Centenarians live to 100; ‘supercentenarians’ live to 110. With roughly 600 supercentenarians worldwide and the number of centenarians exceeding 600,000, only a dozen people globally may be over 115. Frenchwoman, Jeanne Calment, making it to 122, boasted the longest confirmed human lifespan on record. Living in Arles, she made headlines from the age of 113, when the centenary of Vincent van Gogh’s visit brought reporters to her Provençale hometown.

Supercentenarian Diets in a Nutshell

  • Calorie-restriction and intermittent fasting
  • High fat (monounsaturated) low-carb diets

Jeanne Calment ascribed her longevity to olive oil, which she apparently poured on all her food and rubbed onto her skin. She also drank wine and ate chocolate every day. Olive oil, red wine and dark chocolate — sounds like a dream regime. As long as we add fibre, minerals and vitamins and avoid sugar, then it could be.

Peter Diamandis, co-founder and executive chairman of Google-funded Singularity University

Human lifespan may grow dramatically this century. When I was in medical school, I set a 700-year lifespan for myself, which is a ridiculous number because if you can live that long you can live as long as you want. Humans aren’t the longest-lived animals. Though the technique isn’t totally precise, Greenland sharks can live for centuries. One shark was estimated to be about 392. Its approximate birthday was 1624. If these animals can live centuries – why can’t I?
– Peter Diamandis, co-founder and executive chairman of Google-funded Singularity University

Why Do We Die?

According to Diamandis, in ages past, humans hitting puberty at 13 would start a family and by their late twenties, become grandparents. In a world of scarce resources, older, non-reproducing generations were competing for food with the youngsters, lowering the likelihood they’d pass on their genes. Longer life clearly wasn’t a useful biological trait.

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Genes Load the Gun, Lifestyle Pulls the Trigger

Modern biology has shed light on the deepened ageing process, and biotechnology is applying this knowledge to spot disease earlier and even regenerate the body.

Optimal Longevity According to Diamandis

Replenishing the body’s population of stem cells is one way we’ll stay healthier for longer. Stem cells are a key bodily repair mechanism. Because they haven’t yet specialised into a particular cell type, like a muscle cell or blood cell, they can become anything and replace damaged cells throughout the body. We have lots when we’re younger, but as we age the supply shrinks, and the remaining cells are themselves increasingly damaged.

Another approach, that he’s pursuing with Human Longevity, the health company he cofounded, is to connect a person’s genetics with other health information parameters to determine their risk profile for various diseases.

“We’re going to look at your genome and all of your body’s systems and identify what’s likely to kill you and find it before it does. So stopping you from dying is the first bit,” Diamandis said. “Additionally replenishing your stem cell population so that you have a restored regenerative engine throughout your life.”

What about leveraging nanotechnology and systems that link the brain directly to computers (brain-machine interfaces)? Is the time horizon on these technologies 20 years or more? Diamandis isn’t sure. But technologies on the horizon can herald even more advanced approaches.

In the meantime rising obesity rates in younger people is setting the younger generation up for shorter life and poorer health in comparison to their parents. Diseases of affluence like this are unstoppable unless lifestyles change. Ultimately it’s not about living longer, but living better for longer.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her capacity as the editor-in-chief of NY&ME, and do not in any way represent the views of the magazine, or any other related entity of GVP Media.