This week’s conversation is with Dr. Gil Blander, an expert in nutrition, biomarker analytics, athletic performance, biochemistry, and aging research.
Gil holds numerous patents and has published peer-reviewed articles in these fields.
He received his PhD in biology from the Weizmann Institute of Science, and undertook postgraduate research on aging at MIT.
Gil is also the Founder and CSO of InsideTracker, a personalized health and performance analytics company created by a team of scientists, physicians, nutritionists and exercise physiologists from MIT, Harvard, and Tufts University.
InsideTracker has been a longtime partner of ours and I love the personalized data and actionable insights they support me with to optimize my health.
I wanted to have Gil on to learn more about why he founded InsideTracker and the difference it can make for longevity.
We discuss how different variables such as nutrition, movement, psychology, and genetics not only impact your life span, but more importantly your health span – the amount of time you’re able to live life in a high quality manner.
In This Episode:
Why is he interested in longevity?
It’s coming from a very young age, I was fascinated by longevity and basically in the problem that why do we die? The reason for that is a relative of mine passed away when I was 12 and instead of being sad about her, I was sad about myself because I realized that I won’t live forever. I assume that it happens to every person at a different age, but I took it really to heart, and I said that I want to dedicate my life and try to understand why do we die? And how can we live longer, a better life? So that’s the reason why I study biology and we can discuss it later. That’s basically it.
Lifespan vs healthspan
I think that as you said before, life is fun, it’s supposed to be fun and we can accomplish a lot. Because of that, I want to live to do it more and do it longer and continue to do that. I hope that it’s the same for everyone. My assumption is that it is so because of that, let’s try to get the most of it. Also, I think that it’s very important to distinguish between lifespan and healthspan. Lifespan is how long we live, basically from the moment that we are born to the moment that we die. Healthspan is how long do we live in a good quality of life. I definitely don’t want to live to 200, but in the last 120 years to be connected to tubes and lie on a bed, that’s not a healthspan. That’s lifespan. I think that it’s very important to have a longer, healthier lifespan with a good healthspan.
The impact of microchoices
It’s not just one decision. If you look at something as simple as, what should I eat today? If you look at that decision, we’re making around 200 decisions like that. Because think about it, what should I eat for breakfast? When should I eat breakfast? What is the amount that I should eat for breakfast? Then you’ll talk about snacks, lunch, and dinner, and everything between that. So you get to around 200 different micro choices like that, which are pretty important. If you look at the possibilities, we have around 8,000 different food items that we can eat and we need to choose between them.
We need more educated decisions about nutrition
We are most of the time making a non-educated decision about those micro choices. Basically, we are going to the refrigerator and choosing something and eating it. It’s not because it’s good for us, it’s not because it’s good for this situation, it’s because we have it or because you read an article in Men’s Health that said that it’s good for you. I think that we need more educated decisions, and it’s very hard specifically in nutrition.
The output is only as good as the input
But the bottom line is, I think that nutrition is definitely very important because in data science, you have garbage in, garbage out. Meaning, if you feed yourself good food, it’s like feeding the car the right gas – in a way, the car will drive longer. If you go every day to McDonald’s and feed yourself with the food there, the car won’t run as long as it would if you hand-pick the right food for you every day.
What is InsideTracker?
The idea of InsideTracker is again, helping people to live a longer, better life. If we are going deeper, it allows them to understand first what is happening inside the body. What are the issues that each of us have? I think that our body is a very complex machine. It’s maybe the most complex machine that we have, but if you think about it we are not treating it well.
A plan for prevention
Before InsideTracker, there wasn’t any real plan for prevention. We have physicians, which are doing a great job. I really think that physicians are doing a great job, but their job is when the machine is broken. They know how to treat a body that is broken, basically sick. But before that, they don’t know what to do with us… What we decided to do is to look inside your body, and we started with blood biomarkers. Currently we are looking at a bit more than 40 blood biomarkers that allow us basically to understand what is happening inside your body.
Fine-tuning our body with testing
I like the analogy for the car, so in the car you have a lot of gauges, the amount of fuel, and how full is the battery, and the temperature of the car, and all of that. Then you look at that and you understand the situation of the car. The technician plugs a computer into the car, knows exactly what the issue of the car is, change it, replace it, and fix it. Then the car is good for another 5,000 miles. Research shows that since we incorporated this intervention for cars in the 1980s, the lifespan of the car increased on average from 100,000 miles to 200,000 miles. So the way of thinking that we had is, let’s do something similar to humans… Let’s plug a needle into our vein, and extract a liquid gold called blood that will show us what’s happening inside the body.
If you had to choose – good sleep or good nutrition first?
I would actually start with a good sleep because the rationale is, good nutrition is hard to get because as I said before 8,000 different food items, and it’s not easy. But good sleep is much easier to get because it’s one intervention in a way. So I would say, start with that because it’s easier to achieve than good nutrition. That’s my rationale.
Investing in your body and yourself
It’s very important for us to understand that we are the most important and sophisticated machine that we have and we need to take care of ourself as good as we can, and we need to start doing it as early as possible. It’s the best investment that you will do. If you have a bit of time or a bit of a money always invest it in your body because what is the sense of having a retirement at the age of 65, let’s say that you saved a lot of money for retirement, if you cannot use it? So again, invest in your body and try to make it as good as possible for as long as possible.
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- Finding Mastery 253: Sergey Young on Adding Healthy and Happier Years to Your Life
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