Is Biohacking Bad? Ancestral Living Vs. Modern Science: Should We Return To Our Roots?

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Anti-aging, Podcast

My life is a little bit…strange.

As an immersive journalist, self-experimenter and self-professed “biohacker”, I do relatively unconventional things to upgrade my body and brain.

For example, I have this blood glucose monitor installed in my arm. It monitors my blood sugar 24-7. I wear a cognition-enhancing laser light helmet at work during the day and stand naked in front of a giant red light panel while I’m replying to emails. I give myself weekly IVs full of a cocktail of special vitamins. I’ve also had the fat sucked from my back and the marrow from my bones to concentrate my own stem cells and had surgery to have these cells placed into every joint of my body and mainlined into my bloodstream. I have tens of thousands of dollars of advanced medical technologies housed in my basement. You get the idea. I’m not normal.

But as a man who spends much of my life immersed in the modern health and longevity movement, attending anti-aging conferences and researching all the newfangled things people are doing these days to upgrade their bodies, I often survey the landscape of fringe supplements, biohacks, and anti-aging technologies and wonder…

…would our ancestors laugh at us?

When it comes to living a long and healthy life, would their ancestral wisdom beat our modern science, hands down?

After all, despite our modern infatuation with longevity and optimized bodies and brains, we are not strikingly healthier or longer-living than previous generations.

In today's podcast, adapted from my recent TedX Coeur D' Alene talk, I'll tackle this topic in detail.

You'll discover:

-Why modern medicine, for all its marvels, may not be all it's cracked up to be…4:10

  • CDC reports life expectancy has dropped 3 consecutive years.
  • It's a false assertion to assume we'll live significantly longer than previous generations.
  • “Life expectancy” is calculated by insurance and mutual fund companies as number of years after retirement, not after birth.
  • We would be seeing many more 100+-year-olds; not the case.
  • We have a better chance of surviving childhood (disease, etc.) but not necessarily living longer.
  • Our ancestors didn't always live nasty, brutish, short lives.

-Popular current fads to extend human lifespan…7:43

  •  Vampire therapy, parabiosis (young blood)
    • Ancient Greeks considered blood a magic elixir.
    • Pliny the Elder, Homer, wrote about the healing efficacy of others' blood.
    • GDF11, a primary anti-aging protein activated by young blood transfusion, is increased by oxytocin.
  • Stem cells
  • Cryopreservation
    • Modern-day mummification
  •  Metformin
    • Slightly modified version of a compound that was discovered in the French lilac plant (goat's rue).
    • Wired Magazine: Forget the Blood of Teens
    • Adverse side effects:
      • Lactic acidosis
      • Mitochondrial disruption
      • Vitamin B12 deficiency
      • Increase risk for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's
    • Natural alternatives:
  • Rapamycin
    • Inhibits excessive activation of immune cells via MTOR.
    • Upregulation of cellular cleanup mechanisms called autophagy.
    • Increases risk of infectious diseases and diabetes.
    • Natural alternatives:
      • Spermidine
      • Intermittent fasting
  • Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD)

-Supplements and medicines used by our ancestors…19:25

-Natural ways to enhance our vision…22:45

  • Ancestors trained their vision; they didn't look at screens all day
  • Plant compounds known to enhance vision:
    • Zeaxanthin
    • Carotenoids (kale, spinach, bell peppers)
    • Innate ability to “see” in the absence of light or even sight

-Natural hearing enhancement…24:45

  • Hunter-gatherers were better equipped, physically, with their ears; perhaps because of time spent outdoors attuned to the frequencies of nature.
  • Turnip greens, collard greens, parsley, mustard greens, broccoli, etc. shown to decrease the risk of hearing loss
  • Adjusting your diet would be far cheaper and less convenient than what some self-experimenting types are doing (ear implants).

-The natural “sixth sense” within us to navigate to true north…26:42

  • We possess a tiny amount of magnetite in our ethmoid bone (located between the eyes in the nasal cavity).
  • Researchers suggest this built-in compass made hunting, migration, etc. possible.
  • We have perhaps lost this ancestral skill with the advent of road maps, GPS navigation.

-Natural ways to enhance our brains…27:30

-Natural alternatives to things like photobiomodulation, light therapy, PEMF, etc…29:15

  • Greeks engaged in “heliotherapy”; sunbathing akin to what we know as photobiomodulation.
  • St. John's Wort, chamomile, etc. can be used to ward off seasonal affective disorder.

-And Much More!

Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

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4 thoughts on “Is Biohacking Bad? Ancestral Living Vs. Modern Science: Should We Return To Our Roots?

  1. Marcel Sbrollini says:

    Do you know anything about ProLon?

    The first Fasting Mimicking Diet™ developed to provide the beneficial effects of fasting including stem cell-based rejuvenation, optimized metabolic markers, and quick abdominal fat loss.

    It’s obviously not a true fasting protocol (i.e. water & mineral) but they are claiming several cellular benefits.

    Thank you,

    Marcel

    A dedicated advocate of your podcast & other services

    1. I like it. Actually featured it in a recent weekly roundup: https://goo.gl/dM2ifh

  2. Jack Kelsall says:

    This is also why I think copying the diets of our paleo ansestors is silly. They had horrible lif expectancy. Populations of people following plant based/vegan diets (unlike our paleo anscestor) live far longer healthier lives. Look at the more recent ‘bluezones’ for example.

    Humans clearly thrive as herbivours, NOT omnivors. We are not designed to consume animal products. A good break down of this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nS2_Q1NY8nU I think the new documentary gamechangers will be the final nail in the coffin for people who think otherwise.

    Sorry for being so opinionated. Just fustrating to hear so much bad advice out there. I love you Ben, keep up the good work!

  3. Jenny says:

    Hi Ben, I love this article, very informative, thanks. I noticed you’ve mentioned intermittent fasting. I have been researching and reading reviews about intermittent fasting. However longevity is not my concern, I am actually looking to lose weight healthily. Recently I come across this website – https://simplelifeweightloss.blogspot.com/
    The author said she is on IF for 12 years and has been doing well. I would love an opinion if intermittent fasting is a healthy way of losing weight. Thanks.

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