A Code for Healthy Longevity

Joseph E. Scherger, MD, MPH

Kris Verburgh, MD is a young scientist from Belgium who also teaches at Singularity University in the Silicon Valley of California.  The singularity refers to when man and technology merge and become one.  Singularity University was founded to advance that future and houses visionary scientists, engineers and others who want to invent a future where we understand and can manipulate our biology in ways never seen before. The future may be a whole new civilization where people may live 1000 years and even have their consciousness in other bodies.

In his book, The Longevity Code (2018 Second Edition) Verburgh explores how we may live well longer today.  I like his approach and it deviates from other techno-futurists who eat and live how they want and believe technology will save them from disease.  Verburgh has coined the term “nutrigerontology”, a scientific discipline that studies the role of nutrition in the aging process.  As you might expect, he recommends a diet of natural and healthy foods, and an avoidance of processed foods, grains and sweets.  He recommends mainly a whole food plant based diet since plants are most associated with health and longevity such as low heart disease and cancer rates.  If a person does not want to be a vegan, he suggests we get about 10% of our food from healthy animal sources such as eggs, meat and fish with low levels of toxicity.

His information and recommendations are put into a “longevity staircase” of four steps.  The first step is to Avoid Deficiencies.  Here he focuses on the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that may be deficient in many modern foods.  These include magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin K, selenium and potassium.  He reviews how to get these micronutrients mostly from food, supplementing as necessary.

The second step is to Stimulate Hormesis.  This is a very interesting concept. Hormesis is where something in small amounts is healthy but larger amounts are toxic.  Even water if taken too much can be lethal.  Verburgh goes into detail how diet and exercise are beneficial in the right amounts, even when they stress the body.  Nietzsche is famous for saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.  There are wonderful such examples in this book of hormesis at work.

The third step is to Reduce Growth Stimulation.  Here anyone interested in body building and the use of growth hormone should pay attention.  Stimulating growth shortens your life span.  This applies to overweight and obesity also.  I find it fascinating how some people who were prisoners of war or experienced some other deprivation end up living over 90 years with a clear mind.  This section of the book describes why.  

The final step on the staircase is to Reverse the Aging Process.  Here Verburgh takes us through the latest science including how we might clean up protein debris and sugar-links that come with aging.  He sees a future where we will be able to repair our diseased tissues using stem cells and gene editing. 

I recommend this highly readable book for its science that is not hard to understand, and to reinforce a healthy lifestyle, especially healthy nutrition.  Whether you are interested in living beyond the current life expectancies, this book will help you increase your “heatlhspan”, the number of years that you are vibrant and healthy.