By Brady Holmer
Healthspan and longevity research has exploded in the past decade, and as scientists learn more about the biology of aging, it is becoming clear that we have more control over our own biology than once thought. Our genes are far from the only factor that determines our lifespans. Interventions that extend healthspan and lifespan in animals are now being translated to studies in humans and will likely provide breakthroughs in our scientific understanding of the aging process.
At Juvenescence, our team of researchers is uncovering the mechanisms and exploring ways that ketones and ketosis may extend health and longevity. Their science often speaks for itself, but what goes on in the minds of these scientists and clinicians about their own individual approach to health and longevity? Dr. Eric Verdin, MD, Dr. John Newman, MD, PhD , and Dr. Brianna Stubbs, DPhil — researchers working at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, who helped develop Juvenescence’s new product, Metabolic Switch®, share thoughts on living a healthy, long life and what it means to them.
What do the terms longevity and health span mean to you?
“If you look at centenarians (people who live to be 100 years old) and what they do today, they only spend about 5% of their life afflicted by the disease of aging.”
To Dr. Eric Verdin, this is the definition of healthspan — compressing “morbidity” so that we spend the majority of our life in good health. To him, longevity is an area worth investing in, and he believes that if we can optimize all aspects of life — from exercise to stress to nutrition to therapeutics — then “we should be able to carry most people to between 90 and 100 [years old].”
For Dr. Brianna Stubbs, a long life isn’t desirable if it isn’t accompanied by good health. To her, healthspan is a “high quality, high function life,” and she says that she wouldn’t want longevity without healthspan.
Dr. John Newman thinks of healthspan as “living your life the way you want to live it” — having personal freedom. For him and his patients, the primary goal is working with people in order to figure out what their life goals really are, which often involves staying independent, keeping active, being mobile, and being involved in life. As a scientist, he’s determined to research new and better tools to help people achieve those goals. That’s what keeps him going.
“Since entering the field of aging research, she [Dr. Brianna Stubbs] realizes her habits and choices at a young age will determine how her life looks in 30-40 years, so she’s ‘being more intentional and engaged’ with the idea of how her habits may influence health and lifespan down the road.”
When did you start prioritizing health and well-being?
Thinking about living longer wasn’t necessarily a primary focus of Dr. Stubbs before she began working at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Fair enough — she’s not even 30. But as a high-performance athlete for most of her life, she realizes that some of her choices may not be optimal for longevity. Since entering the field of aging research, she realizes her habits and choices at a young age will determine how her life looks in 30-40 years, so she’s “being more intentional and engaged” with the idea of how her habits may influence health and lifespan down the road.
Dr. Verdin admits to being a “late bloomer” when it comes to prioritizing his health. Until he was about 40, Dr. Verdin lived a lifestyle he describes as being not exactly conducive to health or longevity. But after the experience of seeing his father, a lifelong smoker, succumb to the afflictions that the habit affords to some, he changed the way he looked at the aging process and how he could intervene in his own aging journey. “It doesn’t take long for you to start experiencing your own aging” — but now Dr. Verdin feels better than he has ever felt.
Personal experiences have also played a role in Dr. Newman’s ideas about how he chooses to prioritize his own health journey. Seeing aging in loved ones and those around you makes it quite obvious that “life isn’t static.” Your grandparents weren’t always grandparents, and the middle-aged neighbor you grew up with is suddenly the elderly neighbor to the folks who just moved in.”
There will always be a “last time” for doing things one loves like playing volleyball, and for Dr. Newman, a goal is to push further or “delay” that last time. But it’s not all “worry” when it comes to his own aging — he’s also encountering new “firsts” every day, things he wouldn’t have been able to experience as his younger self. At his current age, the aim is to “not only keep up what I might lose, but even more to enjoy what is still ahead.”
What strategies do you use to support your health and longevity?
Supporting healthy aging is all about putting aspects of aging into “buckets” for Dr. Eric Verdin, but he’s careful not to so meticulously focus on anti-aging strategies that he loses his zest and joy for life — which in his own words, is one of the most important things that you can have.
Nutrition is a big priority for Dr. Verdin. He engages in some daily time-restricted feeding (TRF) — usually eating within a window of 10-12 hours so he gets at least a 12-hour period of complete fasting each day. He also takes part in a “fasting mimicking diet (FMD)” once every 3-5 months, seeing this as a good “reset” for his body and mind.
His second but perhaps most important bucket is exercise. Engaging in a wide variety of physical activity seems to be key for Dr. Verdin’s health and longevity regimen. He tries to spend at least one hour every day doing some form of exercise — which may include riding a Peloton® workout bike, jogging or walking, go-karting, or toying with his latest obsession, a virtual-reality simulation that he says gives him an incredible physical and mental workout. Above all, keeping his workout routine enjoyable and fresh seems to be crucial.
His final bucket is sleep — without enough shut-eye, he finds it hard to do all of the other things he wants to do to optimize health and longevity. It all starts with sleep.
The exercise bucket is a big part of Dr. Stubbs’s healthspan regimen. Not only does exercise keep her healthy and strong, but is also a way to relax, have fun, and spend social time with friends — helping her optimize physical and emotional health all at once. As far as diet goes, she tries to eat a balanced, non-processed diet, supplemented with daily time-restricted feeding and a 24-hour fast every few weeks. For Dr. Stubbs, she feels that the things she enjoys doing and that make her feel good are also backed by scientific evidence as potentially being beneficial for healthspan and lifespan. A win-win situation.
Dr. Newman’s healthspan strategy doesn’t involve “one weird trick” for improving his health. Rather, he abides by the same principles for healthy aging that he gives to his patients — “be more active, take care of your health, and stay connected!”
Emphasizing “be more active,” Dr. Newman believes that having a more active lifestyle is perhaps the best way to ensure healthy aging. This can mean exercise, but can also include mental, social, and emotional activity. “Use it or lose it is real” and by staying active at a relatively young age, we can prevent the loss of health and mobility that occur as we get older.
Dr. Newman has decided to become more conscious of his own activity as he gets older, as well as how he advises patients to be more active. In turn, he shares that his patients have taught him the value of staying connected and involved. Though this may seem like common sense or conventional wisdom, Dr. Newman’s ideas on connection and activity are supported by an abundance of scientific research. The research, along with the fact that most of what he does makes him healthier, more fit, and happier, is what has formed and maintained Dr. Newman’s own health-enhancing habits.
How has your research informed your thoughts on health and longevity?
Being so involved in research on ketones and the ketogenic diet, Dr. Verdin admits that while he doesn’t zealously adhere to a ketogenic diet, he does “cycle” through periods of reduced carbohydrate intake after experiencing the benefits of ketosis in himself that the research also supports. He draws on the keto diet in times where he anticipates needing extra mental energy and more clarity — when writing a large grant, for example.
His motivation for creating a product like Metabolic Switch®, an exogenous C6 Ketone Di-ester, also came from experiences in the laboratory and in his own life. With the product (Metabolic Switch®), “We wanted to recapitulate the benefits of what we see with the ketogenic diet with an exogenous ketone.”
Dr. Stubbs admits that without her research into the multiple benefits of ketosis and exogenous sources of ketones, she wouldn’t be so inclined to modulate her carbohydrate intake or practice things like intermittent fasting because “I love food.” To support her large training days or help curb appetite, she uses exogenous ketones and medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), a decision that is highly evidence-based given some of the known benefits of exogenous ketones on exercise performance and appetite hormones.
Experience working with geriatric conditions and elderly individuals in the hospital has informed Dr. Newman’s knowledge about his own body, and how he decides to treat it in order to prevent or forestall age-related disease in himself. “Studying aging biology, metabolism, and ketone bodies in the laboratory has definitely made me think about how what I do in day-to-day life is affecting these same processes in my own body.” Before “accidentally” landing upon studying ketone bodies in the lab, Dr. Newman hadn’t given much thought to ketones or ketosis, which he now realizes are quite an overlooked part of normal physiology.
Assuming you can achieve it in good health, how long would you like to live?
Dr. Newman wants to “live long enough and healthy enough to make a difference in the world, to leave a legacy in people’s lives and in science, and to pass the torch on to another generation.” What age specifically, he doesn’t say, but he does say he has gained inspiration from meeting people in their 90s and 100s who have had fulfilling lives that are still living independently and doing what matters to them. He hopes science will someday make this image of “healthy longevity” accessible to all of us.
The answer was simple for Dr. Verdin — “as long as I can possibly live.”
He has a vision of getting to 95 in good health and wishes that more young people realized that with age, “life gets better.”
100 years would be “an achievement” for Dr. Stubbs. This goal is perhaps set by her intrinsic competitiveness, and if science allowed her to get to that age relatively healthy surrounded by people she loved, “then why stop at 100!?”
At Juvenescence, “why stop there” is what drives innovation and passion. It’s why our products are tailored to help everyone achieve their optimal healthspan and lifespan and experience life’s great adventures along the way.