The Pursuit of Prolonging Life: A 2020 Reflection

In 2015, comedian Tom Segura famously said, “I’ve heard people say, ‘I’d like to live to 100!’ Did you ever see 80?” And until recently, that probably was how most people—including me—saw longevity. But that was also the year the world learned about Bryan Johnson, who has burned millions of dollars in the pursuit of eternal life.

I tried Tally’s at-home bio age test, developed by Harvard researcher David Sinclair, and found that I was about 2 months younger than my real age of 32. Segura, meanwhile, was talking about STEM cell infusions, and working out until I looked swole.

Since the pursuit of longevity seems to be more popular than ever, I reached out to some real experts to understand why people are so fixated on it in 2023, and if there is a chance that this newfound interest could actually translate into a longer future for us.

Dr. Dan Buettner is no stranger to the longevity obsession. Earlier this year, the author, researcher, and member of the National Geographic team released the documentary “Live To 100: Secrets Of The Blue Zones” on Netflix. The film was the result of decades of research into the diets, behaviors, and activity patterns of people living in the world’s five regions where people are believed to lead the longest lives.

Buettner expressed some skepticism about people’s fascination with longevity: “It’s not necessarily because of the habits they’re recommending, but because of how likely they are to adopt them in the long run,” he said. “It’s like June flies: they fly around for a while, then they fly away and don’t leave behind anything that significantly affects your longevity.”

“One thing I really think these influencers don’t get is that longevity isn’t adding years to someone’s life if they’re not doing something for decades,” he said of the longevity trends that are all the rage on social media. “There’s nothing that you can do right now or this month that’s going to affect how long you’ll live.”

Fasting, on the other hand, is another trend Buettner has noticed in the blue zones. “Fasting has been forced in all blue zones,” Buettner says. “It’s usually because of war, food deprivation or religious obligation, but they still get the health benefits of fasting.”

Dr. Jamie Gabel, physician assistant and clinical director at Advitam at Manhattan’s Shafer Clinic, was at the forefront of the longevity fixation. “I’ve seen the growth of new therapies like peptide therapy firsthand,” says Gabel. “I started my career in orthopedics, and that’s when I first learned about stem cell and platelet rich plasma (PRLP) treatments for recovery. That opened my eyes to the potential of using medicine as a tool to promote longevity, not just as a cure for disease.”

Today, Advitam Clinic offers peptide and IV therapy, as well as services for patients researching weight loss drugs such as Ozempic/Tirzepatide (also known as Mounjaro) and other weight loss drugs. “There’s a growing interest in longevity, not just from patients, but from clinicians attending conferences and trainings,” Gabel says.

While these medications were originally developed for the treatment of diabetes, they were never intended to replace diabetes medications—rather, they were intended to work as an add-on to them, Gabel says. “It really helps prevent the formation of new fat and helps break down fat cells and stabilize someone’s blood sugar levels,” she says.