We are already seeing some people living to 100 and beyond, so we know it is theoretically possible.
The goal isn’t to live just to 100. Maybe one day once that barrier has been broken, we can keep going to 150 or 200 or 1,000. These data points are a useful stepping stone our journey to extend human longevity.
It can give us a preview of what humans are already capable of. This part of the guide will explore what is possible today. Best of all, most of these benefits can be achieved using Gyroscope even without some exotic and expenesive therapies, or taking experimental supplements. The body is capable of producing almost all of these chemicals — especially when young — so ideally we can find a way to manufacture them internally rather thanneed to buy some expensive supplements.
Longevity is challenging because there is a lot of seemingly contradictory advice. Most of the information out there is either wrong or incomplete. Someone following well-meaning advice may accidentally do the opposite of what was ideal. It is possible to find a study supporting almost any world-view.
Get sunlight to produce vitamin D and maintain a strong circadian rhythm, or avoid sunlight to not get skin cancer and overexposure to UV radiation? Build muscle and avoid sarcopenia by eating a lot of protein in a calorie surplus, or focus on calorie restriction which seemed to increase lifespan in mice? Eat a lot of meat to get adequate protein, or stay vegetarian and only eat vegetables to avoid dangerous saturated fats? Avoid oxidative stress and high cortisol levels which can damage your cells, or push your body to the limits with daily exercise and hot or cold exposure?
There are hundreds of variables here, and it can be hard to know which ones need attention. The answer here is that it is important to find the right balance, and it is almost never all-or-nothing. Studies in yeast, mice, other animals, and even humans, can start to tell us more about how to find this balanc, and which metrics we can measure to use as indicators.
In general, matching the conditions we evolved to expect seem to get the best results. Deviating from those significantly can start to cause issues. Measuring our current state and using that to make more precise decisions can also help find that balance and keep it.
These statistics look pretty grim so far. There are so many diseases that could get you, especially as you get older: heart disease, stroke, alzheimers, diabetes. Do you have to just cross your fingers and hope you have good genetics? Are these just unavoidable issues with the human body? Something that happens to everyone when they turn 50 or 60? Not necessarily.
Our theory is that many of these diseases come as incompatibilities of the body’s old operating system (designed for what life looked like thousands or millions of years ago). However, our modern worldhas changed tremendously just in the last few decades.
Though these diseases now occur frequently across most of the world, they are not everywhere equally. Okinawa, Japan. Nicoya, Costa Rica. Sardinia, Italy. Ikaria, Greece. Hunter/gathering tribes around the world. What do they have in common?
These regions, sometimes called “blue zones,” are examples of people avoiding many of the diseases mentioned above. Instead of frequently having heart attacks at 50 like some parts of the world, they have a high percentage of people who live beyond 100. Coincidence? Genetics? Something in the water? We think not.
Many other parts of the world (we can call them “red zones” but there are are too many to list) have the opposite pattern. People are unhealthy or obese starting from childhood, and develop conditions like insulin resistance or diabetes even at a young age. Stress, anxiety and depression is high. Living to 100 is very rare in these red zones, and may not even be considered desirable since quality of life is limited.
We now have enough information to understand what is different between these areas. Some data comes from observations, while others comes from new experiments conducted by scientists to test particular variables (typically in mice), and from data tracked within Gyroscope.
Lets explore the differences...
What they do in Okinawa
- Activity: They do frequent gardening, which helps stay active
- Nutrition: A culture of generally eating to 80% fullness, which could result in consistent calorie restriction *
- Wellness: Lifelong friend group called “moai”
What they do in Nicoya
- Nutrition: Diet higher in fresh meats, nixtamalization of tortillas
- Wellness: Strong sense of life purpose *
What they do in Loma Linda
- Nutrition: A largely vegan diet, with no alcohol or caffeine. This strict diet may be effective through lowering processed foods in general, or promoting consistent calorie restriction.
- Most people generally can’t maintain these types of strict diets — but here since it is such a core part of their culture and religion, it is more enforced and followed. This strategy however may not be repeatable in most people’s lives unless their whole social group is equally committed.
What they do in Ikaria
- Nutrition: Greek orthodox culture has periods of fasting for religious reasons, which could promote longevity increases through calorie restriction *
What they do in Sardinia
Patterns & Takeaways
Anyone could slice this data to interpret it almost however they want. That is a problem with observational studies — a phenomenon known as confirmation bias. (Once you know about confirmation bias, you start to see it everywhere, which proves it real and important.)
Despite imperfect data, we need to do something. We can’t just wait 100 years for the results from new experiments to come in. We can’t just eat nothing today until all doctors agree on what is the optimal diet. We can’t just stay in bed until scientists pinpoint the exact percentage of strength training to cardio that leads to longevity.
We can move faster by testing them on ourselves for a while and measuring the impact on our own healthspan and metrics. What worked well for grandma in Okinawa may or may not fit well with your life, or your genetics, or the lifestyle of living in a modern-day city, so self-testing and self-validation will always be the final step. However, there are many common patterns we are seeing that are likely to help you...
Though the exact diets here vary significantly, some being vegetarian while others being meat focused, a common pattern is a high amount of unprocessed foods.
Rather than a specific magical food, it is likely the balance and smaller portions (creating moderate calorie restriction) along with a culture that thoroughly avoids processed foods that provide the benefits we see. In some places, gardening is common which doubles as both a way to get very whole food, as well as exercise! *, *
As seen in the processing.guide we are quite confident that a diet high in ultra-processed foods will cause major health issues. Literally every expert agrees upon this point, though there is a lot of disagreement about the details of what to eat instead. Everyone also agrees that vitamins and minerals are essential for your body to function properly, so eating a diet dense in those important materials is wise.
A large, 25-year study in monkeys found that eating 30% fewer calories than normal led to a significantly longer life. It is unproven but suspected that mild calorie restriction may have a similar effect in humans, a theory reinforced by observations from the blue. It is unclear how many of the benefits come from the stress of the actual calorie restriction, vs other effects like reduced bodyfat.
A 9-year study of 44k people showed a higher intake of ultra-processed foods was associated with a higher incidence of all-cause mortality. It is very conclusive at this point that ultra-processed foods are harmful to health and should be avoided.
These patterns give us some interesting signals towards the effects of reducing processed foods and calorie restriction in general, which are worth further research.
Beyond that, we can look to more structured experiments as well as personalized experimentation to derive the optimal diet. Eating only sweet potatoes and wine because those were popularized in a blue zone study is likely the wrong extrapolation, while cutting out most junk food, processed foods and sugary beverages should probably be done immediately and continued for the rest of your (hopefully very long) life.
The people in these blue zones don’t hit the gym every day, but are still constantly moving.
No one who lived to 100 spent their life just sitting on their couch all day watching TV. Rather, they were constantly moving and active, for reasons that were at the core of their lifestyle. This made it easy and simple to get the required movement all the time, rather than just days that they felt extra-motivated or on the week following January 1. *, *
This finding has been reinforced now that we can measure things like step counts for large parts of the population. Though being very active is no longer really required for our short-term survival (you could very easily just Uber everywhere or order everything delivered to your house), walking around and being active is still required for general longevity and what your body expects for its long-term maintenance. However, this disconnect makes it easy for people to skip it. This can be convenient in the short term, but has a significant impact on longevity and healthspan.
We expect more studies and research on animals and humans to make the guidance here more precise. However, while running Gyroscope we have seen that many people are extremely inactive, and so worrying about the exact amount to be active is likely less critical than finding new ways to stay consistently moving.
Whether it is 8,000 steps a day or 12,000, what matters is not being extremely low and not having many hours of being sedentary in a row. That means having all 10,000 steps in one hour and then staying home the rest of the day is not as beneficial as finding excuses to walk around every hour and stay moving.
Community & low stress
A strong sense of community and emotional well-being may be as important to health as their avoiding of processed foods. Mental health and the health of the brain is critical for longevity. Many of these blue zones seem to accomplish this at scale through a sense of community, strong social circles, low stress and general wellness.
Having a life purpose
People in these Blue Zones seem to have culture strong life purpose, known as “ikigai” in Okinawa or “plan de vida” in Nicoya. This is associated with a reduced risk of death, possibly through increasing psychological well-being. *, *, *
A healthy social network
Your friends and social network (called “moai” in Okinawa) can also strongly affect your health. For example, if your friends are obese, you have a greater risk of being obese, possibly through social acceptance of weight gain. *
How much control do we have over our own aging? Remember, aging is not just one metric, but can be thought of as at least 9 different hallmarks.
We know living to 100 is possible since many people have already done it. While there is some luck and genetics involved, it is clearly not just a coincidence. Lifestyle and proper management of the body can get us to this state. We are now starting to isolate the variables and theorize the cause and effect behind these results. If longevity is important to you, aiming to live to 100 is likely a good and reasonable goal.
Living to 150 or 200 has never been done successfully, but may be possible with the next generation of scientific breakthroughs. What sounds like science fiction today may soon be our reality in a few years or decades. Part of the strategy here is keeping yourself in optimal health until these new interventions and technologies are available.
Tools like Gyroscope can give us visibility into our body and the ability to correct errors in our habits in ways that were never before possible. If living far beyond 100 does turn out to be possible, one caveat is that it is important to keep your body in optimal health until those technologies or techniques are ready. Undoing damage or disease may turn out to be much harder than simply maintaining ourselves.