“Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of 80 and gradually approach 18.” Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain said this at an older age. When he was 18, he no doubt never thought about the age of 80, or aging. It’s that way with most people.
As we grow older, it becomes increasingly real that living forever won’t happen. In the 21st century, however, with Baby Boomers now become senior citizens, the search for prolonged longevity has reached a fever pitch. People try all types of methods that they hope will reverse the rigors of age and return a person to the joys of youth.
For a long time, I’ve thought I’d live to be well beyond 100, which is a thrilling idea because of all the books and stories and even movies I’ll be able to write. I’ve done well at that so far, but there are so many more that I want to do.
My interest in longevity may have started in my early 20s, when I read about the Hunza people in the Himalayas. A book called The Hunza Diet was popular then. It old how the Hunza people of northern Pakistan lived a strenuous mountain life and had a diet largely consisting of almonds, yogurt, raw foods and not that much meat.
I didn’t adhere to that diet over the years but reading about did change my eating habits, and as I’ve grown older I’ve changed both the types of foods I consume and the quantity, lowering my caloric intake and instituting intermittent fasting as ways to find my personal fountain of youth.
The mention of a “fountain of youth” prompts most people in the West to think of the myth of the search by Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon to find a bubbling source of immortality in Florida in 1513.
Yes, it’s a myth. As reported in Smithsonian magazine, it wasn’t until many years after his death that de Leon became connected with that story, due to “a Spanish court chronicler out to discredit him.” Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés was aligned with Diego Columbus, the son of Christopher, who helped get de Leon removed from his position as governor of Puerto Rico. In writing about the Spanish settling of the Americas, Oviedo made up a story about de Leon being deceived by natives into looking for the Fountain of Youth. The Oviedo tale was intended to make de Leon appear foolish, but it resulted over the centuries in tying the explorer’s name to a legendary source of immortality.
Presently, the Fountain of Youth attraction in St. Augustine is the oldest tourist magnet in the state of Florida. Water from the spring there contains over 30 minerals that may have healthful properties, but they don’t make anyone young again.
Myths aside, there does seem to be fountain of youth potential these days in the form of a powerful compound known scientifically as nicotinamide mononucleotide, or NMN. The compound surfaced as a news items in 2014 thanks to a research team led by David Sinclair, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School with a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics from the University of New South Wales. Found in green fruits and vegetables, studies have shown NMN helps with bone density, energy levels, eye function, better skeletal tissue, and other health benefits for older mammals.
NMN is being sold in many forms and prices, with names like Reinvigorator. Although only studies of mice have conclusively proven reverse aging results, human trials are ongoing and success stories of consumers of NMN fill Web pages daily.
Legends of magical places with youth-generating capabilities have existed on many continents for hundreds of years. Native Americans spoke of Manataka (Place of Peace – the Unbroken Circle). This location may have been the hot springs of Ouachitta, Arkansas, which were known for their healing and rejuvenating properties throughout the Americas. Curiously, Ponce de Leon was killed by the Calusa Indians in Florida at a place he called Manataca.
Then there is the story from Africa reported by the Greek Herodotus, who is known as the “Father of History.” He wrote about the Macrobians, an Ethiopian tribe known for their longevity and youthfulness. He described a mysterious Macrobian “fountain, wherein when they had washed, they found their flesh all glossy and sleek, as if they had bathed in oil, and a scent came from the spring like that of violets.”
Were either of those places a real life reinvigorator? We may never know, but rejuvenating waters do exist in Arkansas, which has a major city named Hot Springs. And stories of people seeking immortality keeping turning up in the movies, starting with She (1935) and Lost Horizon (1937). Box office blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) was about a quest for a fountain of water that would cause a person to live forever.
What science has proven in recent years is that NMN seems to have the ability of enabling the switching of youthful genes on and older genes off, via naturally occurring proteins known as sirtuins. NMN derives from vitamin B3 (niacin). The human body has enzymes that use NMN to generate another compound, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) which is crucial to body health. There are two forms of NAD. If levels of the best one – NAD+ – are optimum, this can reverse many symptoms associated with chronic disease and aging.
NAD levels begin naturally diminishing in humans at age 40 or so, and the production of the substance grows less as age advances. While the discovery of NMN and its effects may not be a total fountain of youth, its use is certainly worth searching out and trying. I’m enjoying it very much. There’s a new spring in my step and I imagine I’ll be taking the supplement and seeking out foods that increase NAD+ for the rest of what I’m even more convinced will be a very long and productive life.