Lifespan: Why We Age—and Why We Don't Have To by David A. Sinclair
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is an intriguing book written by the renowned Harvard researcher, David Sinclair.
Sinclair believes that our attitudes about the inevitability of aging may be somewhat flawed. In fact, based on his research, he believes that not only will we be able to slow aging down, we may someday be able to reverse it.
He discusses the shortcomings of aging research that is partly a function of the fact that we don't currently classify aging as a chronic disease, thereby making its research ineligible for government funding. He also argues, and strongly so, that aging is by far the biggest threat we face, pointing out that most other chronic diseases are secondary to the aging process.
The last fourth of the book explores the social, cultural, and ethical implications of extending life significantly. This, for me, was wasted space as it's all supposition and didn't really do the topic justice.
Definitely worth a read for anyone who is interested in cutting edge anti-aging science. According to Sinclair, understanding why we age (something that is becoming more clear) is the first step in stopping and maybe reversing the process. Some things that might slow aging...fasting, short exposure to temperature extremes (hot or cold), the diabetes medication metformin. According to Sinclair, it's an issue of when and not an issue of if we will be able to slow/reverse aging. The cure for aging is on the horizon. And, he's probably right.
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The Autoimmune Epidemic: Bodies Gone Haywire in a World Out of Balance--and the Cutting-Edge Science that Promises Hope by Donna Jackson Nakazawa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book is written by a journalist who finds herself with a somewhat rare and very debilitating autoimmune disease called guillain-barre syndrome.
As someone with an autoimmune disease, I was intrigued. At the age of 25, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism (the result of an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto's thyroiditis) after suffering with extreme symptoms for over a year. At the time, I was in grad school, studying to become a physical therapist. I was tired, chronically cold, and dare I say it, horribly constipated...all the time.
The doctor I was dating at the time said I just needed more fiber. Of course, having already earned a BS in Nutritional Sciences, I knew that my diet wasn't the issue. Still, what was I going to do. I certainly wasn't going to go to the doctor.
It was only by chance that my diagnosis was made. A thorough exam by my gynecologist revealed an enlarged thyroid, and via his encouragement I had it tested. Ultimately, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism.
20 years later, and my daughter who is 10 is suddenly struck with chronic vomiting and diarrhea. Testing reveals she has Celiac disease...closely associated with autoimmune thyroiditis (what I have) and also an autoimmune disease. Then we find out my mother also has celiac or at least an autoimmune response to the protein gluten.
So, yes. I get it. Ironically, it's only recently that doctors have even acknowledged that the immune system is capable of an autoimmune response. No wonder so many people, mostly women, go undiagnosed.
In her book, Nakazawa explores the rise in autoimmune disorders and what environmental factors may be at play, among her revelations...the fact that some of us may live on or near toxic dump sites...is eye opening.
She also talks about the need to start identifying autogens much the way we try to identify carcinogens as she argues that autoimmune disorders are just as serious and can be just as debilitating especially since they are often misdiagnosed.
Good book that looks at what is likely to be a growing area of concern for many of us, if it isn't already. Nakazawa points out that our immune systems are bombarded with foreign substances daily, from microscopic carpet fibers, to exhaust fumes, to chemicals we breath in and even eat. It should be no surprise that so many of our immune systems are going wonky.
ROAR: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life by Stacy Sims
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was okay.
Main strength: Women are not little men, and training like little men does our body a disservice. I also like that Sims recommends using real food to meet your energy and hydration needs. I think this is wise advice.
I learned two things from this book:
1. A woman’s performance can be impacted by hormones (aka where she is in her cycle). Seems like a no brainer, but not something I had really read much about. In fact, I would have thought performance would be worse during the actual menstrual cycle, but she lays out the evidence for why this is not the case.
2. As women age, changes in their hormones impact how their body burns certain fuel. Again, makes sense and actually good to know. I'll be 49 in a few months, and I do feel as if my approach to training and diet has had to change.
Weakness of this book:
I felt as if beyond the two things I learned not much else was there. Above a few generalizations about hormones, by her own accounting, each athlete has specific needs, and the only way to fully understand what they need is to get tested and then use the results of those tests to tweak what they are doing.
I also don't agree with some of her dietary advice, which goes against other stuff I've read. For example, I think she shortchanges intermittent fasting. I've actually read several books on TRE which is a form of intermittent fasting that has been shown to have many health benefits. I personally have started a 8 hour window of eating with a tremendous amount of success. I'm not participating in an ironman, but I do train regularly. In fact, I think as a woman who is getting very close to menopause, it has helped me beyond expectations. I've never been leaner, stronger, or slept better with less overall effort. So there you go.
So, yeah. It was okay.
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Who would of thought...grit, aka perseverance, aka showing up everyday with a solid work effort and an unquenchable fire for something could lead to success? Maybe even a greater predictor of success than talent or natural ability?
Still, I enjoyed this book. I mean, maybe it's a no brainer, but still something worth reminding ourselves of.
Duckworth looks at success, and how the power of passion combined with perseverance leads to it.
And it's not just effort. It's effort that regularly seeks to outdo itself. It's effort that is structured and related to tangible outcomes.
I read this on the heals of "Outliers," another book that explores success from a slightly different perspective, so I thought it was a nice compliment to the ideas presented there, which maybe enhanced my reading experience.
Definitely a book for those with aspirations and for those who believe in the power of a good work ethic as it reinforces the importance of showing up, maybe even when things aren't going your way.
How Not to Diet: The Groundbreaking Science of Healthy, Permanent Weight Loss by Michael Greger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
So, I became a huge fan of Dr. Greger after reading his first book, "How Not to Die," which to me is probably one of the best books out there written on diet as it relates to health.
This book was also good, but felt a little more gimmicky in its presentation.
It starts off with a comprehensive look into the food industry and its shortcomings along with the politics of processed food. Because I happen to do a lot of reading on the subject, much of this was stuff I'd read in other books...which is not Dr. Greger's fault, but was a bummer for me.
He then goes through the various claims made about certain foods/products as they relate to weight loss. He looks at the research and discusses what is and what is not supported by the research to date.
I felt this was kind of useful, but again, kind of gimmicky, at least at times. I think the overall premise is to find easy nutrition hacks/tweaks to our diet that might assist with weight loss and weight maintenance while also promoting better health. In that sense, it succeeds.
My favorite part was a review of the literature on time restricted eating, a form of eating I've been reading a lot about and have recently adopted and had huge success with.
Like "How Not to Die," "How Not to Diet" is a lengthy book, maybe a little longer than it needed to be. That said, I love that Dr. Greger is constantly looking to the evidence as opposed to simply making claims about a particular food/diet strategy. For example, does apple cider vinegar assist with weight loss? What about drinking water? Flax seed or chia seed? Is one better at trimming our waistline? I also love that he provides links to all the cited works. Again, he makes sure we have access to the evidence so that we can decide for ourselves. I also learned some new tidbits, which is always nice. We are constantly bombarded with diet tips...eat this, not that...kind of thing, and it's nice to actually see what we have evidence for and what that evidence says.
Also, as in "How Not to Die," Greger's bias for a plant-based diet comes through. Clearly there is a lot of evidence for plant-based diets, but I think his enthusiasm goes a little beyond the science, and I'm okay with that.
Bottom line: this wasn't as good as "How Not to Die." That said, it does succeed at using the science to either support or debunk many popular diet hacks. Gregor's discussion of the politics of the food industry, while not novel, is still worth reading.
His next book due out in 2022? "How Not to Age." Will definitely be buying and reading that one, too.
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Often when we see an extraordinarily successful person, we attribute their grand accomplishments to their natural ability and talent. IE...he's just a genius.
But what if success is less about innate talent and more about pure dumb luck? What if our success is as much a function of chance as it is our uniqueness?
Many of the examples cited in Gladwell's book perfectly illustrate the role that external forces play with respect to our achievements. For example, he cites examples from sports in which age cut-offs are used to group athletes as a means to make his point. Clearly, at certain ages some older boys may have a physical advantage over their teammates, especially around the ages of typical puberty. I have three sons who all play baseball, and I've seen this at work. My oldest son was always a little better and bigger than his peers, even though he was not the oldest kid. Then many of his peers started to go through puberty, when he did not. He went from being the largest kid...to the smallest. He started moving down in the line-up, got less playing time, got to pitch less. He just couldn't compete with some of these boys who now had full-beards.
Ironically, at 17, though still behind the curve in some respects, he is again the tallest boy. While some of his teammates peaked at 12, he still hasn't. Unfortunately, in some respects the damage may already be done. For many years, he was denied opportunity, not based on raw ability or talent or even potential, but based on his size at a specific time...or lack of it, thanks to his genetics. He's a late bloomer, now 6 foot 3 and still growing, however, he has missed opportunities throughout his development due to falling behind the curve.
Along the same line, my 3rd son and 4th child has had only a fraction of the opportunity to play a sport as his two older brothers have had. I mean, I had four kids in five years. By the time number four came along we were pretty busy, and as a result, our youngest has had a lot less opportunity to excel in a sport than his brothers, purely because he was the youngest. There is simply less time and money. Also less enthusiasm and support from us. I often wonder if he would be a better ball player if he had been born first and had had the opportunities his older brothers have had?
The point is that when we pick winners and losers, it has the potential to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In short, whether or not talent is nurtured is often influenced by many factors outside an individual's control.
This is true in education as well, and really in many areas of achievement.
Research I've read in other books has also shown that a teacher's attitude about a student's ability, can in fact impact how they ultimately perform.
In that sense, ability and talent is often ignored because where a child is in development can impact our perceptions about innate ability and talent.
Gladwell further explores the role of opportunity by referencing Bill Gates, who, thanks to dumb luck, had unique opportunities that ultimately may have given him an edge that had he been denied could have changed everything.
Clearly, Gladwell isn't trying to deny that people like Gates are extremely smart, talented, or even destined for some sort of success. Instead he is pointing out that innate ability and potential are only a part of it. The world is constantly shaping us in ways that we can't take credit for.
I wished Gladwell would've talked more about the ability to see and capitalize on opportunity as being a factor. If that is true...it's more than just dumb luck or opportunity. It's our ability to see the opportunity which again might reflect an innate ability that some of us have and that others may lack.
All in all, an interesting read about the outliers among us and some of the forces that help to create and shape them.