Perhaps we should admit that old age does not scare us as such: in many ways we have always been aware that we are destined to grow old. Some accept it, some don’t. What really worries us, however, is getting old by having a body that gradually begins to function less and less well.
The story of American Bryan Johnson, in this sense, begins in reverse, namely from illness and existential distress. Johnson is in his 30s and founded a tech company called Braintree Payment Solutions. The binaries of his success and his physical and mental state, however, become increasingly distant: the more he establishes himself professionally, the more he loses control of his life, leading to depression and close to suicide.
Having sold the company to Ebay for 800 million, Johnson finds himself a 30-year-old millionaire with a new mission: to figure out how to improve his life not only physically but also mentally. The new path he embarks on starts with the mind: he founded Kernel, a company that produces a helmet to analyze how meditation and hallucinogens affect the mind.
At the same time he is also passionate about how one can try to preserve his temple, that is, his body, as much as possible. He, he says of himself, does it for humanity, his is on a mission: to explore the boundaries of the science of anti-aging, that is, in other words, to figure out how and with what technologies we can even get to reverse the course of time, at least with regard to aging and physical decay.
To do this, he starts with nutrition: no more unhealthy habits and alcohol, he embraces a vegan diet, and take vitamins and supplements. The latter are considered useless by many, but he is convinced of their usefulness and continues to take generous portions (up to 100 pills a day), as we shall see in a moment.
In the meantime, he meets in his path Oliver Zolman, a 29-year-old English doctor who was reduced to near infirmity as a result of a sports injury to his back. Determined to find the solution that other doctors cannot locate, he becomes convinced that it lies in diet and exercise. He founds 20one Consulting, a company that provides treatments focused on anti-aging that use up to 10 organ-by-organ tests, MRIs, supplements, customized diet regimens, and exercise programs aimed at keeping the body in an optimal state. These are not services that everyone can afford: an hour can cost up to $1,000, but Zolman charges for them only if the treatment works.
Of Johnson he says he is the only man in the world who is anagraphically 45 years old but whose organs are at least 10 years younger. To accomplish this, he – according to his accounts – comes to spend two million dollars. Per year.
A typical day
How much does it cost in terms of not only money but especially commitment to rejuvenate so much? Johnson gets up in the morning at 5 a.m. and takes supplements and various medicines to reduce the likelihood of developing intestinal polyps, to keep arteries clean, for skin, for brain function. Then he works out for an hour following a routine of 25 exercises. After that it is time for a vegan smoothie and application of tea-tree oil and an anti-oxidant gel.
The health status of his organs, as mentioned, is enviable. His heart is that of a 37-year-old while his lung capacity is identical to that of an 18-year-old. During the night, a device counts his nocturnal erections: those are also the same as a 18 years old man.
Finally, he devotes himself to his largest organ: the skin, which he treats by undoing sun damage with lasers and various creams, as well as limiting exposure to its light for some time to better protect himself.
How can he get to spend so much money? A large part of it is because of the countless tests he undergoes, as well as surgeries that he does not consider cosmetic but that look very much like it: for example, he gives facial fat injections, according to him, to restore the percentage that, again that 18-year-old man is supposed to have. They’re not fillers, says Johnson, who can’t even get fat from himself because he doesn’t have any, so he gets it from a secret donor.
Predictably, the endless battery of tests he undergoes is a transient condition: once an ideal anti-aging protocol is identified, they can be reduced, yet one cannot help but wonder how much effort and dedication such a life costs, beyond the monetary cost.
It is no problem for him to chronicle his mission on his website, attaching analyses and graphs to prove his status and directly or indirectly fueling debate in the scientific community about how probing his approach is and how much sense it makes.
For many, this is an almost inevitable step in medical research: since this path can be taken and since it does not seem to be based on harmful practices, why not give it a try?
He considers himself on a mission and in a sense has donated his body to the research.
The results for now seem to agree with him and Zolman, and it is to be expected that the findings they will make are bound to be more addressable and cost-effective in the future. Whether one does not really want to grow old and indeed rejuvenate, or whether the goal is a more reasonable soft landing in old age: that is, arriving there with the body in the best condition, to deal with an age of life that can have so many positive aspects.