Health/Longevity Link List

by Dorikka1 min read5th May 201327 comments

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Dying or becoming severely physically/mentally ill is very likely going to significantly lower the output of your utility function, so it would probably be a very bad idea to ignore the low-hanging resources which can significantly extend the time for which you are alive and well. I have attempted to search LessWrong for a list of such resources, and haven't been able to find one.

Are there any books, websites, or posts that contain significantly low-hanging fruit in this area? If so, please list them in the comments below.

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My current top-of-the-head list.

Exercise is good, sitting is bad, moderate consumption of alcohol is probably good, smoking is bad, fresh vegetables are good, refined sugar is bad, family and friends are good, stress and disrupted sleep are bad. You may have noticed a trend, which is that all of these (except for the alcohol one, maybe) , are thoroughly mainstream. If this trend represents the state of research, I'd suggest a national public health agency's website for the really good interventions.

Also on the "mainstream/obvious list":

Being obese is bad. Being overweight probably bad. Being underweight is probably also bad. Vitamin D good. Getting enough micronutrients in general good. Excessive red meat consumption probably bad. Excessive processed meat consumption bad. Laughter good.

(That's all I can think of off the top of my head that's not yet been mentioned.)

Edit: Oh! Forgot one. Sunburn bad.

I'm dubious of the "vegetables are obviously wonderful" meme. We almost never see hunter-gatherer groups pursue leafy or cruciferous veggies as a source of significant calories. Instead we see a lot more calories coming from starchy sources, tubers etc. In my investigation of micronutrient content, I haven't seen much evidence that there are any substances you get from leafy/cruciferous veggies you can't get elsewhere pretty easily. I think the reason they show a link to longevity is that the person who eats lots of vegetables is either consciously or inadvertently optimizing their diet for high micronutrient content*, and I think there are other ways to get there. I wouldn't mind being wrong about this if anyone has some contrary evidence.

*A study on seasonal fluctuations in the micronutrient contents of foods correlated very well to mortality and sickness in New Zealand, this area of research deserves a lot more study than it is currently getting.

I don't think humans have a digestive system capable of using leafy or cruciferous veggies as a major source of calories... nearly all of their calories are in the form of fermentable fiber which supplies energy by fermentation in colon to short chain fats. Unlike hindgut fermenter herbivores our colon isn't large enough to supply much energy this way.

We almost never see hunter-gatherer groups pursue leafy or cruciferous veggies as a source of significant calories.

Eh, but they still ate some, and ate plenty of starchy stems and root vegetables. Also, in modern first-world diets, I'd say the biggest thing vegetables provide is fiber, which was also provided in hunter-gatherer diets by un-domesticated grains or seeds.

Every hunter gatherer culture was/is different, but I don't think any consume large quantities of grains or seeds- that was mostly only made practical as a major source of calories by the development of agriculture.

It's not clear that humans actually need much insoluble fiber (what's mostly found in grains and seeds) for good health. Starchy tubers (which make up as much as 70% of calories in many equatorial hunter gatherer societies such as the Kitvavans) are a good source of soluble fiber, which acts as a substrate for gut bacteria.

Compared to agricultural diets, I suspect that most hunter gatherers had much higher consumption of soluble fiber (primarily from leafy vegetables and tubers), and much lower consumption of insoluble fiber.

Every hunter gatherer culture was/is different, but I don't think any consume large quantities of grains or seeds- that was mostly only made practical as a major source of calories by the development of agriculture.

Oh, okay. I was thinking of un-domesticated seeds like sumpweed when I said that, but wikipedia ways it was "cultivated," so I was wrong.

We know a lot less about hunter-gatherers than most people think, and hunter-gatherer tribes fluctuate a lot in terms of their diets/lifestyles, as one would expect with the diversity of the world.

Vegetables tend to be low calorie, so you wouldn't expect tribes to expend a lot of effort getting them. That doesn't really apply to a modern environment where getting enough calories isn't a concern and vegetables can be bought at your local supermarket.

...moderate consumption of alcohol is probably good....

Do you refer to how indulging in red wine confers to one the benefits of its polyphenols? I have many objections even if that was your intended meaning, but I've a feeling you've other reasons of which I'm entirely ignorant.

I couldn't find the meta-analysis that was going around last year but this one seems to show the same thing. Low dosages of alcohol are reasonably correlated with longevity in the general population.

Did these studies control for socializing?

I don't know, if you are interested read them. Their models definitely control for things like 'social class'. Furthermore I am not really convinced whether the small amount of extra socializing that alcohol brings has a significant effect on longevity (it might do, I am just not convinced).

My understanding is that the decent longitudinal studies fail to take account of the fact that a fair proportion of people who don't drink AT ALL are ex-alcoholics. But I haven't seen these studies in particular.

To be honest, in the UK, not drinking at all is a very strong signal for either being a Muslim or having some reasonably serious personal whackiness and non-conformism. Both of those seem likely to me to be at least as likely to explain health effects as the booze itself.

Some studies say that red wine is better than white and that wine is better than other types of alcohol, but mostly the evidence is that type of alcohol doesn't matter. The evidence is observational with no causal mechanism. However, short term RCT show that alcohol affects cholesterol levels.

Meta analysis of milk consumption studies suggests a significant decrease in CVD. Some studies show a marginal increase in prostate cancer in men, but as this is a highly treatable cancer and a much smaller effect size than the CVD reduction it seems like a great tradeoff. As expected if this was true, overall mortality is lower for milk drinkers.

Lactose intolerance isn't evenly distributed through the population, so it might be a confounding factor.

Floss your damn teeth ffs.

Do you have a more original source. I've heard about this, and would be interested to know if/how a causal link was established between flossing and heart disease

I'd just google scholar 'flossing' and 'cardiovascular'. It has been the subject of several studies.

Here's a solid source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3124861/

I am a bit skeptical of this though because it is all epidemiological & therefore ripe for confounding factors. I'm sure people who brush their teeth and/or floss differ from those who neglect oral hygiene in many other ways.

Just to take a really crude whack at the question, there's a consensus that exercise is good for people, though not necessarily about how much and what kind.

You should check out The Longevity Project, which suggests that conscientiousness and maintaining your social network contribute to longevity..

In developed countries nowadays, the main low hanging fruit is reversing or eliminating "metabolic syndrome" for people suffering from it.

The Perfect Health Diet (including the circadian rhythm hacks mentioned in the book) coupled with high intensity weight lifting is a powerful all around approach which simultaneously attacks dozens of factors which contribute to metabolic syndrome.

For weight lifting protocols, a good health-oriented protocol is Body by Science, however I'm more partial to Vince Gironda's Unleashing The Wild Physique lifting protocols, since they have the side effect of making you look like a Marvel superhero. Either protocol will raise growth hormone levels and block the effects of cortisol, which will likely yield massive improvements in your mental and physical health- especially if you experience chronic stress.

I have no financial affiliation, but all of these sources I mention here cost money and contain information you could find free online. However, I am not aware of anywhere else which presents the information so throughly- with proper citations and easy to follow instructions.

Any feedback on why this was downvoted?

There seems to be an overwhelming amount of bad health advice out there, but I've spent years looking for the most effective and rigorous methods to improve my own health, and the links above are the best methods I've been able to find.

It's hard to explain in a short post how good these materials really are but they've radically improved health and quality of life for me, and most of my friends and family who tried them.

Edit: I suspect the signal to noise ratio for "diet advice" is so terrible, everyone needs to assume it's all crap, or else they'd spend too much time evaluating everything they hear.

I found this list of causes of death by age and gender interesting (and if anyone has links to statistics that I can subdivide further, e.g. by race and socioeconomic class, I would be very grateful), although it doesn't immediately suggest what the lowest-hanging fruit as far as increased life expectancy are. I was most surprised by how high poisoning is on the list for my age group and gender (and others might be surprised by how high suicide is, or maybe not). I'm not sure exactly what this entails but my guess is it includes overdosing on stuff like painkillers, so don't do that. With increased age we get the usual suspects like heart disease, and I imagine these have been extensively studied.

Given a large enough database of deaths it seems like you could build a naive model that outputs a probability distribution over remaining years of life based on some key variables; I might be interested in doing this at some point if someone wants to point me to such a database.

The most interesting thing I've seen lately was a news story about a treatment that increased GNRH release in rats and their longevity.

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature12143.html

[-][anonymous]8y -1

This could go in the open thread.

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