Soylent…And it’s not Green!

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At first it may seen disingenuous to create an edible product and call it Soylent. For those of a certain age (ahem!) we might associate Soylent with “Soylent Green” the movie set in the future and featuring Charlton Heston as a Law Enforcer in a  world where there are too many people and not enough food. He discovers the secret of the new wonder product that is feeding masses, Soylent Green- it’s reconstituted dead human flesh!

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However to call a truly revolutionary product “Soylent” makes sense. That film was set in a world where the population was growing and while more and more land had to be turned over into mega-farms to feed people, more and more people were starving.  The film was made in 1973, yet does the main theme sound familiar today?

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Robert Rhinehart (pictured above) set out to create a food product that was relatively cheap, very nutritional, and that didn’t require acres of arable land to be carved from the rain forests or other precious land spaces of our world. Rhinehart wanted to develop a simpler food source that didn’t take producers and consumers time, energy, money and space to create nutritionally complete meals.

 Soylent is a food product (classified as a food, not a supplement, by the US FDA) designed for use as a staple meal by any and all adults. Each serving of Soylent provides maximum nutrition with minimum effort. As the primary source of energy for the body, carbohydrates are the largest component of Soylent by mass.  Soylent comes in a dry powder form along with an oil blend. You mix both of these with water for each serving. It requires no heating or other cooking and has an extended shelf life. Quick, easy and (without the fish oil blend) totally Vegan, if that’s your bag- you’ll just have to add your own plant-based oil blend in order to get the right nutritional profile.

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The powdered component of Soylent is vegan. Our separate oil blend contains non-vegan ingredients (fish oil). If you are vegetarian/vegan, you can opt out of receiving our oil blend. Once you get your powder, make sure to add your own plant-based oil blend in order to ensure the correct nutritional profile.

Costwise, you will spend less than $10 per day on food, and less than $4 per meal – get more than a day’s worth of meals for less than the cost of takeaway. In terms of sterling, a month’s worth of food will cost a mere £40 if you take only Soylent.

The 25-year-old entrepreneur puts his money (and his product) where his mouth is: He has been living off his Soylent invention for almost a year now. There are reports that it’s to be tested by the US military, too, where logistics for supplying and feeding troops in the field can be a major headache when operating in remote and inhospitable regions.

With so many cooking programmes and celebrity chefs around, one might think that a food drink that has a neutral taste, may not find favour. But not everyone wants to wax lyrical or spend time and money over a small plate of expensive exquisitely prepared food.  Over 10,00 people are day are reported to now be placing orders on-line for Soylent to be delivered to them.

Shipments to Britain are reportedly coming soon.

In a long profile of the entrepreneur in the New Yorker recently, he recounted how he first developed Soylent after the cost of food became a “burden” while working for a cash-strapped tech start-up in California. In his blog he says that drinking it for the first time left him feeling like the “six million dollar man” with “clearer” skin, “whiter” hair and a “notably improved” physique.

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There are sceptics, of course. Some scientists claim that Soylent misses some essential ingredients for the adult male, namely sulphur, lycopene (found in tomatoes) and trace elements. They also say that the absence of mastication (chewing food, rather than drinking only) will have long-term effects on the mouth gums and teeth. Maybe Soylent chewing gum next?

Foodies laugh at a food product that has no taste, yet there are a growing number of people, fuelled by the many scandals about food preparation (Halal?), contents (horse-meat?), and poisoning incidences (salmonella?) that are turning their back on what they call the “tyranny” of the food industry, who are turning to Soylent.

Me? I just couldn’t bear living in a world without a traditional English breakfast, fish and chips and a Sunday roast. But each to his or her own. I wonder what Charlton Heston would think?

 

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Immortality: It’s Here Already!

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Immortality is already here… but only if you are a certain species of jellyfish!
Now we’re not talking Portuguese Man-o-War giant jellyfish, but Turritopsis nutricula which weighs in at a mere 5mm in length. It has the ability to revert its cells back to their earliest form and start growing anew. Over and over again. This usually happens in response to a crisis, but scientists have seen this occur repetitively. Just imagine if we could revert back to being a new-born babe in response to a crisis such as learning that you’re going to get the sack from work, you’ve got rising damp in the downstairs kitchen, or, best of all, you’ve been told you’ve got a rare disease and only weeks to live!
The tiny creature was discovered in the Mediterranean Sea in 1883, but its unique ticket to immortality through regression and then  regeneration was not known until the mid-1990s.
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If a mature Turritopsis is threatened and this can include  receiving actual injury or lack of food and starvation,  it attaches itself to a surface in warm ocean waters and converts itself  into a micro-blob. From that state, its cells undergo “transdifferentiation”,  transforming into different types of cells. Muscle cells can become sperm or eggs, or nerve cells can change into muscle cells. This is something never before seen in the animal kingdom, and may be the only creature capable of doing this.
Is every Turritopsis immortal and death-defying? No. Before they are mature adults, they can die of injury, disease, being eaten by predators,  or starvation  without having the ability to revert back to a blob, regenerate and save themselves. Even after maturation, they can still die through an instant trauma, such as being eaten, washed up out of the sea, or sucked into a cargo-ships tanks and poisoned. But if there’s enough warning and the environment itself isn’t hostile, then hey-presto- transdifferentiation and a new phase of life begins, which can be repeated ad nauseum.
The trick of course is to see if the mini-jellyfish DNA is compatible with other animals, and eventually humans. For now, we’ve just got to look after ourselves, and take it on the chin and carry on whenever we encounter crises!
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Will l Live to be 200?

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A lot of people think there is no chance of celebrating their 100th birthday. But what about their 200th birthday? Inconceivable? Not at all!

Look at some facts: Life expectancy on average was a mere two decades-20 years- a thousand years ago. It leapt to 37  by 1800. Life expectancy is now about  80. Could you add another 120 years to that to make it 200? It is possible.

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Increasing life expectancy is big business right now. The very rich don’t want to doe just yet; so people like Larry Ellison (pictured above), Larry Page and Sergey Brin are investing large amounts of their considerable accumulated fortunes into helping them, and us, all live longer.

For those of us who are less than half-way through our lives, assuming we live to 85, we may be planning to retire at 65-70, and then have 15-20 years of retirement before we pop our clogs. But maybe that’s just too pessimistic. And a longer life is now not about being a frail 95 year old in a nursing home. A long, technology-enhanced life could now mean you being fitter and healthier at 150 than you were at 20. Really!

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You can seriously increase your chances of living a long life by considering how you can take advantage of upcoming health technologies:

The first thing you have to do is to stay as healthy as possible, with exercise, nutrition and current medicine. Do it now, not tomorrow. Neither the food industry nor the pharmaceutical industry are designed or optimised to benefit life expectancy. They are optimised and designed to deliver the best rewards to shareholders. Choose you food and medicines carefully. Consult your doctor too. He or she should be able to give you advice, or refer you to a nutrition health professional.

The next step is to be ready for DNA reprogramming. Yes, DNA is reprogrammable, just like computers. We can start to programme our bodies away from disease. In the next 10-20 years it is expected that we will be able to re-engineer new body parts. There are literally hundreds of drugs and processes in the pipeline that will modify the course of many of the diseases we face today. Clinical applications now at the cutting edge will be routine in the early 2020s. And cheaper.

Finally be prepared for the Nanotech revolution which will be our ticket to living to 200 years… and beyond. Perhaps immortality. The use of miniscule robots in our bodies to augment our immune system will be technically possible. At the current rate of technological change we are only decades away from achieving these breakthroughs. In essence, this would mean that no disease could kill us.

But accidents and war will still take their toll, unless the human race suddenly changes the way it thinks about its fellow man (and woman). Technology can’t perform miracles!

 

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Girl Who Never Grows Old may hold Key to Immortality

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Gabrielle (Gabby) Williams from Billings, Montana, United States, is 9 years old, but weighs a mere 11 pounds. She has the appearance of an infant and needs constant attention as if she were newborn- having her nappies changed and being fed a number of times each day. Her skin is baby-like and her hair is fine-textured. There has been some slight growth over four decades- she now needs clothes to fit a baby of 3-6 months instead of up to three months.

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People with this condition are very rare- scientists haven’t even got a name for it. Only two other people with a similar condition have been found: a 29-year-old Florida man with the appearance of a 10-year-old, and a 31-year-old Brazilian woman who still looks like a three year old.

So far the search for clues as to why these individuals don’t age and what they have in common have not uncovered their secrets.

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Dr Richard F Walker (pictured above) has been studying Gabby’s case in the hopes of finding a reason for the arrested growth and perhaps unlock a path to eternal youth and immortality. He is retired from the University of Florida Medical School and now does his research at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.

Dr Walker has called the condition “developmental inertia”. He said that without the process of growth and ageing, a human would never develop and remain stunted and unfulfilled. But if there is a gene responsible for this condition, and it could be identified, isolated and modified, then there is a possibility that the most obvious effects of ageing could be arrested or slowed considerably.

Walker said he believes he has found one of the genes responsible- a mutation on the second female X chromosome. The trick would be to allow growth to a certain level, for example maturity, and then halt further growth and ageing. This “biologically immortality” would not prevent people dying from disease and in accidents. They would not become superheroes.

Gabby’s parents admitted that they were concerned at first that Dr Walker was using their child to find the fountain of youth for vanity purposes, but he explained to them that the research was focused on helping people who struggle with the hardships that come with old age.

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Gabby’s mother, Mary, said:

“Alzheimer’s is one of the scariest diseases out there. If what Gabrielle holds inside of her would find a cure — for sure we would be a part of the research project. We have faith that Dr. Walker and the scientific community do find something focused more on the disease of aging, rather than making you 35 for the rest of your life.”

Dr Walker  is currently Editor-in-Chief of Clinical Interventions in Ageing, a source of evidence-based information for practitioners of age-management medicine. He also heads a private consulting company providing regulatory and scientific services for physicians and other health-care professionals. Gabrielle Williams’ condition has since been confirmed to have been the result of a genetic mutation. Emulating or stimulating that mutation has, so far, evaded scientists and researchers, including Dr Walker.

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To Stem Ageing: Could Skin Stem Cells be the Solution?

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The secret to the fountain of youth lies in awakening ‘sleeping’ stem cells in the skin, according to new research.  We know that stem cells are supercells that can control the creation of other cells. They are crucial to repairing damaged skin, but as we get older these stem cells seems to suffer a regeneration forgetfulness and allow the skin to become wrinkled and lose its elasticity. British and U.S. scientists say the breakthrough may open the door to the development of better beauty treatments to zap wrinkles and saggy skin for good.

As you may have guessed this study and report was sponsored by skin product manufacturers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the findings are iffy.  The University of Sheffield did the research, in conjunction with well-known Olay skin cream makers Procter & Gamble. It was published in Nature Scientific Reports. The study stretched (like skin?) over three years and tested the three most popular considerations and hypotheses about skin regeneration.
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Engineer Dr Xinshan Li (pictured above) said:
“‘The theory which seems to fit best says skin has a population of “sleeping” stem cells, which sit in the lowest layer of the skin but do not constantly divide to make new cells. However, these sleeping cells can be called into action if the skin is damaged, or if the numbers of other types of more mature skin cells decrease, ensuring the skin can be constantly regenerated under all conditions.

Co author of the report Dr Arun Upadhyay, a computational biologist at Procter & Gamble, said: ‘

“These models permit exploration of hypotheses in very short periods of time, relative to the lab based bench work. The ability to follow virtual skin models over decades may be especially important to skin cancer research. Environmental damage caused by ultraviolet radiation or chronic wounding can cause sleeping cells to harbour the mutations which cause skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma, a very aggressive type of skin cancer.”

Simply put the trick then is to stimulate “good” stem cells whilst keeping mutant stem cells latent (lest they cause cancers). While the research has a long way to go to fruition to create a pill or cream that can activate the best stem cells and cause them to regenerate “old” skin for many many years, while leaving the bad stem cells dormant, this is an important first step. A road map has been created and all that’s required is time, energy, money and innovation to travel that road to a successful conclusion. And to skin that regenerates on demand; surely an elixir of eternal youthfulness and longevity as was found in Sir Rider-Haggard’s character in his book “She”  in Shangri La?

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A Nutty Way to Cheat Death?

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Eat nuts, and live longer. That seems to be the outcome of a large study supported by National Institutes of Health and a research grant from the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation. One of the key findings was that people who ate a daily handful of nuts were 20 percent less likely to die from any cause over a 30-year period than those who didn’t consume nuts. And this conclusion isn’t from a bunch of wobbly pseudo-scientists; the people who were engaged to do the spadework were  say from the Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital  and the Harvard School of Public Health. Their report was published in the respected New England Journal of Medicine.

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The research also found that regular nut-eaters were slimmer than those who didn’t eat nuts. It was previously believed that heavy nut-eaters were prone to obesity. The report also looked at the protective effect of nut-eating on specific causes of death.

Charles S Fuchs, the Director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment Centre at Dana-Furber, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and senior author of the report , said;

“The most obvious benefit was a reduction of 29 percent in deaths from heart disease — the major killer of people in America. But we also saw a significant reduction — 11 percent — in the risk of dying from cancer.”

The reduction in mortality was similar for both peanuts (a legume, or ground nut) and for tree nuts — walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamias, pecans, pistachios, and pine nuts.

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What about previous studies on the effects of nuts on life and death?

Several previous studies had found an association between increasing nut consumption and a lower risk of diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, gallstones, and diverticulitis. Higher nut consumption also has been linked to reductions in cholesterol levels, oxidative stress, inflammation, adiposity, and insulin resistance. Some small studies have linked an increase of nuts in the diet to lower total mortality in specific populations.

As part of the study, participants in the studies filled out detailed food questionnaires every two to four years. With each questionnaire, participants were asked to estimate how often they consumed nuts in a serving size of one ounce. A typical small packet of peanuts from a vending machine contains one ounce. The researchers found that individuals who ate more nuts were leaner, less likely to smoke, and more likely to exercise, use multivitamin supplements, consume more fruits and vegetables, and (perhaps surprisingly) drink more alcohol. However, the detailed analysis was able to isolate the association between nuts and mortality independently of these other factors.

Ying Bao of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and first author of the report said:

“In all these analyses, the more nuts people ate, the less likely they were to die over the 30-year follow-up period. Those who ate nuts less than once a week had a 7 percent reduction in mortality; once a week, 11 percent reduction; two to four times per week, 13 percent reduction; five to six times per week, 15 percent reduction; and seven or more times a week, a 20 percent reduction in death rate.”

One thing is for certain, there’s always going to be a bowl of nuts on my coffee table from now on!

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