How to live longer

It would be cool if there was some medication that could lengthen one’s lifespan (while at the same time, keeping the skin plump and rosy)...something like Ponce de Leon’s fountain of youth, maybe spiked with a little telomerase. According to Robbins, however, studies have shown that the most effective way to prolong life is to seriously restrict one’s calorie intake. How boring.

Apparently, the effect of calorie restriction on longevity is mediated by a bunch of proteins called sirtuins. These proteins have histone deacetylase activity, and they stimulate the production of life-lengthening gene products that do things like:

  • increase metabolic activity
  • reduce apoptosis
  • stimulate protein folding
  • decrease free-radical damage

Sirtuins also increase insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism…so they’re being looked at as targets for diabetes treatment. That all sounds great.

However, it also seems that sirtuins may be linked to anxiety. Higher levels of sirtuins seem to make mice more anxious, and some humans with anxiety disorders have been shown to have higher levels of sirtuins (as nicely summarized in this MIT study). The researchers at MIT say that anxiety during periods of low food availability might be an an evolutionary adaption (if you have to forage widely for food, a little extra wariness and caution could save your life).

Hmmm…a long, hungry, anxious life vs. a short, full, happy life. I’ll have to think about that one.