“Aging is a disease that’s treatable. Aging is a loss of information…we actually think we’ve found the backup hard drive. And we can reset the body. ” – Dr. David Sinclair.
There are few things in life that are guaranteed.
But the one thing we can all count on is the process of aging. Regardless of our ethnicity, religion, heritage, gender, orientation, socio-economic bracket, or ANY other factor of who we are, we’re all subject to the gradual march of time taking its toll.
As long as humans have been self-aware of our life cycle, we’ve looked for ways to slow it down. Beat back the aging process. Maybe even achieve something like immortality.
My guest on today’s episode of The School of Greatness is leading the charge against getting older…and he thinks we’re all getting close to winning the fight. Get ready to learn more from Dr. David Sinclair.
Even as a child, Dr. David Sinclair was struck by the unfairness of the aging process.
When he was only four years old, his grandmother cautioned him to make the most of every moment with his beloved pet cat, since animals experience shorter lifespans than we do. This instilled a drive in David to fight the forces of time, one that carried him through his adult education.
Dr. Sinclair matriculated at Sydney’s University of New South Wales, receiving both a Ph.D in Molecular Genetics and the Australian Commonwealth Prize. After an anti-aging lecture tour meeting with MIT professor Dr. Leonard Guarente, David applied to work as a post-grad in his lab and was accepted.
Before long, David brought his passion for fighting time to Harvard University, and established a specialized lab he still chairs for studying ways to combat the aging process.
David Sinclair is a now professor in the Department of Genetics and co-director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging at Harvard Medical School. He is an inventor on 35 patents and has received more than 35 awards and honors. In 2014, he was on Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People in the World,” and listed as Time’s Top 50 in healthcare in 2018.
David’s fight against aging hasn’t been easy. It was a rough go from the start. The more Dr. Sinclair asserted the validity of his early findings in the press and medical journals, the more the scientific community was openly and vocally critical of his avenue of research. For years, funding and staffing swung in up and down extremes as his credibility was openly called into question.
Despair and depression set in, as he began to second-guess his entire life’s work.
Then, a funny thing happened. David started to achieve breakthrough results. His study and experimentation of a compound called “resveratrol” was shown in multiple peer-reviewed studies to increase anti-aging compounds during laboratory testing. After years of being derided as a “fraud,” his detractors were forced to eat their words.
Today, after nearly a decade of getting the side-eye from the establishment, Dr. Sinclair and his work have been vindicated. His groundbreaking work battling the aging process is now accepted as mainstream science, and he’s sharing what he knows with the world.
His book “Lifespan: Why We Age – And Why We Don’t Have To” is a NYT bestseller. In it, he outlines a comprehensive plan for extending the human lifespan, and achieving a quality of life that will make it worthwhile.
To say this was a fascinating conversation would be an understatement. Dr. Sinclair has been leading the anti-aging charge for years, even when nobody believed him. Now that it’s becoming clear he was right all along, he’s leagues ahead of everyone else in the field.
If you live old enough, you’re probably going to get cancer, because that’s what eventually happens right? Something in your body is inevitably going to go wrong – whether it be your lungs, your bones, or your heart. Along with old age comes a motherload of other problems, and doctors and researchers are working around the clock to find a way to fix them. Great progress has been made in cancer research and the treatment of other diseases.
But Dr. David Sinclair has a unique perspective. What is the cause of most of these diseases?
“The main reason all these diseases occur is that our bodies are aging.” – David Sinclair
Instead of focusing on diseases specifically, David chose to focus on the cause of most diseases (aging) and figure out how this process can be slowed or even reversed. Dr. Sinclair explains that we all have built-in-defense against aging, which are called “longevity genes.” We can activate these genes in our lives by doing certain and relatively simple things!
I’m not a science guy, but David breaks it all down in this interview. Basically, there are seven specific sirtuins (proteins) that help regulate cellular health and fight against disease, stress, and aging. Dr. Sinclair describes them as traffic cops that help the body fend against adversity.
In his lab, David is constantly testing and experimenting, trying to find the most effective ways to “activate” these genes in life forms. He works with mice, but unlike most labs, his main focus is to make the rats healthier and live longer. He’s driven by the question, not the technology. And the question is “why do we age and what can we do about it?”
Dr. David Sinclair breaks it all down into five simple steps that almost anyone can do.
In the last couple of years, David and his team have found that there is a “backup hard drive of youthfulness” in the cell. Their mission is to access that hard drive and reset it – to turn on those longevity genes. They’ve learned that the sooner you start turning those on, the better.
“We now know from studying twins that 80% of your health in old age is up to you, how you live your life.” – Dr. David Sinclair
So how do you turn them on? There are five simple steps:
#1. First of all, don’t smoke. We’ve all heard this before – cigarettes will kill you – but with the rise of smoking alternatives, such as vaping, this warning is still very applicable. The chemicals we put in our lungs have a significant effect on our body chemistry and health. Smoking damages cellular DNA and accelerates the aging process – It’s undeniable. David’s mother died from lung cancer. She smoked, and years later, had a tumor the size of a grapefruit in her left lung. They took out the tumor, and she lived another 20 years, but in excruciating pain and hardship.
#2. Second, don’t eat too much. And that doesn’t just apply to the “unhealthy foods” – it applies to food in general. Dr. Sinclair isn’t recommending malnutrition, of course, but a healthy amount of intermittent fasting. Skipping a meal a day is okay, even if you’re an athlete. He recommends to stop eating when you’re about 60 or 70% full. We’re conditioned to eat the food in front of us at a young age – who else was encouraged to have a “clean plate” as a kid? But fasting can help turn on those longevity genes.
#3. Third is the obvious: High Intensity Interval Training (what we call “HIIT” workouts). In these moments of extreme physical stress and mental toughness, the body becomes hypoxic, which is another word for “lacking oxygen.” When you’re out of breath, your blood is flowing, nourishing your body, and those longevity genes are turned on. We need to be in survival mode to fight back against aging, but the truth is, we spend our whole lives trying to reduce adversity. It’s ironic that a passive, comfortable life actually reduces our lifespan, but it’s true. Get out there and break a sweat.
#4. Fourth is the type of food you eat. Dr. David Sinclair recommends eating plant-based foods, and also healthy amounts of monounsaturated fats – like olive oil and avocados. These fatty acids are great for your body and some contain polyphenols, which are molecules that plants make when they’re stressed. Eating “stressed food” actually activates those longevity genes. Red wine is another example – It’s full of polyphenols and one in particular called “resveratrol” that Dr. Sinclair and his team have been studying for 20 years. It activates those longevity pathways really well.
#5. And lastly, get a good night’s sleep. The body has to restore itself overnight, and if you skip sleep, you are pushing yourself closer and closer into old age. Take a nap every once and while. It’s amazing what it will do for your health.
So there you have it: 5 simple things you can do to live longer. Dr. David Sinclair says that doing those things will at least get you an extra 14 years on average. It’s just living a good life.
David has undergone an extraordinary amount of rejection in his life.
Remember polyphenols – those stressy molecules that make you live longer? Dr. Sinclair resolved to put those in a supplement, for older people who couldn’t perform HIIT workouts anymore. The resveratrol in red wine was his answer, and it held promising results.
But in 2010, some companies published some scientific papers, claiming that all of Dr. Sinclair’s research was false.
“It was a tough time. And this is what I built my career on. I was known in the world for this, and then it went away.” – Dr. David Sinclair
People left the lab. Grants were denied. Everything was telling David to throw in the towel and give up.
But he didn’t – he kept experimenting and researching, even with a smaller team, but he knew what he saw. He knew that this resveratrol had an impact on longevity genes. And sure enough, he was vindicated, after several years of his reputation being dragged in the dirt. He was right all along.
He’s currently working on publishing a paper about his findings, a paper he’s been working on for over ten years. One peer had something negative to say about it, and it got denied. But he’s confident it will be appealed and published.
“It’ll come out…But we’re gonna have to rewrite it potentially for other journals which will take us a long time. So the world won’t find out about this for a while…” – Dr. David Sinclair
When you think about it, all science is a little wrong to some extent. Scientists make mistakes and misread information just like any other human being. But – those missteps are “the stepping stones to more knowledge.” Fighting through adversity, people can continue to make progress that will change the world.
“Science goes forward and backwards in little steps, but overall, it’s forward.” – Dr. David Sinclair
Ultimately, Dr. David Sinclair doesn’t want to live forever. That’s not his aim here. He’s not worried about himself. His aim is to leave this planet having done something meaningful and helpful for humanity. He enjoys experimenting, and the excitement of finding such groundbreaking research fuels him to keep asking questions, even when others try to debunk his findings.
Whether you’re twenty, forty, or eighty years old – this episode is for you. It’s not too late to start making changes in your lifestyle. We all have longevity genes just waiting to be tapped into.
Dr. David Sinclair’s definition of greatness is inspiring, and it’s gone through change. He said that it used to be tied to being recognized or valued in society – “being someone who is recognized internationally for something important.”
But now, he believes that greatness is “just making a difference in people’s lives.” Not everyone has to know your name. If you can genuinely help just one person, you’re exhibiting greatness.
Ready to learn how you can reverse aging, live longer, and overcome adversity? Then join me on Episode 904 with the one and only Dr. David Sinclair to find out.