How to apply evolutionary biology to extend your lifespan

Here is the actual reason we grow old and die. Are you ready? It’s brutal:

Let’s say there is a 2% chance that any given primitive human will die from external events each year. He might get eaten by a bear, starve to death, have a bad fall and get left behind by his tribe, get clubbed in the head, lost in the woods, etc. We can get the probability of not having been killed by an external event as (chance of being alive)^(age)
For example, at age 10 that is .98^10=81%, age 30 is 54%, 70 is 24%, 100=13%.

For any given unit of energy and nutrition, the genome can either invest in current reproductive potential or preserving the body for future reproductive potential.
For a 10-year-old, his reproductive potential is in the future so the body will invest most resources in self-maintenance.
For a 30 year old, the genome will balance the energy directed to self-maintenance and for preservation for future reproduction.
Since most humans will die by 70 due to an external event, the self-preservation mechanisms will not optimize for either.
The genome just doesn’t “care” at this point, since most of the hosts carrying its instructions are already dead. That’s when (and why) the body begins to rapidly fall apart.

One key mechanism for this process is in the cellular tumor antigen p53, mutations of which cause the majority of cancers in humans. There is a tradeoff between anti-cancer mechanisms and energy expenditure since cell-malfunction detection uses energy. Species which obtain an evolutionary benefit from long lives have much better cancer-prevention mechanisms. That’s why the naked mole rat (which lives in underground colonies) is resistant to all forms of cancer and can live for many decades while mice (which are food for many predators) live for two years.

So, the reason that we die from old age is that your genome expects you to be dead from an external cause after a few decades and does not care about keeping you alive.

Applying this logic, here are some ideas for living longer by manipulating your genes:
 
We can’t change our genome, but we can influence gene expression by manipulating environmental inputs. As previously stated, if your genes think that your reproductive years are in the future, they will allocate more resources to self-maintenance than reproduction.
 
The simplest way for men to do that is with castration: a study of Korean eunuchs showed them to live 14.4- to 19.1-years longer than the lifespan of non-castrated men of comparable social standing.
 
For women, studies show that the later a woman gets her first period, the older she will be when she goes into menopause and the longer she is likely to live. “Early” puberty in girls is caused mainly by excess calorie consumption and is linked to obesity. Furthermore, women stop having periods when their calorie budget does not support a pregnancy – this sends a signal to preserve resources for the future.
 
Doing this voluntarily is known as a calorie-restriction diet. Calorie restriction in ants, mice, fish, flies, worms, and yeast has been proven to dramatically boost their lifespan, and there is now a well-supported body of evidence that periodic fasting and low-calorie diet has anti-aging properties in humans. It works for males and females, perhaps because genes want to preserve the body for the future, and because the genes of starving men assume that the women in their tribe must also be starving.
 
An easier strategy of signaling to your genes that your reproductive potential is in the future is to adopt youthful behaviors. The body does not have an odometer, so the genome must rely on proxies for age, and by acting like youths, we might trigger age protective factors in the genome. Common behaviors of primitive children might be: plenty of sleep, physical play, taking care of small children, lack of stress, and learning new skills.
 
Sources:
Richard Dawkins “The Selfish Gene” for speculation on signaling youthful behavior
https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/78/3/361/4689958
 
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4865110/
 
https://www.newscientist.com/article/2164602-calorie-restriction-may-extend-lifespan-by-changing-your-sleep/
 
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-hunger-gains-extreme-calorie-restriction-diet-shows-anti-aging-results/

 

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