much visible changes, however. I'm now adding various kinds of chili powders and pastes to almost all my foods, but I'm thinking of ordering capsaicin supplements to be sure I'm getting enough to match the study. And I also need another bottle of soy isoflavones.

I've tried a lot of useless supplements and topicals, but last year I came across something that really, actually works: retinoids. I've now been using them for over a year and I can really see the difference. My advice to anyone looking for real results is to forget about all the overpriced skin creams that are really nothing but moisturizers and go for tretinoin instead. Of course, since it actually works it's prescription stuff, so you can't just buy it from the store, you'll have to order it online and hope your package doesn't get confiscated by the customs officers who surely know better what you need than you do. Thank god for regulations!

Probably the longest and most throrough post of last year was about human hibernation and how it might relate to longevity. In addition to a look at the current state of hibernation science, there's also the odd legend of lotska, the art of hibernation allegedly practiced by poor Russian peasants:

At the first fall of snow the whole family gathers round the stove, lies down, ceases to wrestle with the problems of human existence, and quietly goes to sleep. Once a day every one wakes up to eat a piece of hard bread, of which an amount sufficient to last six months has providently been baked in the previous autumn. When the bread has been washed down with a draught of water, everyone goes to sleep again. The members of the family take it in turn to watch and keep the fire alight.

And of course, no post on slowing down metabolism would be complete without Indian fakirs and frozen mountain climbers. Check it out if you have the time, it's fascinating stuff.

While the Russian peasants may have spent most of their winter sleeping to avoid starving, there are also those who can eat as much as they like and still avoid getting fat. Even without any exercise. I'll let other bloggers fight it out over the details of the energy equation and whether a calorie truly is a calorie, but take a look at the BBC documentary in the link to see what I mean. Also check out the comment section, some interesting anecdotes in there.

How is the life extension movement doing these days? Well, the same old (and false) arguments against longer lifespans are still there, but the overall mood is pretty optimistic. Personally, I've noticed that younger people tend to be more open to the possibility of life extension than middle-aged people. Go figure. Meanwhile, the Russians have apparently found the cure for aging, although I haven't heard anything new on SkQ1 since September. But that's okay, because the next fountain of youth is already here.

Long-time readers of this blog probably remember that I did intermittent fasting for over a year. Part of the reason was that I wanted to see if 24-hour fasts could be done – I wanted to be the master of my hunger, so to speak. However, the most important reason were the studies showing positive effects from intermittent fasting without restricting total calories. You know, the whole "cleaning cells from junk through autophagy" thing.

But alas, after going through the studies more carefully, I was disappointed to find out that whenever intermittent fasting increased lifespan in mice, total calories had also been restricted. In effect, intermittent fasting extends lifespan only in conjuction with caloric restriction. Some of the other benefits of fasting may still be valid, to a degree at least, but without potential gains in lifespan, I don't see the point in doing a strict 24/24-hour cycle of fasting and feasting anymore. Besides, I now think that even full-blown calorie restriction would only give me a few extra years. Why? Because humans just can't do CR the same way rodents can. More on this later. Meanwhile, see my updated health regimen.

Of course, there were also several other posts which I didn't mention here; see the archives section in case you missed them. And just so you don't miss anything interesting in the future, remember to subscribe to my feed and to follow me on Twitter, which I use to post stuff (life extension, health, science) I don't have time to blog about in depth. Oh yeah, and tell your friends to do so too!

For summaries of previous years, see these posts:

10 Human Experiments of 2009 – Year in Review
7 Human Experiments of 2008 – Year in Review



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3 kommenttia:

Anonymous January 24, 2011 at 1:13 AM  

Do you know of any good links to resources about matters related to nootropics? Besides PubMed and Google Scholar, I mean.

Thanks

T.W. January 24, 2011 at 1:26 AM  

Same anonymous commenter (actually I also left the last 2 on your last post). So I may as well attach an alias to my name.

What's your take on fish oil i.e. EFAs as a nootropic agent? I personally don't buy into it for this purpose. But have you noticed any difference?

JLL January 24, 2011 at 11:19 AM  

@Anonymous,

Not any good ones, except books on pharmacology. You can find some decent stuff as torrents. But as for websites, pubmed is pretty much the only thing I use.

I'm not a big fan of fish oil these days, but when I did take it, I didn't notice any nootropic effect. I haven't done much research on its claimed cognitive benefits, though.

- JLL

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