Like many celebrities and entrepreneurs, American tech billionaire Brian Johnson, 45, is trying to reverse the aging process. Spending an average of $2 million a year on an anti-aging regimen, Johnson claims he is now aging more slowly. He explains, “The rate at which my body accumulates aging damage is much less than the average man my age.” But are these extreme measures worth it?
Johnson reports fasting for 23 hours a day. He then eats once a day: 2,250 calories of nutrient-rich food “adapted” to his body’s needs. Eating for limited periods of the day can have positive effects on our nutrient metabolism, inflammation levels, hormonal regulation and cardiometabolic health (blood sugar, triglycerides, cholesterol, blood pressure, BMI and waist circumference). However, spartan eating can worsen our body’s response to sugar (known as glucose tolerance). And it’s not necessarily more effective for weight maintenance than reducing caloric intake at every meal. Large-scale long-term human trials are needed to confirm the limited conclusions about the risk-benefit ratio of starvation.
Johnson does weekly acid peels (which use a mild acid to exfoliate the skin) to keep your skin “glowing young.” But you can’t smooth out flabby facial skin or remove deep scars or wrinkles. Acid peels also come with risks, including organ damage, infection, scarring and swelling.
Perhaps the strangest rejuvenation procedure Johnson has tried is a blood transfusion from his 17-year-old son. U.S. biotech companies have been researching plasma infusions to treat age-related diseases in humans for decades. But there are no proven clinical benefits. Side effects of blood transfusions include blood-borne infections, fever and allergic reactions.
Although many of Johnson’s methods for dealing with aging are questionable, based on questionable scientific evidence, and have known side effects, people continue to experiment with methods of rejuvenation.
Historical attempts to stay young
People have been experimenting with methods of rejuvenation for centuries. These include all sorts of behavioral and lifestyle practices that are bizarre, questionable and even sadistic. Ancient practices included crocodile dung facial masks, which the Greeks and Romans used to improve their complexion. The Romans also used donkey milk and swan oil to reduce wrinkles because of their known rejuvenating properties.
But is there scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of such methods?
According to research published in Nature Communications, genes play a key role in the aging process. Some genes, such as FOXO3, are linked to longevity and healthy aging. Researchers also found that diet, exercise and other environmental factors can affect the activity of these genes.
In addition, there are more serious methods of prolonging youth, such as gene therapy and organ transplants. But these methods are still at the research stage and are not available to the general public.
Is it worth it? Extreme measures taken by billionaires to prolong youth can have serious side effects and are based on questionable scientific evidence. But there are free things we can all do to keep us healthy in our old age: eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, and reduce stress. And perhaps in the future, science will find safer and more effective ways to extend our youth.