Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Longevity Factor

I caught the beginning of Oprah last night - Dr. Oz was on talking about living longer, even to 120. It was after 11pm, so I didn't watch much of it - but I did see the first segment on living longer by restricting calorie intake.

I wasn't surprised to hear about that, because I had read about it in a book I recently picked up at the library, The Longevity Factor: How Resveratrol and Red Wine Activate Genes for a Longer and Healthier Life by Joseph Maroon, M.D.

Dr. Maroon had tried that strategy himself, but decided it was entirely too restrictive to actually enjoy the life he would be living longer. (Umm, yeah!)

Before I go any further writing about this book, I have to make a full disclosure. First, I picked up this book because Shaklee recently introduced a resveratrol product called Vivix, and I thought reviewing this book might give me an excuse to talk about it (which it will). Second, I really just skimmed this book.

When I picked it up, I was afraid it would be a rather dry book, focused on scientific studies and full of medical jargon. For the most part, that was true. It is full of interesting ideas, and I did learn a lot, but I could not read every word. If you're a scientist or a science buff, I'm sure this book would hold your interest more than it did mine.

However, I am glad that I picked it up. I learned quite a bit from it, and was encouraged by some of Dr. Maroon's statements. A bit of background for you: Dr. Maroon is a world-renowned neurosugeon and has been the team neurosurgeon for the Pittsburgh Steelers for the past 25 years - just a few tidbits from his bio on the back flap of the book. He's also a triathlete.

First, a warning if you are one who holds to creation science: the first part of the book is quite heavy on evolutionary biology and the history of genetic research. Ironically, Chapter 1 opens with excerpts from Genesis chapter 1 of the Bible. Honestly, I mostly skipped this part of the book.

Maroon introduces an interesting idea which I hadn't really thought about until the past few years. On pages 21-22, he talks about the difference between chronological and physiological age. "chronological age - the number of years you've lived - doesn't necessarily correlate with physiological age." I've noticed it on a personal level. We had neighbors in Florida who I thought were at least 10 to 15 years older than Glen and I. Imagine my shock to discover they were actually 5 years younger than us! Their physiological age was much older than their chronological age. Then again, my grandmother at 88 acted much younger than her age - her church friends were always shocked at how old she was. (She's slowed down a lot since then, but at age 91, still lives at home.)

Maroon's example is quite impressive - on pg 22 he has a picture of one of his patients, professional wrestler Bruno Sammartino. If all you do is pick up this book and look at the picture, it's worth it. It's a picture of Sammartino at age 27 next to a picture of him at 70. Except for less hair, they look remarkably the same. It's amazing to see what is possible of we care for ourselves.

My other favorite part of the book is Part II: The Australian Extract. It tells the story of Peter Voigt - a biochemist turned businessman who bought a vineyard. His practical story of a struggling vineyard, working to find a use for what he felt was the excess waste of grape skins & seeds after making wine, and his success against many odds was riveting. I think it was the only part of the book I read in its entirety.

This is becoming too long already, so let me just lift out some of my favorite quotes from Dr. Maroon for you to ponder:

pg 76 "With time and experience, however, I have come to realize the importance of preventive medicine. How much better it would be to prevent disease and improve health in later life rather than to prolong, at time, misery, and even dying. How much better it would be to help people stay in relatively good health until death came."

pg 278 "Unfortunately, all too physicians and health-care practitioners devote much time to preventive medicine. They are rewarded financially for fixing people's health after it breaks down, not for maintenance. Similarly, the profits of pharmaceutical companies are dependent on age-related diseases rather than on their prevention..."

Exactly Dr. Maroon! Two of my main reasons why I like Shaklee so much - focus on preventing disease and improving health and doing both in harmony with nature.

One thing that I didn't expect to find in Dr. Maroon's book was recipes. However, there are a bunch of them - several of which look good enough that I'm going to copy them down before I return the book. I could explain why he includes recipes, but that would include words like 'xeno factor' and 'polyphenol' - so I'll let you read it for yourself.

And, so that you know, on page 193, Dr. Maroon talks briefly about Shaklee's resveratrol product, Vivix. Which isn't really a resveratrol product as much as it is a "Mixed Polyphenol Product" - as Dr. Maroon calls it. He doesn't give his opinion whether he likes it or not, just gives the facts. It's the only 'Mixed Polyphenol Product' in the book, so I'd say it's pretty unique.

Bottom line: if you're wondering what all the hype about resveratrol is about, this book explains it very well. It's worth a read if you're a scientist or science buff, and certainly worth a quick read-through if you're not.

(And a quick apology - I didn't expect this post on The Longevity Factor to be quite so long. OK, couldn't resist the pun!)


Molly Sabourin said...

VERY interesting, Michelle! I particulary like the quotes you included (the one from pg. 76 is my favorite). I like it when you do your comprehensive book reviews!

Daniel Morris said...

Great article. I recently ran into The Longevity Factor book myself doing research for a nutritional information site on resveratrol.

I hadn't finished reading it yet so was excited to see the tidbits you quoted. Other than the straight information and the scientific stuff, was it written in a fun style at all?

Did you get the idea that Dr. Maroon will look young 10 years from now as well?


Michelle said...

Dan - I thought that Dr. Maroon and his editor would have been helped a lot by reading "Made to Stick" (see post from March 18).

He did include his experiences with his parents dying young, which acted as a wake-up call for his own health - or lack thereof.

Overall - it was not written in a fun style. And, I think from what he describes as his lifestyle, Dr. Maroon will look young 10 years from now. Especially if he switched brands to Shaklee. :)