Jeanne Calment lived to 122. She died in 1997. This is a picture of her, aged 22 in 1897. Image: Wiki.
Recently, there was a lot of protest in France as the government moved to raise the retirement age to 62. There have been reports in America that the retirement age will be raised to 68 by mid-century and 69 by 2075. There's just so much to look forward to in the future! Seriously though, these changes reflect the lengthening of lifespans as well as a number of other generational, political and policy-making issues. It is true that there is a new class of people emerging - those who live well past 100 years of age. For the first time in history, they are numerous enough that they are now being talked about as a demographic group. There is a list of the oldest people in recorded recent times here. The person with the longest confirmed life span in history was Jeanne Calment, a Frenchwoman who lived to age 122 and died in 1997. Just to put her age into perspective, she was 20 years old in 1895. Her spouse died in 1947.
The blog Quigley's Cabinet, which deals with various themes surrounding death, put up an interesting post (here) in October on Supercentarians: "While I wasn't paying attention, a new category arose in the field of gerontology. 'Supercentenarians' describes people who have lived to the great age of 110. These individuals have been the subjects of research and of portrait photography. In his 2003 series 'Living in Three Centuries: The Face of Age,' Mark Story features the photo of a 110-year-old man whose father stood on the platform during the Gettysburg Address ... 'All of a sudden I realized that I was photographing a person whose father stood next to Abraham Lincoln in 1863. I started to cry and got goose bumps because it struck me just how old 111 was, and how far it reaches back in our country's history.'"
On this subject, the Telegraph has recently reported that scientists found a genuine 'elixir of life' by dosing the drinking water of mice with three specific amino acids, which increased the life of the treated mice by 12 per cent:
Once again, those amino acids are leucine, isoleucine and valine. If you live somewhere where your government is raising your retirement age, you may want to consider taking a trip to the vitamin mart.Longer survival was accompanied by biological changes which boosted the energy supply to cells and reduced oxidative damage caused by destructive molecules called free radicals. The treated mice had more stamina and improved muscle co-ordination. "This is the first demonstration that an amino acid mixture can increase survival in mice," said study leader Dr Enzo Nisoli, from the University of Milan in Italy. Last year scientists showed that the same amino acids, leucine, isoleucine and valine, could extend the lifespan of single-celled yeast. The new findings, reported in the journal Cell Metabolism, raise the possibility of amino acid supplements benefiting humans. The scientists pointed out that the mice studied were aged but otherwise healthy. They believe taking the amino acids might be especially helpful for the elderly or ill, particularly people with heart failure, chronic lung disease, or other conditions characterised by flagging energy levels. Dr Nisoli said a large patient trial was needed to provide evidence convincing enough for doctors. However, there was little financial incentive for companies to conduct such studies on dietary supplements. Leucine, isoleucine and valine, known as branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), account for a fraction of the 20 amino acids from which proteins are made, but appear to have special anti-ageing properties. Mice given the three amino acids produced larger numbers of mitochondria - the rod-like "powerhouses" in cells that generate energy - in their heart and skeletal muscle. They also showed increased activity of SIRT1, a well-known longevity gene, and developed better defences against free radicals. BCAA nutritional supplements are readily available in health food stores and online. Amino acid supplements were likely to be more effective than consuming proteins containing the same amino acids, according to the researchers. Unlike protein, they did not have to be digested, and could enter the bloodstream immediately. "They come with no energy cost," said Dr Nisoli. In their paper the scientists wrote: "We have provided evidence that an original BCAA mixture increases average life span in male mice. This was likely the consequence of increased mitochondrial biogenesis and reduced oxidative stress in cardiac and skeletal muscles.
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