Our Founder Greg Macpherson sat down with M2 editor Andre Rowell discussing the science behind a longer, healthier life. Greg shares with us his journey starting SRW Laboratories and about the science that is changing how long we live and how we live.
What was the catalyst for you to decide that now was the time to connect the mainstream audience with this information and some of the evolution that's happening in terms of our understanding of ageing?
I’m just a science and technology geek from way back. I've always been interested in ageing. In my previous role, I was the Chief Executive of a biotech company that was doing some really interesting things around mitochondria. I left there 18 months ago and took a bit of time out and took the opportunity to start reading a whole bunch more. It became apparent to me that it's not just about mitochondria; all elements of cells change as we age. I thought that now it's time to just make it easier. To be honest, it wasn't actually a conscious decision. I just got cracking on a project and realised there was something here that would be useful for people.
What should I eat? And when should I eat in order to live longer?
We're modern humans with ancient biology and our bodies are not keeping up with the diet changes that we are experiencing with the typical Western diet. A good example of that is the amount of sugar that's in our diet, compared to diets from a hundred thousand years ago. We've got an epidemic at the moment with diabetes and health issues that we are learning are caused a lot by how we're eating and that we're not exercising as much as we should; it's actually overloading our cells and putting us under stress.
We talked about the nutrient sensing switch. This switch does two things; when we eat, it tells the body how to assimilate those nutrients, and when we don't eat, it triggers a cascade which helps clear up some of the junk and broken proteins and cells that aren't working as well as they could.
First thing is that it's really quite good if you don't snack. The reason for that is the body needs to have some time where it is hungry so that it can process and get rid of some of the junk in our cells. If you do nothing else but just eat three times a day, that's good for you, of course in moderation.
If you've got a great day and there's lots of food floating around, then don't not eat. It's just as a rule, if you can eat just three times a day and avoid snacking, it's quite good for you. If you want to take it a little bit further and make yourself hungry for a little bit more than that, and you miss breakfast a few days a week, or even just on a regular basis, then your body will go into a phase where it's actively cleaning things up.
We have this concept of living longer, but it's important to have that quality part in there as well, because there's no point being bed-bound for 20 years.
No, I met a really interesting person in a hospital. He's a psychiatrist and we were visiting the hospital on an internship, and he was all about squaring the curve. You don't want to be in decline for the last 20 years of your life. What do they say? Slide into that coffin with a glass of wine in one hand.
If you can make the last 20 years of life as full-on healthy as possible, then that's what it's all about, stopping that decline. That scares me slightly. I'd much rather be pretty fit and able and have that final glass of wine, and then have that heart attack.
We live in a very youthful society. Is that an issue? We have all of this knowledge and insight, but we tend to forget about our elderly. Is that going to change?
I hope so because ageism is a major issue. It affects the outcomes of your health if you are not ageing well, in terms of your mindsets that actually manifestly impacts your body. There is research that shows that if you perceive yourself to be in a stressful situation, somehow that manifests physically to shorten your telomeres, which are the tips of your chromosomes, and the shorter your telomeres are, the worse your health outcomes are.
It's actually really important that you’re heading to ageing quite positively. I think we're getting much better at that. But if someone's ageist, you're actually affecting yourself because you're going to get to that age. You're fortunate if you get old, versus the other side of the equation.
I think as a society, we could do so much better. If you look at some of the non-Western communities that look after their families; their elders are kept close and they are revered for their wisdom and their input, versus packing people up and putting them in rest homes where there's no way out of that. There's only one way out of that rest home. I think we can age better and I think we can age smarter. That's on the cards. I think that's going to happen.
There's a lot of indigenous knowledge in terms of the benefits of different plants, and it feels like we're only scratching the surface in terms of rediscovering some of that. How much potential do you think is sitting there in some of these rainforests and on the sides of mountains?
A phenomenal amount of potential. If you really want to be brutal about who we are and what we are, we're a bunch of molecules and we've got a bunch of receptors which trigger cascades. So it just makes sense that there's going to be some keys that we don't know about yet, that fit into locks that we haven't discovered yet, that will have a benefit on our health.
Every new drug that becomes available to us is another new key that someone's discovered or that's been there a while and they've just refined it slightly, that means that only affects a subset of that particular lock, so to speak. We've got a rich mine within the Amazon and within our seas that we will just keep discovering things and we'll get smarter and smarter because we're starting to understand what these receptors look like. That way we can put those receptors on a chip, then we just chuck a whole bunch of molecules at it, and very quickly we can pick up whether that molecule will have an effect on that receptor. I think we're actually coming out of the stone age of medicine and starting to get smart.
Are we going to look back at some point and realise we should have actually been letting our immune system work a little bit harder in places?
I think that's a brilliant point. I couldn't agree with you more. I also think we're letting our kids down when we don't let them fail, because it's not just an immune system that we're building, we're building resilience and mental immunity as well.
I think maybe in 50 years' time, we need to let kids fall over and break bones, fail, do stuff that they aren't good at, and let them know they're not good at it so that they find out what they are good at. Something has to change because there is an epidemic of mental health issues that our younger generations are dealing with.
I think that there are unintended consequences of the bubbles that we're creating for our kids. Of course, we want the best for them. We want life to be good and easy...