It almost sounds too good to be true. But the dream of eternal youth as old as humanity seems to be coming true. Researchers are now convinced that a person’s biological clock can be turned back. And, surprisingly, at any age.
Anyone who turns 40 and is on the threshold of a destructive midlife crisis could feel like in the body of a 30-year-old again. Those who are 60 can keep the mental freshness of a 50-year-old. Even people aged 70 to 77 can reduce their mortality with high-intensity interval training (HIIT), as a Norwegian study now shows (https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m3485).
In the study, researchers from the University of Trondheim compared the sporting activities of more than 1,500 people, an average of 72 years old, over a period of five years. Those who were currently completing the HIIT program, which stands for “high intensity interval training”, were superior to the other two groups who did moderate training or normal sport with a significantly low heart rate.
The current efforts of a group of self-optimizers go far beyond improving their sporting activities. The followers of biohacking, a trend originating in US competitive sport, want to turn back the old age clock with their “hacks” that troubles us all.
One of the most prominent biohackers is entrepreneur David Asprey from Silicon Valley. The trained IT freak already weighed 140 kilos as a 26-year-old because, like thousands of other Californian nerds, he ruined his body with a killer combination of pizza, chips and cola. His arteries were as old as his grandfather’s. “I decided to radically change my life, otherwise I would soon have dropped dead,” recalls lifestyle guru Asprey.
It was then that he began to try everything that could rejuvenate his body and brain cells. “First of all, I skip my breakfast and only drink my Bulletproof coffee, an organic coffee with a little ghee and a little MCT oil added,” he explains. The clarified butter – nothing else is ghee – like caffeine suppresses the feeling of hunger. The MTC oil is based on coconut oil and contains saturated fats, caprylic and capric acid. “They help the body to form important fasting substances, the ketone bodies. You dispose of excess cell waste in the morning fasting period, ”Asprey is convinced.
Max Gotzler is a well-known biohacker in Germany. His book “The Daily Biohacker”, which was published in October, promises nothing less than to learn “how you can be more efficient, healthier, more resilient, more balanced and more productive every day in small steps”. If it were that easy. What is it about the promises of the lifestyle gurus?
Well-known age researcher David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School, who has been studying longevity genes for decades, confirms that skipping breakfast or dinner, or intermittent fasting, can rejuvenate us. Because temporary starvation changes our metabolism – instead of sugar we burn fat and thus dispose of useless cell waste. In this cleansing phase, for example, we get rid of inflammatory cells that can cause great damage to our bodies.
“Studies show that intermittent fasting improves blood lipid levels and can lower blood pressure,” confirms the Berlin cardiologist and general practitioner Natascha Hess. “Especially in connection with sport.” In this point, science agrees with the biohackers. Fasting rejuvenates the blood vessels in 95 percent of all cases. “However, anyone who has a genetic lipid metabolism disorder is dependent on medication in addition to lifestyle changes,” admits Hess. Biohackin as a panacea does not work.
Another lifestyle change made by biohackers is improving sleep. To do this, they use watches and fitness bands with apps, so-called wearables, which, among other things, record the sleep phases, or a currently popular ring, the Oura ring. Using small sensors on the inside, the ring measures the sleep phases similar to the fitness bracelets. With the help of an app on the smartphone, you can control how many deep sleep, REM sleep or normal sleep phases you have gone through. REM sleep is the time in which we process the experiences of the day emotionally and put our memories aside.
“Those who have too few deep sleep or REM sleep phases can only insufficiently renew their cells. You age faster ”, knows the Berlin orthopedic surgeon, sports medicine and pain specialist Christopher Topar, who has been testing the Oura ring for a few months. “60 percent of my pain patients report that they sleep poorly. Who sleeps too little, has more pain, ”said the doctor. Knowing which apps, intelligent fitness watches or wearables his patients can use to improve their sleep is part of his holistic claim.
Scientists have found out in recent years how much we are sick from persistent lack of sleep. It’s not just daily exhaustion that we struggle with. Poor sleep increases your risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Headaches and depression also arise when we sleep too badly or not enough.
Not everyone will improve their sleep by wearing a fitness bracelet, watch or ring to track their sleep phases. “Such gadgets help to find out why we sleep badly, why we wake up again and again at night or too early in the morning,” says Topar. For some it would be because they ate a steak too late, others sleep badly after too much alcohol or television. It is also known that reading on a smartphone or tablet through the blue light that these devices emit suppresses the release of the hormone melatonin, which the body normally releases in the evening and is supposed to make us tired. This would also explain why so many children who play games with a computer tablet or computer tablet until evening suffer from difficulty falling asleep.
Another pillar of biohackers for a healthy lifestyle is nutrition. They preach a lot of what nutritionists have been saying for a long time: restraint is advisable with red and processed meat. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified processed meat (sausage, ham pies) as carcinogenic and red meat (beef, pork, lamb) as probably carcinogenic. Scientists say: 70 percent of what is on your plate should come from plants. David Sinclair is convinced that the plate should look colorful with yellow, red or green vegetables that are rich in phytochemicals, the polyphenols. “These substances inhibit the growth of inflammatory and cancer cells,” says the Harvard professor. In terms of nutrition, too, the research confirms what biohackers are now preaching to their followers.
The biohacker scene also uses controversial methods to rejuvenate their bodies. David Asprey, for example, had a transplant made with the body’s own stem cells in all parts of the body, including his genital organs. You can read about his biohacks in the book “Superhuman” (Riva Verlag). This is just as inadvisable as overdoing diet, exercise and sleep control. “Our health should be at the center of our lives, but we shouldn’t be in control of it,” says cardiologist Hess. But she advises many of her patients to do a little self-assessment using apps. “One is often surprised how many calories there are in a ‘small snack’ and that it takes half an hour of exercise to burn them off again.”
Just as important as exercise, nutrition and sleep is a pillar of health that is often overlooked in the 24-hour society that is geared towards performance – namely relaxation. If we were active during the day, the appointment calendar was bursting at the seams or we were under stress, we have to signal to our body in the evening that it can come down. The body’s mode switches from tension to relaxation. The stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol should no longer be released. Only in this way can muscles and nerves relax and the mind calm down.