Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Aubrey de Grey – [poor nutrition takes a big toll on your lifespan, but excellent nutrition only adds small benefit compared to an average one]

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

The quote is from this video:

As always, keep track of the context. This is just a quote from a longer conversation, by a scientist working one specific angle in the longevity battle.

I absolutely endorse the idea that we need to do the best we can for the population to get them to an average level of nutrition. But I think the critical thing to understand is “average”.

If you ask about the difference in terms of health expectancy and life expectancy between the middle 10% of the population and the bottom 10% – that’s a large difference. That’s something Bruce is trying to do something about: if the poor won’t eat fruit, that then we give them multivitamins and so on.

But if you look at the opposite end of the spectrum, at the difference between the middle 10% and the top 10% in terms of health expectancy and life expectancy, it’s basically nil. Of course, I’m factoring out the genetics here; I’m talking about the things that we can modify.

That’s really important to remember. Because it’s so easy, from the popular press and so on, to get the impression that if you just do what your mother told you to do really well, you know if you get a really good diet a lot of exercising and you never drink anything and you never smoke – then you’re actually going to live 20 years longer than you otherwise would. Well in fact, the message of all of the data we have, epidemiological or anything – is that it’s probably closer to 2 years, if that.

An example I’d like to give is a very simple one: looking at national life expectancies. People laugh at the USA a great deal because of the fact that it sits and something like number 45 in the table of longevity among the industrialized world, despite the fact that you guys spend far more per head on the medical care than anybody else. But if you look at the absolute numbers, and you look at the actual difference in number of years of the live expectancy between the USA and the number one big country namely Japan, it’s only 4 years.


Fluoride in water, food, dental products

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

Schedule VI
Somewhat significant

Estimated life impact: 1-5 years
Evidence level: Moderate


Don’t drink fluoridated water (and/or mineral water containing fluoride, as well as water from deep wells). Filter out your water from fluorine if you can. Never give fluorine toothpaste to kids, they will swallow small amounts and that is dangerous. If you can manage, minimize other fluoride-rich products like heavily processed foods, some juices, etc. (But mostly fluoridated water is the most dangerous one.)

Try to minimize fluorine in your own toothpaste, but it’s not as critical as ingesting.

The danger is not acutely life threatening, but there is research that shows statistically significant effects of decreasing IQ in children, cancer and other really serious health problems, so the issue is worth your time researching. Even the rumors of accumulation of fluoride in the pineal gland do have some scientific backing.

How trustworthy is this research?

This topic is somewhat controversial, but there is a lot of research that is hard to ignore that shows negative effects of ingesting high amounts of fluorine. “High” is always a relative word and everything can be poison in high enough doses, but the research shows that it’s easy to get to dangerous doses of fluorine during regular life, from fluoridated water, processed food made with fluoridated water, swallowing small amounts of fluorine toothpaste, etc. (more…)

Balanced diet (if you don’t know for sure what would be better)

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

Schedule I
Critically Important

Estimated life impact: 3-5 years
Evidence level: Overwhelming

There are a lot of different diets and belief systems about nutrition out there. So much that it is more appropriate to talk about oversaturation of information, than lack of it. This is partly because we know so much more about nutrition now than we did even just decades ago. What is lacking however – is reliability of this information. Nowadays it’s very hard to check the information. It’s not only hard for an average person to judge it, but it is also harder for scientists and experts. They will usually not talk about this, but they have much less reliable information nowadays, compared to the total amount of information.

In part, this is of course because nowadays we are trying to make diets which are very effective and healthy, much more so than we had a possibility to even dream about before.

But in any case, what this situation means for us is that it is much more risky to just take some diet and blindly believe it. It doesn’t matter if your favorite TV person uses it, or if you have a friend who has been using it and had great results. You don’t actually know what those results will translate to health-wise for that person in 10 years, nor whether the person actually has a specific gene deficiency, or otherwise a certain specificity of his organism, which means that the diet works for him, but not necessarily for you. Actually, more and more research shows that the human specificity actually plays a much more important role in what food this person needs, than we thought earlier.

So there are a lot of issues within the nutrition research, a lot of discussions, a lot of different opinions, but what does this all amount to?

For me, some logical conclusions are these:

Nutrition requires a lot of personal research

It is a practically challenging task to find out proper information about nutrition, given the amount of difficulties within researching it, publishing it, bias of different authors, psychological issues linked to it, etc. etc.

Certain specific diets can have a negative effect, either because they are simply poorly constructed (which is hard for society to establish quickly), inapplicable to you personally, but sometimes also because you haven’t researched them completely yet and will not follow them properly.

Even if certain diets would be good for you if you actually followed them – that requires that you dive into them and study all the intricacies of them. If you just hear the basics and try to implement on your own, the chances are that you will miss something.

The more restrictive a diet is, the more the chance of missing an important nutrient.

This is why the very first step, the first framework to have while figuring out your nutrition is to stay away from hardcore restrictive diets. At least until you have a very specific knowledge about that diet, you have established that it will work for you personally, and you are prepared to spend time and energy on actually following the diet completely. (For some of them this must mean drastically changing your lifestyle or at least eating habits. Are you truly prepared to do that? Or will you be slacking off and missing important components?). Instead, you should start off with a basic balanced diet which is more likely to at least include all the nutrients that you need, even if it would technically mean that you will get some of the bad stuff into you as well.

The general consensus seems to be that our body is much better at dealing with stuff it does not really want, and with weird combinations of things, than with completely missing nutrients. We have a huge number of cleaning mechanisms in us (they sometimes do require to be let to function properly though), but we don’t have any mechanisms for creating new minerals or other compounds out of nothing.

Since mineral deficiencies play a big role in nutrition-related diseases, it’s better to stay on the safe side and eat large amounts of as many minerals as possible.

Mineral deficiencies are increasingly quoted by trustworthy scientists as the principal issues with nutrition nowadays. The reasons for those deficiencies are important too, of course, and the origin of a problem does not always exclusively lie in the nutrition, but in any case, the nutrition can be used to mitigate the problem. It’s not always easy to diagnose without proper testing, and there is a great number of different minerals that can cause trouble, so until you have tested yourself and properly figured this out, the chances are that you are deficient in some minerals and you do now know which ones.

Additionally, when the mineral balance in your system is in poor condition, it also affects the body’s ability to even extract the minerals from food.

In this environment, it seems to be safest to just make sure that you eat balanced food with a lot of different nutrients, and try to cover all of the possible needs of different deficiencies. Of course, if you have specific knowledge of what you lack, you should work on that instead. This is just a first phase solution before you have figured it out.

Your dormant psychological issues might use food as pressure valves and blindly removing those can lead to adverse negative effects.

It should not be a secret that many of eating disorders, even very mild ones have their roots in psychological issues. Many of us have learned to deal with the pain that they otherwise cannot take out through certain kinds of foods, be it sugar, meat, pastries, etc. etc. Sometimes even alcohol. The food affects the state of the mind, many times dulling it down so that the pain is not felt as acutely.

Is this really a reason to eat food that is bad for your body? Well yes and no.

Of course if you have a choice right now of just dealing with your pain, without causing yourself too much stress, and just learning to live your life happily – so that you will not have to dull yourself with bad food – you should do that.

But realistically, at this early stage (this being a Schedule I article) you most likely are not even aware of how you use food to dull the pain, and what deep issues this is related to. If you would just remove some foods that you really love at this point, the deep issues could come to the surface. This might lead to you starting to abuse something more dangerous, or change your behavior or your personality, which could affect your work life, your relationships, etc. Even if those issues would simply make you more stressed (because instead of dulling the pain you are now living with it, still not knowing how to deal with it properly) – that would mean that instead of eating a snickers once a week you now live in constant stress. That is actually not good for your body either. It could actually be worse!

An interesting insight is that studies show that the people who drink alcohol rarely (once a month) actually live longer than people who do not drink at all (people drinking often are worse off than both of those). Aside from all the possible biases in such broad studies, it seems like a very common sense thing to me that the benefits from being able to relax far outweigh the damage that is being done to the body from drinking alcohol once a month. It should be the same with food. (Until you know better and can support a better diet.)

Obviously, if you have any hardcore issues (like you are eating candy all day every day) – you should definitely focus on that first. But that wouldn’t really be called a “balanced diet”.

And of course, when you deal with your issues you should be switching your diet from “bad” things as well. But removing them blindly, without dealing with the whole problem, and creating huge unbalance and stress – that just doesn’t seem smart in the long run.


More specifically, it seems that in the beginning, before acquiring proper knowledge one should abstain from:

100% vegetarian diet. There seems to be ways to get everything you need from non-meat products, but those ways are complex. You need to figure this out first, and make sure that you will follow them.

100% vegan diet. Same thinking here, but this is even more extreme. The chances that you will not know how to get all the nutrients you need is much higher.

More generally, completely eliminating a certain macronutrient or a type of food. The more strict the diet – the more careful you should be with it, (because most likely the drawbacks will outweigh the benefits), and the more research you should do first before committing to it.

Biofeedback. Heart Rate Variability training (HRV), cheap brain wave reading/ EEG devices etc.

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

Schedule VIII

Estimated life impact: ? years
Evidence level: Limited

The basic premise is that a lot of human health is based on our own (cognitive, physiological, etc) performance: how well can we handle stress, how well are we able to stay relaxed in difficult situations, how can we choose our own emotions and feelings etc.

It seems pretty obvious that a lot of that performance is actually learned (as opposed to being just readily present at birth). One can learn to control own emotions, stress levels, reactions, physical performance etc. It might not be learned in a sense of “I read and thought about it”, but more often in the sense of “I’ve practiced the skill and my body now does this better automatically”. And whenever we talk about a learn-able skill – there are of course issues with how fast one can learn certain things. What methods are better/worse for learning certain skills (even for just identifying which skills in which situations could be beneficial).

muse-headband-reads-your-brain-waves-wants-to-make-you-feel-better-when-you-re-stressed-463420-2Biofeedback is an attempt of the contemporary science to build devices which help to learn the cognitive and stress-coping skills faster.

There is some evidence that this works, and to many of you it might be simply interesting to experiment with, but it’s too early to talk about applicability of this approach for most people, since it’s clear that they would benefit a lot more from working on other more urgent areas of their life first. That’s why biofeedback has received such a late schedule in our analysis, even though it’s potential looks extremely optimistic.


Two technologies are prominently used: heart rate monitoring and EEG (reading brain waves off the surface of the head).

Heart rate monitoring basically comes down to measuring “Heart Rate Variability” (HRV), which is a measure of how the rate of heartbeats varies in time. It has been shown that HRV is tightly connected to the functionality of the nervous system and is a good indicator of the stress level. Higher HRV values mean better state of the body, better performance. Lower HRV means too much stress, fatigue, bad conditions.

Another parameter that is sometimes measured is Coherence. Simply put, coherence measures how similar the form of the wave of each beat is. The higher the coherence – the better. The waveform of each heartbeat is very tightly linked to the level of balance between your sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system.

In general, HRV and Coherence parameters will be very linked and will both similarly indicate the acute state of well-being of your physiology.


EEG monitoring technology is used to teach subjects to reach certain “baseline” states which has been shown to have beneficial properties (like meditation). These states have been shown to have specific brain wave patterns, as compared to other less performing states.

Available devices

(Raw research report)

In this report we have tried to find consumer-based devices which would be available to a somewhat acceptable price and could be normally used in domestic, non-laboratory environments.


Sleep quality (complete darkness, duration, time of day)

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

Schedule III

Estimated life impact: 3-10 years
Evidence level: Moderate

Last update: 2019-04


Our body needs sufficient sleep to be able to fully rebuild itself from the various physical and psychological stress factors which are affecting us during the waking hours. The amount of sleep needed can vary substantially from person to person, but all humans need some of it.

Quality and function of sleep is a complex matter. There are likely many internal and external factors affecting it. However, sleep is also a very natural process, effects of which are hard to misjudge (much harder than effects of nutrition, for example), but could be hard to notice, and so one of the best ways to evaluate your own personal sleep needs is to just go by how you are feeling before and after the sleep, after trying different kinds of it and seeing how much sleep seems required. If you feel more rested after less hours of sleep of certain quality (in total darkness for instance), that is a high quality sleep for you in your current life circumstances. Such evaluation ability requires developing the natural sensitivity and personal experimentation.

Many studies measure specific hormones like melatonin or cortisol (the main idea being that bad sleep decreases melatonin and increases cortisol, ie the most notorious stress hormone), in order to measure the quality of sleep. Since sleep is very complex, such findings might be a bit simplistic, and need to be taken with caution, but still provide valuable information.

As suggested by common sense, and also seen in conclusions of many research papers on the matter, it’s the overall general sleep pattern that matters – not individual nights or sleep habits during shorter periods of time. Even if you don’t sleep for days sometimes or sleep for 4 hours each day for several weeks – that is not likely to change your fate a lot, assuming that you have an overall proper pattern to back it up with. But longer continuous periods of bad sleep, like sleeping with lights on every day for years – might change your life A LOT. Having regular episodes of quality sleep is of crucial importance, while making sure that EVERY instance of sleep is of high quality is not essential. (more…)

Test the overall inflammation level of your body: C-Reactive protein blood test

Friday, May 13th, 2016

crpA great number of health books, websites, gurus and guides talk about the inflammation level of the body. The premise of it is that besides local inflammation which happens on-site of a physical injure, there is a more broad, full-body phenomenon of general inflammation, and that eating specific foods can actually affect that general level of inflammation. Some foods are supposed to be good for you and decrease inflammation, others may cause specific allergic reactions, thus increasing the inflammation acutely, and yet other foods which are just generally bad, will increase the inflammation slightly, but continuous consumption of those foods will result in your general inflammation level being chronically higher than it is supposed to be.

Even though many of those sources make blatant claims about foods having inflammatory effects without citing proofs, the phenomenon itself appears to be real, having a lot of scientific proof. It also appears to have a significantly negative effect on your body, and so watching your inflammation level is a very useful, objective and easy way to guide your diet choices in the right direction.

What makes it so objective and practical is the existence of a general inflammation level- test, which is called C-Reactive protein test.

Quoting Wikipedia, (since the page appears to have an established history, lot’s of sources and generally seems to be based on solid science):

C-reactive protein (CRP) is a protein found in blood plasma, whose levels rise in response to inflammation. CRP is synthesized by the liver in response to factors released by macrophages and fat cells (adipocytes).

CRP rises within two hours of the onset of inflammation, up to a 50,000-fold, and peaks at 48 hours. Its half-life of 18 hours is constant, and therefore its level is determined by the rate of production and hence the severity of the precipitating cause. CRP is thus a screen for inflammation.

CRP is used mainly as a marker of inflammation. Apart from liver failure, there are few known factors that interfere with CRP production.

CRP is a more sensitive and accurate reflection of the acute phase response than the ESR (Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate). ESR may be normal while CRP is elevated. CRP returns to normal more quickly than ESR in response to therapy.

That page even mentions a direct link between levels of CRP and risk of CVDs, thus implying that the scientific connection between the two has been widely established. “The risk of developing cardiovascular disease is quantified as follows: …”

“Recent research suggests that patients with elevated basal levels of CRP are at an increased risk of diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease”

“To clarify whether CRP is a bystander or active participant in atherogenesis, a 2008 study compared people with various genetic CRP variants. Those with a high CRP due to genetic variation had no increased risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those with a normal or low CRP.

“Since many things can cause elevated CRP, this is not a very specific prognostic indicator.”

It appears that while a CRP tests for a global level of this protein, and thus the phenomenon has effects affecting the whole body, there can still be different localized origin problems in the body which trigger the increased CRP production in the first place. Luckily, for the purposes of aiding nutrition choices, this does not matter: the goal is to decrease inflammation, no matter what was the exact mechanism behind it.

It is also worth to note that the article does not imply a clinical possibility of there being an inflammation without CRP levels being increased compared to the base for the individual. So even though a CRP test would not yield a definitive answer as to what has caused the inflammation, it seems to be a reliable indicator of at least existence of some kind of it.


While I’m in the process of looking at implementing these tests, it’s worth to mention that this company Inside Tracker (no affiliation) claims to provide a CRP test, along with other very useful blood tests (cholesterol, etc.), in a “mail your blood to us” fashion, to anyone interested.

Other than that the general idea is to get a doctor to perform this test, several times, after eating different diets for at least a week.