PROJECT M
Q&A

S. Jay Olshansky

S. Jay Olshansky is professor at the School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago and research associate at the Center on Aging at the University of Chicago, and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. His research focuses on estimates of the upper limits to human longevity and the pursuit of the scientific means to slow aging

S. Jay Olshansky

S. Jay Olshansky is professor at the School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago and research associate at the Center on Aging at the University of Chicago, and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. His research focuses on estimates of the upper limits to human longevity and the pursuit of the scientific means to slow aging

Death is part of life, so why do we fear it?

I believe it’s because death is unknown and final. That’s the fear that has plagued humanity forever and is the foundation of all major religions: what comes next – if anything?

The Quest for Immortality was written in 2001. Has any evidence since emerged that the magic elixirs, potions and supplements offered by the anti-aging industry work?

No! And I say that emphatically. It’s sad that this industry has arisen, but it’s not surprising. People have sold the concept of the fountain of youth for thousands of years, but there is one goal only: to separate you from your money.

You’ve written that death is the price we pay for sex. Should I abstain if I want to live longer?

You misread the argument. It’s not whether you as an individual have sex, or even have children, but what biology dictates. By the way, sex has been demonstrated to be very healthy so you should have more, not less!

There are many anti-aging gurus around, but why do none live to a biblical age?

That’s a good question. Alan Mintz died at 69. Linus Pauling died of cancer at 93. Jerome Rodale believed he would live to 100, but dropped dead on television at 72. Daniel Rudman, the first scientist to test a growth hormone, died at 67 from a pulmonary embolism. You’d think that anti-aging doctors would, on average, live longer and healthier than the rest of us if they truly had something to offer. But they don’t.

What should I do if I want to live longer?

Choose long-lived parents, avoid behaviors that shorten life (smoking, drugs, obesity, etc.), and follow my recipe: daily exercise, plenty of fruit and vegetables, low-fat protein, a restful night’s sleep, sex at least once a day and a regular indulgence in your favorite vice.

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