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Did Your Genes Evolve to Kill You: How to Live Longer; Intvw with Josh Mitteldorf

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Broadcast 1/5/2017 at 03:57:24
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Josh Mitteldorf

Josh Mitteldorf is a theoretical biologist with a Ph.D. from the University of PA. He runs the web site agingAdvice.org writes a weekly column for ScienceBlog.com and is the author of more than two dozen peer-reviewed articles on the biology of aging. He has had visiting research and teaching positions at various universities including MIT, Harvard and Berkeley.

VERY Rough Notes on the Audio interview

Rob: What are the goals of your book.

I want to precipitate in evolutionary biology and biological researchers

Evolution is a lot more communal than they've recognized.

Selfish gene is one small picture in the bigger picture.

ecosystems evolve.

THere's been a tremendous " has shaped evolution from bottom up.

Rob: Talk more about bottom up and evolution

Let's start with Darwin. Science wasn't what it was today. he

Ronald Fisher who gave us what we now know as the modern theory of evolution, sometimes called neo-Darwinism

Genetic Theory of Natural Selection-- 1930 a screed on social darwinism-- racist, classist.

Two big distortions in Fisher's picture. He only had paper and pencil. Now, on computers, we can handle much more complex systems.

Fisher, because of his personality, believed that humanity was diluting it's gene pool-- that the talented people-- the rich, upper class, the rich people aren't reproducing as fast as the poor people.

Rob: how has evolution been shaped from bottom up processes.

The standard picture is about only competition and no cooperation and every individual is a threat to everybody else. There's no cooperation in the standard picture, except in this very limited way-- if you and I are related.

Rob: So ecosystems evolve. Why is that an essential ingredient in understanding aging.

There always a conflict between the individual and the community.

For the community a predictable death rate is important. You can't build an ecosystem on boom or bust economics. In order to make stable ecosystems evolution has designed in limits to reproduction and life span.

Rob: What does the main aging science community say about this

They've taken Ronald Fisher's model

They don't recognize that cooperation

You can see, if you have two eyes, cooperation everywhere. This is a case where common sense of individual people is a better guide.

Rob: that's a round about way of saying they are clueless.

Rob: this is important because your basic concept of aging-- that people are genetically programmed to age and die.

The found aging genes, starting with C Elegans worms. They discovered that you could disable a gene in the worm and the worm lived twice as long. Then they found aging genes in yeast cells, fruit flies, lab mice-- you delete the gene and the animal lives longer. These aging genes are closely related for worms, yeast and you and me. We had one common ancestor-- one species-- that ancestral creature, more primitive than worms, already had this aging gene and passed it down to every line that came out of there, and evolution has preserved these aging genes for half a billion years.

Rob: that brings us back to your theory on cooperation vs survival of the fittest and how they tie to aging genes that program us to get old and die.

Darwin didn't talk about survival of the fittest for individuals or groups.

Evolution works at many different levels-- tribe vs tribe and community vs community and a whole ecosystem vs another ecosystem.

Rob: so where do you go with your model to bring cooperation into the aging picture?

computer simulation-- including ecology along with the individual competition. You find that aging is a necessary ingredient to create stable ecosystems. You find a compromise between the individual who wants to live as long as possible and the community.

Rob: How have your theories been responded to by the scientific community?

In 1996, I wrote my first paper and sent it to the Journal of Theoretical Biology and the editor sent it back

David Sloan Wilson has been propounding that evolution is as much about cooperation as individual competition.

Rob: I discovered him when I asked Bernie Sanders economist for advice on finding ties between economics and evolution. he pointed me to economics.

In August I have a scientific version of the same book, coming from Taylor and Francis called Aging is a Group Selective Adaptation.

programmed aging-- is finally a conversation.

There's been overwhelmed

Suicide genes are another way to describe programmed aging.

Rob: what's the main approach to longevity-- slowing down the suicide genes.

the schedule is a flexible. During starvation, aging takes a backseat. When times are cushy, when times are fat and lazy, that's when aging attacks with a vengeance.

So you can trick the body into thinking there's starvation.

So losing weight is one of the primary strategies for extending your own life.

Exercise is wear and tear on the body. It generates free radicals.

Free radical theory of aging-- idea of exercise which generates more free radicals than anything else.

Most of the t hints that help us live longer is in the category of hardships-- exercise long hard and intense. My favorite kind of exercise is interval training. Go all out for a minute and a half at most. A few minutes a day of exercise, at maximal level of exertion can be as beneficial as a moderate program of jogging.

Rob: last time we had lunch, you were on a modified, 400 calorie a day four day fast.

Periods of fasting can extend our lives.

If you can stand a 3 or 4 day water fast, it resets our immune system and insulin".

Valter Longo, U. of Cal. was showing fasting dramatically improves for cancer patients, for everybody. IN the last couple of years, he's designed a diet with 80% of the gain and 20% of the pain-- a fasting mimicking diet-- 5 days of 700 calories a day. There's a link of how to do this

recipes on agingadvice.org

FMDrecipes.org

Rob: Josh, you fast every week-- a day of fasting, a day of raw.

That works for me, but everyone has to develop their own eating habits.

A day of raw food every week and a day with no calories at all from wed evening until friday morning I just have water and tea. In addition to that I do the fasting mimicking diet every four to six weeks.

And maybe once a year I'll do the four day water fast.

Rob: What does it to for you.

I feel quite healthy. When I look around at people my age I think I do pretty well. I climb mountains.

I'm still hiking and my friend I've been hiking for 20 years stays back at the campsite.

Know that you can affect your aging process with your life habits.

Rob: car-- more you use it the more it wears out. But with exercise, you get healthier. Your talking about anti-fragility

The scientific idea is hormesis-- when the body is challenged, it over compensates and ends up being healthier. Many toxins in small quantities actually make you healthier and live longer. Some say that's how resveratrol works.

Rob: What is the dominant theory that you're fighting against?

It's so strange that you wouldn't believe that anyone could think that way.

The body has to make compromises, there's only so much food energy. You can use it to be strong, to reproduce, or invest in repair of the body-- a long term investment, and it's hard to compete w ith survival and reproduction, so the repair and maintenance budget is short changed, and

Disposable soma theory.

Rob; this more of an approach to a car

Paper by Dobjansky. Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. Evolution is the answer to all the why questions.

They argue that aging couldn't have evolved as an adaptation. I see your theory is conflicting with the evidence.

We have to change the selfish gene theory and come up with a more inclusive theory that explains the course of aging.

Rob: You're saying that cooperation developed out of evolution.

Hobbessian idea that nature is tooth and claw-- not true historically, nor true for what we see when we look at ecosystems.

Cooperation was a big part of shaping the human.

Rob: not tribes bands.

Rob: Have you thought about how greed and selfishness tap plies to us, today

two implications-- medical research and management of earth's ecosystem

1- medical research: during 20th century we've made enormous progress with vaccines, antibiotics, lessening impact of traumatic injury. We've had this paradigm of fixing what's wrong with the body-- viruses, injury, genetic defects. 20th century medicine was based on helping the body back on course. We've tried to apply the same approach to heart disease, cancer and Alzheimers and we've made scant progress. The problem is these are not things that go wrong with the body. They are part of the program-- not a bug, a feature. This is a design feature. And all of the 20th approaches will not address the diseases of old age, as opposed to the diseases of youth.

Once you realize that aging is programmed you have to change the programming and then you'll fix it in one fell swoop.

Rob: positive psychology-- tie-- instead of healing pathology, develop skills to move toward health.

Josh: Most powerful thing that you can do to extend your life is to live an engage, loving active cooperative life in your community. People who have love, family, who are engaged in their life, people who have good social connections and support network live ten years longer than people who are lonely. The golden path to a longer life is to keep your social connections alive, active and caring.

Rob: You mentioned two implications-- also management of earth's ecosystem.

So imagine we can accomplish this revolution, conquer aging and live a longer time in full health. That's great f or us as individuals, but a disaster for us as a community. We are wiping out species willy nilly. We have no ideas of the damage we're doing.

We're killing off 1% of species per year. We could be wiping out life on earth in a matter of decades. This is a crisis that has come from greater longevity but also technology. We know how to erase the ecosystems, replacing them with pure monoculture. This is very dangerous. Life is far more interdependent.

For the foreseeable future we have to preserve the earth's ecosystem on which our life depends.

There's a distinctly bottom up, systems as opposed to mechanistic approach to your explanation for aging, which contradicts most aging experts. That seems analogous to historical developments in other fields of science.

book discusses Car vs community. P 36

do ecosystems evolve?

epigenetics

comparing exercise vs mileage

suicide genes.

Some things don't get old-- quahog clams, sharks, aspen trees, some one celled lifeforms

Self-repair is unique to life

Selfishness, greediness in predators

co-evolution

evolution moves to decrease virulence

Hyperindividuals and hyperindividualism

20 sexual desire is adaptive for mulitiple partners.

your co-author Dorian Dagan refers to your thanatology. What's that

Dangers of longer life

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Rob Kall is the host of the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show, WNJC 1360, where he discusses how the bottom up mind and bottom up revolution are reaching different areas of the world, of life, of politics, business, society and anywhere else.

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