Recently we wrote about new research suggesting that one day it may be possible for the average human to live to 120 or even 150 years of age—nearly doubling the average human lifespan in the developed world.
While these scientists say it’s only a matter of time before modern medicine has advancements to dramatically slow the aging process and allow our life spans to nearly double, other anti-aging scientists believe it’s all pie-in-the-sky.
Let’s take a look at the research that has the pessimists convinced that aging cannot be dramatically slowed and that the human life span has a limit.
A major new study conducted by researchers from 42 institutions in 14 countries has concluded that aging and death cannot be stopped.
“No matter how many vitamins we take, how healthy our environment is or how much we exercise, we will eventually age and die,” declares the first author of the study, mathematician and computer scientist, Fernando Colchero from the University of Southern Denmark.
Prof. Colchero went on to say that the study revealed we’re subject to biological constraints that simply cannot be halted.
The “Invariant Rate of Aging” Hypothesis
The research involved a wealth of data over hundreds of years that compared the patterns of birth and death in nine human populations of various countries. It also included two hunter/gatherer communities.
The oldest data examined dated back to early 17th century life tables in England.
Scientists also gathered data on 17 wild and 13 zoo primates such as chimpanzees, gorillas and baboons. This was done because they’re our closest relatives and can shed light on how biological constraints shape the evolution of aging.
Prof. Colchero and his team used this data to test the “invariant rate of aging” hypothesis. This theory suggests that all species have a relatively fixed rate of aging after they reach adulthood.
Across the 39 datasets the team watched a similar pattern of death emerge. The pattern began in infancy, when the risk of death is high. This risk rapidly declined with the onset of maturity, remaining low until early adulthood and then rising continuously with advancing age.
What does this pattern mean?
Evolutionary Biology Trumps Everything
While this might not sound like a major scientific breakthrough, another of the study authors at the University of Southern Denmark, José Manuel Aburto, a specialist in demographics and population health inequalities, said the findings are proof that anti-aging interventions aren’t really slowing the aging process.
Prof. Aburto said, “Our findings support the theory that, rather than slowing down death, more people are living much longer due to a reduction in mortality at younger ages.
“We compared birth and death data from humans and non-human primates and found this general pattern of mortality was the same in all of them. This suggests that biological rather than environmental factors ultimately control longevity.
“The statistics confirmed individuals live longer as health and living conditions improve which leads to increasing longevity across an entire population. Nevertheless, a steep rise in death rates as years advance into old age is clear to see in all species.
“More and more people get to live much longer now. However, the trajectory toward death in old age has not changed. This study suggests evolutionary biology trumps everything, and so far, medical advances have been unable to beat these biological constraints.”
Based on years of researching the subject (as a journalist, not a scientist), I find these findings counterintuitive and my quick reaction is that there’s a flaw somewhere. Any number of studies show healthy lifestyle choices extend life compared to control groups.
In a mouse study we covered years ago, the mice that were fed a wide range of supplements throughout their lives lived an astounding 11 percent longer than the controls, the equivalent of about eight more years for a human. That’s just one example of hundreds I could provide.
So, how do you live longer?
By using the best medicine money can buy: a healthy lifestyle. When you choose the right nutrition, regular exercise, good sleep and stress management practices, you can support your body’s healthy function even in your older years.
What’s more, there’s sound science that suggests healthy lifestyle practices are changing biology at a cellular level and many anti-aging scientists believe this is impacting how the body ages in a positive way. Whether they’re right or wrong, at the very least, a healthy lifestyle will help you feel and look better. Whatever your age, that counts for something.
There are also medical advances in the offing that are nothing short of astounding. I’m thinking of research into stem cell and related therapies, but others are likely to come along as well.
While living to 150 may be a stretch, I think it will become common to live past 100 in good health.