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Personal Science Week - 02 Feb 2023
Arguments and Counterarguments for the Longevity Blueprint, Slime Mold Time Mold, and more.
Welcome to our weekly Personal Science newsletter, published each Thursday, where we discuss ideas and techniques of interest to anyone who wants to practice Personal Science, using the tools of science for personal rather than professional reasons.
This week we update some previous Personal Science Week posts with new arguments and counter-arguments.
Personal Science is published free each Thursday for anyone who wants to apply the principles of science for personal, rather than professional reasons.
More on the Longevity “Blueprint”
We wrote about Bryan Johnson’s Longevity Blueprint back in Personal Science Week - 30 Jun 2022. This is the guy now featured in a Bloomberg profile spending millions to monitor and improve his health using top-of-the-line tech and diagnostic equipment. It’s classic Personal Science: rigorously apply quantitative, testable ideas to a single person with “skin the game”. But despite Johnson’s intent to be radically transparent with his numbers, I’ve been disappointed that he hasn’t updated his site since we first wrote about them, making it hard to tell exactly how he’s progressing.
At first glance, the results look impressive: a “world record” 5-year reduction in his epigenetic age and a nearly 1/4th reduction in his “rate of aging”. (Sorry: I should be more precise: 5.1 years, 24% reduction — all of his numbers are much more sciencey than I make it sound). But when UK Scientist Andrew Steele took a closer look, he noticed the picture is more nuanced. In a 16-minute video, Steele notices that Johnson’s “improvement” is either on metrics that have high variability from test-to-test, or on those that probably just reflect that an increased consumption of supplements that contain the measure. As one YouTuber quipped “By waxing off all of my body hair I have the biological equivalent amount as a baby … where can I apply for my world record?”
I think it’s wonderful to have another example of applied Personal Science to somebody who’s obviously committed. But as always, it’s important to take seriously our motto: nullius in verba — take nobody’s word for it. Science is a verb, not a noun — you have to remain skeptical and accept that answers are never final.
PS: if you like Blueprint, see Michael Lustgarten’s site for even more extensive longevity optimization tracking. As an MD whose day job includes research relevant to longevity, Dr. Lustgarten has more technical detail and actionable tips, and he’s been watching this space for more than a decade.
Obesity causes and counter-arguments
Slime Mold Time Mold (SMTM) by an anonymous-pseudonymous person/people, is a wonderful source of fascinating hypotheses and data-driven speculation about many Personal Science topics. Most intriguingly, in 2021 they promoted the idea of A Chemical Hunger, a theory that America’s obesity epidemic is caused by some kind of toxic environmental contamination, which they speculate is linked to lithium. You’ll need to wade through their hundreds of pages of well-documented research to understand the case, but happily they were able to sign up dozens of people to participate in an informal trial of one of their most eyebrow-raising suggestions: that an all-potato diet might cause dramatic weight loss without hunger. Conclusion: it works, sort of.
One of the key pieces of evidence cited by SMTM is one you may have seen elsewhere: obesity rates have been going up everywhere, including in laboratory animals (!). A highly-cited study (Klimentidis et al. (2010)) looked through dozens of laboratory studies since the 1940s and showed, incredibly, that even under carefully-monitored conditions, mice, cats, dogs — you name the animal — have been getting steadily more obese. They even showed, based on much more limited evidence, that this is true for wild animals — around the world!
But now an articulate researcher named Natália Coelho Mendonça has challenged this result, pointing out that the data cited has never been replicated. Using a few, admittedly back-of-the-envelope sanity checks, she shows that this laboratory animal obesity claim begs many more questions and wonders why nobody’s replicated the original results. In particular, it looks like the Klimentidis data doesn’t properly account for laboratory standards for measuring animal ages — an effect that appears to explain the entire difference.
All of the posts and documents I’ve cited above are lengthy and full of numbers and references that I don’t have time to study enough to form my own conclusions. But besides being a reminder that we should always be skeptical about new provocative claims, these posts are an inspiration for how “normal” people can do interesting independent science without it being a profession.
Long-time readers will remember our newsletter discussions of the COVID and other antibody studies from Serimmune (most recently in 19 Jan 2023). I’ve written a more detailed overview, including my latest results in NEO.LIFE, where I ask the question “Will COVID-19 Get Me or Not?”
A 2022 study of nearly 6 Million Swedish medical records showed, curiously, that doctors and their family members are less likely to follow medical guidelines than the general public. The people who seem to know and care the most are often more skeptical about official guidelines.
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