Aging is something that is constantly on everyone’s mind, because while we can tell ourselves that illness and death have been eliminated from the world (spoiler: they haven’t), it’s harder to argue that we won’t all grow old, and die.
Everyone does, eventually.
This makes any story about preventing aging something we are all incredibly interested in. Not just immortality — although there are people who think this would be a good idea — but living in health for your entire life up until the point where you die, happy and content, rather than in pain in a hospital bed.
Which makes the most recent media flurry about aging a bit more understandable, if no less bizarre.
Sadly, we are not in the Twilight universe*, and this is total nonsense.
The research that everyone is talking about is actually a very reasonable and interesting piece of work. It is what’s known as an expert review — a group of scientists who know a lot about aging have gotten together and written a perspective on anti-aging therapies and what directions the field should be taking. They talk about things as diverse as testing anti-aging drugs in humans to the effects of modulating amino acids in the diet of mice.
In short, it’s a very complex paper.
The paper itself is some 20 pages long, and actually makes a lot of commonsense public health recommendations. Want to reduce the impacts of aging? Stop drinking, eat fewer calories, don’t smoke, enjoy a varied diet of plants and proteins, and maybe add a few drugs that can combat some issues with aging — one example they use is to reduce cholesterol by taking statins.
It’s almost as if we already have many effective methods of reducing the impact of age-related decline!
And in this paper, this 20-page long extensive review of evidence, there is a single line that says:
“Transfer of blood or plasma, and of plasma proteins, from human umbilical cords has recently been shown to rejuvenate hippocampal function in old mice”
That’s it. They don’t talk about “drinking” blood. They never mention whether this is effective in people.
They barely touch on the matter at all.
Which makes the vampire stories even more absurd.
From this single line about human umbilical blood, a host of media stories about drinking blood have spawned.
Needless to say, they are all total nonsense.
There is no evidence whatsoever that drinking human blood has any beneficial effects. In fact, given the number of blood-borne diseases, it can actually be a pretty bad idea to drink people’s blood, young or not.
There isn’t even really that much evidence that transfusing young blood does anything in animals. Remember, this was a fairly comprehensive review of evidence, and so far there appear to be only a few studies that look at doing this in mice, and even then the research is enormously speculative. It’ll be decades whether we know if there is any benefit to this type of therapy or if it’s all just hot air.
On the other hand, we do have many effective interventions right now that can reduce the impact of aging on people. There are any number of things that the average person can do to make it more likely that they will live a long and healthy life, like quitting smoking and drinking less.
Which is exactly what this study said.
Anyone who had skimmed the paper would’ve realized that the main point of this research is that aging is complex. There are many interventions that may help with aging, but there will probably never be any silver bullets.
Sadly, it seems that pretty much no one who wrote about the paper actually read it, which is both all to common and very depressing.
Bottom line? Drinking young people’s blood isn’t going to do anything for your health. In a decade or two, there may be a therapy developed from young plasma transfusions or similar, but that’s years away and looks pretty unlikely regardless.
The media got it wrong.
*Note: the Twilight books are fantastic young adult novels that are extremely hard to put down, if you think differently my guess is that you have never actually read them.