If you haven’t heard of Metformin yet, chances are you soon will. It’s one of the biggest unkept secrets of celebrities and billionaires who are looking to extend their lives indefinitely.
Metformin, produced from the French lilac plant, has actually been around for decades as a safe, effective treatment for diabetes. Before it was a pharmaceutical, Metformin has been in use as an herbal remedy for frequent urination, measles, and worms, among other conditions.
Recently, Metformin has seen a surge of interest in the burgeoning field of longevity science. Numerous studies, mostly on diabetes, have shown that people taking Metformin tend to have fewer heart attacks and cancer diagnoses, and it also seems to stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s. In addition, people appear to live longer and put off most age-related disease for a greater number of years as compared to people not on the drug. Metformin thus seems to work to not only to increase lifespans but also to increase health spans, which is arguably more important.
How does it work? Metformin has been shown to increase the production of mTOR and AMPK, both of which promote youthful function inside the cell, promote fat utilization, and decrease sugar storage. Cellular AMPK levels decline with age, which biologically leads to some of the cellular signs of aging, such as the inability to repair damaged DNA. Considering the overwhelming evidence, the FDA has now approved the first longevity study ever, called TAME (Targeting Aging with Metformin), which aims to prove these benefits over the long term.
Like any drug, Metformin does have some possible side effects, such as low blood sugar and gastrointestinal disturbances (diarrhea, nausea, gas). A potentially serious side effect, lactic acidosis, (symptoms include tiredness, muscle pain, breathing difficulty, slow heart rate), is discussed in the literature, but several large studies have debunked the association of Metformin with this condition. People with liver or kidney disease should not take Metformin. To be safe, before and after (on regular intervals) taking Metformin, you should have bloodwork done.
With billions of dollars being poured by tech titans into longevity research, we are likely to rapidly see many breakthroughs in longevity science. Billionaires Sergey Brin, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg are investing in extending their healthy lifespans, sidestepping the traditional Big Pharma/FDA research pathways that could take decades. Big data, artificial intelligence, and the overwhelming amount of money being invested into biotech has exponentially increased the rate of discovery in the anti-aging arena.
So, where do you start? First, no amount of Metformin will help if you don’t live a healthy lifestyle. You must first get the basics right: 7 hours of sleep, a plant-based diet, and daily physical activity. Second, you need some objective measures of your health and cellular age. A Next|Health Baseline blood panel, combined with a telomere test (a measurement of the length of the end caps of your DNA to identify your cellular age), is a great starting point. Third, talk to our medical professionals to see if Metformin is a good addition to your daily supplement protocol. Other than losing some weight, you may not see or feel any immediate results. But stick with it, as the long-term studies show you may helping yourself live a longer, healthier life!
Over the last few years there have been a plethora of “brain games” introduced to the market, purporting to improve your cognitive abilities in just a few minutes a day. Luminosity, BrainHQ, Peak Labs, and Elevate are a few of the more popular ones that you may have heard of.
Are they really worth the time and money? Does playing a game really help your brain to stay sharp and focused? Unfortunately, the research is conflicting. The website cognitivetrainingdata.com has an up-to-date list of many of the papers published on the topic. A quick review reveals that the data is inconclusive. In fact, the scientific community battled it out in 2014 when Stanford published a “consensus paper” stating that there was “little evidence” that brain training worked. A group of dozens of scientists fired back with a letter stating the opposite.
In my personal experience, both with myself and patients, I have found small but measurable improvements after a few weeks of training with a "brain game" app (the one I used was Peak labs). I used the app BrainCheck to evaluate before and after benchmarks. The results were more dramatic in people who led sedentary lives with lower-than-average “regular” mental stimulation (ie. socially isolated or retired persons).
In contrast, we have an abundance of evidence implicating that stimulating the brain with problem-solving, social activities, and goal-oriented tasks play a role in preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Combine this with regular physical activity, adequate sleep, and good control of your sugar intake, and you have almost guaranteed yourself improved brain function for years to come.
Protecting and supporting your brain should be a top priority for every single one of person. Knowing where you currently score by using an app like BrainCheck, and keeping track of that score on a monthly or quarterly basis, should be a regular part of your health care routine. If you find that your score is slipping or that you are in a brain fog, it’s imperative that you proactively address your “brain care” so the damage doesn’t stack up to the point of no return. Talk to a Next|Health medical professional for more information.
As a physician for the last 20 years, I have practiced in almost every health care setting imaginable.
From military clinics to hospital emergency rooms, trauma centers, and plastic surgery and primary care offices, I have seen it all. Although we have made giant leaps in our understanding of disease, speaking with thousands of patients over this time has given me a chance to observe first-hand how the “health care” system has failed most of us.
Our “health care” system, or the medical establishment, is unfortunately not truly geared towards health. It is reactive and disease-focused. It’s great at treating cancer or heart attacks but not so great at preventing illness. There is a “pill for every ill" but no real effort to find out the cause of a disease and how to eliminate it!
People are feeling let down by their doctors, their health insurance, hospitals, and pharmacies, and for good reason! In medical school, medical students spend 95% plus of their time focused on diagnosis, pathology, and determining which pharmaceutical or surgery will “fix” the disease. Unfortunately, medical professionals totally miss the boat on diagnosing the root cause and why a patient got there in the first place. Teaching doctors about nutrition, movement, exercise, and sleep is never the priority of medical education.
All of the money in health flows towards this paradigm of disease diagnosis and treatment. Most of our health insurance money is also spent along these lines, with the majority being spend in the last few years of your life. The big money is in hospitals and pharmaceuticals – two things that we should be avoiding at all costs. Very little of our health-care dollar goes towards optimizing and perfecting health, avoiding disease in the first place.
We all know the typical experience of seeing a doctor for a checkup: you wait forever in the waiting room, get some bloodwork done (maybe), spend 15 minutes with your doctor or physician's assistant, and then are told whether you are fine and can back next year or if you have a “real problem.” If you actually believe “you are fine,” you probably don’t do anything for a year except maybe trying to make it to the gym semi-regularly and eating as well as you can. We now know that chronic disease starts 20-30 years before the first symptoms develop...so, in reality, NOW is the time to start focusing on optimizing your biology, rather than putting it off until it’s too late. We need a new system that focuses on all aspects of health - diet, nutrition, sleep, detoxification, movement - and addressing all of these on a daily basis.
As many of the top CEO’s in the country get frustrated with the current system, more money is finally flowing from technology into healthcare. Amazon, Facebook, and Google all have invested 100’s of millions of dollars into “solving” aging and disease. They realize that technologies, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, can solve problems like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and cancer much faster and cheaper than the current system: spending billions of dollars and years trying to get FDA approval on a drug that might never work. As technology improves exponentially, so does biotechnology. This is why we are seeing rapid leaps in health and wellness right now. For example, we can now sequence an entire human genome for a few hundred dollars vs. the millions that it cost just a few years ago.
Science is on the verge of a breakthrough in longevity, and we may soon learn how to add tens, if not hundreds, of years to our lifespan with gene-editing tech like KIRSPR, stem cells, and growing new organs. The “singularity,” a term coined by futurist Ray Kurzweil, is a point in time when we learn to live one year longer, every year, due to new breakthroughs, thus reaching longevity at “escape velocity.” In this way, we can potentially add hundreds of years to our lifespan. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to benefit from this technological revolution if our bodies are broken by the time we get there.
The goal is also to expand our HEALTH SPAN - the number of years we feel vital and healthy - as quickly as we expand our lifespan. We want to think and move like we are in our 20’s for as long as possible. The only thing preventing us from achieving this expanded health span is chronic disease. The only way to eliminate chronic disease is to understand its causes and remove them from our life. We know how to do this! But it takes each and every one of us to take our health into our own hands and to stop outsourcing it to our insurance, our doctors, and our trainer. We must learn the basics, measure biomarkers of our biology, and unrelentingly develop habits that keep us at a state of optimal health.
Dr. Darshan Shah is a physician, surgeon, entrepreneur, and is considered by many to be the "Doctor of the Future." His passion is educating the public on the newest technologies in health & wellness and how to look and feel your best!