An enthusiastic review of old and new research into the means of extending life.
Neuroscientist Levitin (Emeritus, Psychology and Neuroscience/McGill Univ.; A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age, 2016) emphasizes “that it is the interactions of genes, culture, and opportunity that are the biggest determinants of the trajectory our lives take; how our brains will change; and whether or not we’ll be healthy, engaged, and happy throughout the lifespan.” He adds that since our years are divided into what he calls “healthspan” and “diseasespan,” we should aim to prolong the former. As background, he devotes more than half the text to a fine overview of brain function, human physiology, and psychology that supports his point. Good genes are necessary but not sufficient; upbringing and environment play an essential role, and both work best if one takes advantage of opportunities. Real science books have minuscule audiences compared with books that promise the secrets of perfect health; Levitin, a genuine scientist, aims to enjoy the best of both worlds. Some of his breathless prescriptions are old favorites—happy people live longer; eat mostly plants; have lots of friends; don’t retire—but he relies heavily on legitimate science, so readers will encounter life-extenders supported by studies (although not in humans) such as calorie restriction, metformin, and rapamycin, as well as long-in-the-tooth favorites like antioxidants and fish oil, which he advocates for while admitting that recent studies are not impressive. Warning against popular nonsense, the author nevertheless includes a generous selection of nutrients, lifestyles, and pharmaceuticals supported by little more than reasonable theories or obsessively health-conscious colleagues. Levitin seems to underestimate his skill as an educator, and he has written a lucid explanation of brain and body function. His longevity advice has plenty of competition, especially David Sinclair’s Lifespan, but this book’s breadth is impressive.
Excellent popular science in the service of fending off aging.