How This Anti-Aging Scientist Turns His Findings Into a Lifestyle
“I practice what I discover”
by Alexandra Sifferlin
There are many ways to live a healthy life. The Health Diaries is a weekly series about the habits that keep notable people living well.
David Sinclair is one of the world’s renowned longevity researchers. He believes that one day — sooner rather than later — scientists will be able to treat and even reverse aging. He’s spent the bulk of his career researching the pathways that control aging in the body. Sinclair, a geneticist and professor at Harvard Medical School, has helped identify the role of molecules that are potentially important for longevity, including resveratrol — found in small concentrations in the skin of grapes — and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), a compound found naturally in the body that declines as we age but may be replenished through supplements.
Sinclair is also a co-founder of Life Biosciences, a biopharmaceutical company that is investigating and commercializing treatments for aging. It’s the largest company addressing the eight pathways of what Life Biosciences refers to as age-related decline (ARD). Sinclair and his colleagues want to treat aging as a systemic breakdown of the body, rather than treating symptoms or specific conditions. Sinclair, who lives in Boston with his wife and three children, spoke to Medium about how he incorporates what he’s learned about longevity in the lab into his everyday life.
I wake up every morning at 7 a.m., and I definitely need an alarm clock. I’m not morning person.
I start the day with homemade yogurt. It’s whole milk with some special bacteria that we put in the oven. It takes 24 hours for it to culture, and it’s better than anything I know that you can buy. I sweeten it up with some stevia and throw some blueberries in there. I haven’t been sick since I started doing that a year ago.
I don’t like vegetables, but I am slowly learning to like them more. I try to eat as many as I can for my health. Green or colored vegetables are my preference, not the starchy ones. In part because of their lower caloric level, but also because of their polyphenols — small molecules that have been shown to activate the body against diseases. I also try to avoid mammals. That’s mostly for health reasons.
“I’ve been very conscious about what I eat, to the point that I drive people crazy.”
I often miss lunch because I am busy, but if I do eat lunch, I have a small soup or six pieces of sushi. That’s it. I am drinking tea throughout the day to stay hydrated.
A typical dinner is a standard family meal, but I stick to small portions, and I don’t go back for seconds. My wife is a great cook. This is my big downfall. We eat as healthy as we can, but we have three kids. Usually it’s something unexpected and delicious.
When I turned 40, about 10 years ago, I said no more dessert. Will I taste a little bit? Sure. But I don’t order it at restaurants.
I wasn’t the healthiest kid, and I was overweight. I grew up in a household in the 1970s where there were always snacks around, like chips and peanuts. As soon as I got to college and discovered girls, I lost 15 pounds. I’ve kept off the weight since then, and I’ve been very conscious about what I eat, to the point that I drive people crazy.
I practice what I discover. I take resveratrol, which we discovered had health properties 15 years ago, and an NAD supplement each day.
I think low-calorie diets and fasting are potentially beneficial. It’s been known since 1916 that cutting back calories is beneficial in every organism it’s been tested on — from yeast to worms to mice to monkeys. I think it would be a surprise if we are an exception to that rule. I tried calorie restriction and couldn’t do it. It’s really hard to be hungry all the time. If I’m not hungry and I’m busy, I am quite happy to skip a meal. It’s informal intermittent fasting. I feel strongly that this is one of the strongest areas of longevity research. But I should caution that no one has done a full-scale, long-term clinical trial on this for longevity.
It’s pretty hard for me to exercise regularly. I have gym at home, and my son — he’s 11 — and I will try to go a couple times a week. I try to get my heart rate up on a treadmill once a week and lift some weights. I do pushups every morning before I go to work. I just feel better having done a little exercise at the beginning of the day, but that’s all I have time for, unfortunately.
There’s no downtime in my life right now. It’s all occupied, and there’s no wasted time. If I have any spare time, I spend it with my children. I am in favor of work-life balance, and if someone could teach me how to be a better dad, please let me know. It’s getting harder every year.
There’s so much that gets me excited every day. I have a front-row seat on hundreds of labs around the world. I’m very lucky in that way. I am helping bring together the world’s leading scientists in the field of aging. Not just to collaborate on science, but to collaborate on pharmaceutical development and make medicines that help the world. It’s been an incredible journey so far.
At Life Biosciences, we are starting new companies every couple months to tackle new aspects of aging. There are eight so far, and we are not slowing down. There’s really new science that I can’t talk about yet, but it gives me a lot of confidence that we are going to see some really cool changes in medicine in our lifetime — if not much sooner than we think.