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Los Angeles, California, United States
I am a British-born, naturalized American, living in California. Based in Los Angeles, I work as a correspondent for BBC television, radio and websites. This blog is mostly dedicated to my interest in the science of human longevity - food, fasting, exercise and long-term health. All views expressed reflect my personal experiences. I advise anyone considering adopting a new diet or fitness regime first to consult with their doctor. Links on this site are to my personal portfolio of audio, video and text. Copyright of broadcast works remain with the BBC. Thanks for the visit!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Olympic swimming coach Teri McKeever

Monday, May 12, 2014

Man Utd coach Phil Neville adopts a plant-based diet

Does a plant-based diet affect athletic performance? Here's an interesting take from one of the world's top football coaches.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

"Age is just a number"

The inspirational story of a nonagenarian athlete. I see age 70+ swimmers, runners and cyclists all the time - but Olga Kotelko is still breaking records at 95.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Longest separated twins reunited at 78

A fascinating story: Fraternal twins, separated as babies but reunited at the age of 78. I met both Ann and Elizabeth and witnessed their emotional reunion. What will be even more interesting is the clinical study in which they have both agreed to take part. Researchers at the University of California plan to analyze their lives - lifestyle, diet, social experiences and much more - along with their current state of physical and mental health. The results could provide a fascinating insight into the key factors influencing their level of wellbeing as well as the aging process.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Immortalists: "There's no glory in dying"

It is a subject that has fascinated, confused and frustrated generations of scientists. The aging process and man's desire to slow down or even turn back the biological clock is complex and nuanced. But inch by inch - or cell by cell - researchers are beginning to piece together the mechanisms at work when we get old and ultimately die. That elusive dream of eternal life remains a lofty goal and inconceivable to most scholars of gerontology.   But there are a few - arguably eccentric souls - who believe that we are on the verge of discovering the secret to never-ending life.

I do not belong to that exclusive club. But I do have an insatiable desire to learn more about the science behind aging.  More specifically I believe that there is much we can do now to extend our healthy years. I was therefore keen to see the new documentary, The Immortalists.  

According to the promotional blurb, the film is:

The story of two eccentric scientists struggling to create eternal youth with medical breakthroughs in a world they call “blind to the tragedy of old age." Bill Andrews is a lab biologist and famed long-distance runner racing against the ultimate clock. Aubrey de Grey is a genius theoretical biologist who conducts his research with a beer in hand. They differ in style and substance, but are united in their common crusade: cure aging or die trying. They publicly brawl with the old guard of biology who argue that curing aging is neither possible nor desirable. As Andrews and de Grey battle their own aging and suffer the losses of loved ones, their journeys toward life without end ultimately become personal.

The documentary treads a fine line between the extreme and unconventional personal lives of the featured scientists - and their professional work. 

Aubrey de Grey is a well known and controversial figure in the longevity field.  He is best known for claiming that the first person to reach 1000 is alive today.

His passion for his work is undeniable although his unconventional lifestyle - involving a wife, girlfriends, a penchant for nudity and beer-swilling - somewhat overshadows de Gray's academic and scientific standing. The documentary follows the British scientist in both worlds and manages not to sensationalize de Gray's lifestyle choices. It also features strong and respected opposing voices to the scientist's more extreme claims about the potential for never-ending life. It includes a segment covering an Oxford University debate on the question of defeating aging completely.  de Gray is pitted against Prof. Colin Blakemore, the distinguished British neuroscientist and former head of the UK's Medical Research Council. 

"What Aubrey de Gray is offering you is snakeoil - and dangerous snake oil," Blakemore tells the audience.

Without revealing the outcome to some of the documentary's character-driven vignettes, the film is entertaining but it also takes the science seriously.  This is an extremely difficult topic - defying the aging process involves a myriad of biological processes and is not be easily simplified for a TV or theater audience. 

It left me wanting to know more about the daily lives of the central characters. Both extremists,  dedicated to their cause, I was curious to hear more detail about their personal regimes.  Such different approaches - could they both be right? 

The film focusses, for much of the time, on the science of telomere lifespan. Increasingly acknowledged as a key factor in the aging process, but what about diet and exercise?  We learned much about Bill Andrews' extreme endurance achievements, but it was unclear whether they were helping or hindering his quest for eternal life. 

I enjoyed the film because it was provocative and inspiring - and the cinematography was superb.

The Immortalists, directed by David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg, premiered at the SXSW festival in Austin Texas, on March 9th, 2014.   

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Live Long, Die Short: The case for compression of morbidity

Interview with Dr Roger Landry, a preventative medicine physician and the president of Masterpiece Living, a group that is committed to the vision of people maximizing their potential and aging successfully.

Why do I care about trying to understand the aging process?
Specifically, I am sometimes asked, why do I focus so much on living a long life?  I would say, a long, healthy life. The answer, to me, is obvious. 

First, the alternative does not sound like fun. 

Second, the global benefits of having a fit, elderly population are almost immeasurable - both fiscally and practically. A healthy generation of baby boomers would spend less on health care, contribute to society and fulfill personal goals that their parents could only dream of. 

Which brings me to my third reason to live long and healthy.  I have a very long bucket list. I will never run out of things to do.

I am always curious to hear how other, like-minded, aging enthusiasts respond to the same question. When I met Dr Roger Landry recently, he gave me this answer.

"I have many people say, 'I don’t want to live to be 100', but it is under the mistaken presumption that that it will involve a significant decline, impairment, pain, a burden to their families - and yet if I ask them in their 50’s if they’ve had enough life, no one ever answers ‘yes, I’ve had enough life.' 

"We have the capability, to describe it best as an analogy, to live with the performance capabilities that we have say in our 40’s or 50’s or low 60’s for much much longer.  It’s a matter or throwing away potential capital that you have, it’s throwing away money you’ve saved and so it makes no sense to me. 

"Perhaps those who plan societies may say 'what are we going to do with a world population that’s that large' but that’s a little beyond my pay grade.  I’m about the quality of life of those who are living and having them reach their potential and contribute back to society as well as enjoyment of life."

I agree and would add - returning to the bucket list - that I aspire to get to 90 or 100+ and to travel to those countries that I've always wanted to visit because I am still physically able.  Or, for those with children, wouldn't it be wonderful to reach a great age and still be able to crouch down on the floor (probably with your great grandchildren) and play - and then stand up without getting someone to haul you back into the rocking chair. 

Dr Landry has written a fascinating book, Live LongDie Short: A Guide for Authentic Health and Successful Aging. A The book's title is inspired by a public health term, compression of morbidity, about which I have written in the past.  

As Dr Landry explains: 

"Morbidity is being sick and we like to compress the time that someone is sick rather than to have a long decade, two decade, three decade-long period of decline that is not only detracts from the quality of life, but is also very expensive as a nation, as well as an individual."

Listen to the full interview:

Dr. Landy was a flight surgeon in the Air Force for over 22 years.  He retired as a highly decorated full Colonel and Chief flight surgeon at the air force surgeon general’s office in Washington DC after duty on five continents. He was medically involved in a number of significant world events including: Vietnam, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the Beirut bombing of the Marine barracks, the first seven shuttle launches, and the first manned balloon crossing of the pacific.

Monday, March 10, 2014

BBC Presents: What If We Could Stay Young Forever?

Today I'll be presenting a SXSW version of the BBC documentary, What if we could stay young Forever. If you're in town for the interactive conference, I'd love you to come along, if you can. I'm also curious to know how much you care about the aging process and whether you think companies like Google, through their new startup, Calico, can do anything to extend the human life span?

Monday March 9th: 3.30PM

Hilton Austin Downtown

Salon G

500 E 4th St

SXSW: "BBC's Peter Bowes will tell the story of his 2-year quest for a healthier, longer life. While walking at a modified treadmill podium, to make a not-so-subtle point about how sitting is killing us, Peter will relay his experiences as the subject of a clinical trial, testing an extreme diet intervention.  Intrigued by the growing business of life extension and bombarded with adverts promising a longer, healthier life, Peter set out to sort facts from fiction in the world of human longevity. He met the 74 year old Las Vegas doctor, appropriately named Dr Life, who injects himself with testosterone to maintain the physique of a man half his age. He discovered the extreme dieters, who practice caloric restriction as a way to slow down the body clock. He tried intense exercise and even enrolled in a university clinical trial as human guinea pig. The study is testing a theory that may help people grow old without ever suffering from the debilitating diseases that plague the elderly."

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A high protein diet could lead to early death, claim researchers

(Thierry de Lestrade) Salvatore Caruso, 108 
Too much protein during mid-life - especially protein derived from animal sources - could lead to an early death, according to US and Italian researchers.  In a paper, co-authored by Dr Valter Longo, at the USC's Longevity Institute, it is argued that people who eat a diet high in animal proteins during middle age are four times more likely to die of cancer than those on low-protein diets.  Statistically - and if accurate - this can be compared with the death rate from smoking. The study also concludes that for people over 65, a diet higher in protein could be beneficial. 

This is a fascinating study based on a large sample of adults tracked during nearly two decades. The data is compelling but additional research is needed to further understand the biological mechanisms at work.  The researchers have been criticized for comparing smoking deaths with those (potentially) from eating high protein diets.

According to the Guardian newspaper:  "Gunter Kuhnle, a food nutrition scientist at Reading University, said it was wrong "and potentially even dangerous" to compare the effects of smoking with the effect of meat and cheese as the study does."

Further coverage: LA Times
High-protein diets: Bad for the middle-aged, good for the elderly

Photo: Like others in the small town of Molochio, with one of the highest prevalence of centenarians in the world, Salvatore maintained a low-protein, plant-based diet for the majority of his life, but switched to a higher-protein diet after moving in with his son's family once he became frail.

Original article in Cell Metabolism + discussion threat involving authors 

PDF: Low Protein Intake Is Associated with a Major Reduction in IGF-1, Cancer, and Overall Mortality in the 65 and Younger but Not Older Population

Note: Dr Longo (cited above) devised the periodic fasting program that I am experimenting with this year.  I am intrigued - but not necessarily convinced - by the low/zero animal protein argument.  But after two months on a Vegan diet, I feel good and my weight management issues have all but disappeared. I will be fasting again soon for five days.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The risks posed by high doses of dietary supplements

This is a valuable and revealing study about the dangers posed by the over-use of dietary supplements.  What we once thought - or were told - was good for us, turns out to be quite the opposite. 

"Many people think that dietary supplements are helpful or at the least innocuous. This is not true," said corresponding and first author Alan Kristal, Dr.P.H., a faculty member in the Public Health Sciences Division of Fred Hutch. "We know from several other studies that some high-dose dietary supplements – that is, supplements that provide far more than the daily recommended intakes of micronutrients – increase cancer risk. We knew this based on randomized, controlled, double-blinded studies for folate and beta carotene, and now we know it for vitamin E and selenium."

Selenium and vitamin E supplements can increase risk of prostate cancer in some men