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Biohacking and spermidine for life-enhancement
Leslie Kenny: Founder, Oxford Healthspan
BY PETER BOWES | JANUARY 27, 2021 | 1440 PT
After a diagnosis of lupus, in her 30s, Leslie Kenny was told she had a life expectancy of five years. The prognosis focussed the Berkeley and Harvard grad’s mind like never before. Long before biohacking was a thing, Leslie set about changing her lifestyle, embracing safe, natural solutions, in a fight for her life. Now 56, she is aging well, healthy and a fully signed up biohacker. She is the founder of Oxford Healthspan, a UK-based company, working with leading scientists to identify safe compounds as nutritional supplements. In this LLAMA podcast conversation with Peter Bowes, Leslie discusses her own unique journey, as well as the science and life-enhancing potential of spermidine, a compound that has been shown to be vital to myriad bodily functions.
Recorded: January 19, 2021 | Read a transcript
Topics covered in this interview include:
- Leslie’s journey from Swiss banking to biohacking
- Facing up to Lupus and a five-year life expectancy
- One’s own mortality and the limits of longevity
- Pillars of preventative healthcare: sleep, movement , diet, friendship, family
- Why your health is your wealth
- Discovering the polyamine compound spermidine and establishing Oxford Healthspan
- Where does the name spermidine come from and what is it?
- The evidence for the benefits of spermidine – epidemiological studies and clinical trials
- Is spermidine supplementation safe?
- How do consumers make decisions about which supplements to take?
- Living life with the promise of healthspan rather than lifespan
- Disease prevention versus disease care
- The lifestyle of a biohacker – sleep hygiene, good food, lowered stress
Primeadine is Oxford Healthspan’s spermidine supplement. Use the code LLAMA15 for a 15% discount.
The Live Long and Master Aging podcast shares ideas but does not offer medical advice. If you have health concerns of any kind, or you are considering adopting a new diet or exercise regime, you should consult your doctor.
“Facing one’s own mortality makes you get curious about what the limits of longevity are”Leslie Kenny
- This episode is brought to you by AgeUp, a new product that helps fill in the financial gaps that are often created once you’ve mastered aging and achieved an exceptionally long life. Small monthly payments to AgeUp stack over time to create a secure income stream for your 90s and beyond. Contributions to AgeUp are shielded from market swings, and once payouts begin at age 91 or above, they’re guaranteed to last for life. AgeUp is backed by MassMutual and sold by Haven Life Insurance Agency. You can find out more at Age-Up.com
Leslie Kenny: [00:00:01] My life came to a juddering halt. Everything that I thought was possible suddenly became impossible because I was told that my lupus limited my life to another five years. And it was at that point that, unbeknownst to myself, I turned into a bio hacker.
Peter Bowes: [00:00:21] Hello again, this is Peter Bowes, welcome to LLAMA, Live Long and Master Aging. This is where we explore the science and stories behind human longevity.
Peter Bowes: [00:00:30] This episode is brought to you by AgeUp, a new financial product that provides guaranteed supplemental income for people who worry about the financial impact of longevity. To find out more, visit Age-Up.com. That’s Age-Up.com.
Peter Bowes: [00:00:45] Now, in the past few weeks, we’ve discussed a number of interventions that act at a cellular level to enhance our overall health and healthspan. Interventions that have the potential to slow the aging process and delay the onset of some chronic diseases. Today, we’re going to delve into the science behind something called spermidine, a naturally occurring compound found in many foods. We make it in our bodies where it’s essential for cellular health in particular, the process known as autophagy, the way the body recycles old and worn out cells in a constant process of renewal. Now, if you follow longevity science spermidine has certainly become something of a buzzword recently. But how important is it? Let’s talk to Leslie Kenny, founder of Oxford Healthspan in the U.K. Originally from Southern California, Leslie is a graduate of Berkeley, Harvard and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City. Leslie, welcome to the Live Long and Master Aging podcast.
Leslie Kenny: [00:01:47] Thank you for having me, Peter. It’s wonderful to be here.
Peter Bowes: [00:01:49] Yeah, good to talk to you. I used to live in Oxford, in the U.K., been in Southern California for about a quarter of a century now. So I assume we must have crossed paths at some point.
Leslie Kenny: [00:01:58] We’ve swapped places exactly, I’ve taken your place, I’m not sure you can come back now.
Peter Bowes: [00:02:02] I’m wondering who’s got the best deal at the moment? The weather here is terrible. We’ve got those gale force Santa Ana winds right now. We’ve got rain looming at the weekend. It’s I suppose it’s quite wintry, but it’s not very southern California.
Leslie Kenny: [00:02:14] No, it’s not, and I must say that I’m missing the natural vitamin D synthesis that I would have normally gotten in Southern California. We don’t get a lot of that here. And we’ve got our own store. We’ve had Filumena come through recently and more flooding. More flood warnings coming through. So I don’t think you’re missing very much, Peter.
Peter Bowes: [00:02:34] I think you’re probably right. OK, let’s talk about you before we talk about Spermidine. I want to find out all about what it is and how we benefit from it and perhaps increasing our levels as we grow older. But first of all, you you’re an entrepreneur as opposed to a scientist. Business is your thing.
Leslie Kenny: [00:02:50] That’s correct, so my journey really started in Swiss banking many, many decades ago, and from there I got a degree at Harvard Business School and then was a venture capital backed entrepreneur. I had an online matchmaking company in Asia. And I would say that I was the typical type A personality, but that is exactly the kind of personality that burns out, and that’s precisely what happened. So at age 39, which is the same age that my own father died at, I was diagnosed with two autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. And I was told that lupus had no cure. But I was given a giant box of syringes with medicine to inject daily all immunosuppressants. And at the same time, I was trying to start a family and I was told that I was infertile. So my life came to a juddering halt. Everything that I thought was possible suddenly became impossible because I was told that my lupus limited my life to another five years. And it was at that point that, unbeknownst to myself, I turned into a bio hacker. I threw the kitchen sink at it. And, you know, my my ancestors come from my American ancestors come from the American Midwest. And you can never say that something’s impossible. They have that real American can do attitude. And I really thought, I’ve just got to beat this. I tried absolutely everything. I looked at all the research. I’m a lay person. I’m not a scientist at all. And I could see that inflammation was at the root of my illness. And at that time, there was a medical researcher at Harvard Med School named Dr. Barry Sears, who was very popular, and he had a book called The Zone Inflammation Diet. And I went on that diet. I followed it religiously. I did also do a traditional allopathic treatment. It was a new treatment at the time called intravenous immunoglobulin. I went back to my doctor and asked her to test me again. She tested me again and she said, well, your CRP has fallen, your cytokines have dropped. I must have been a blip last time. So I didn’t need all those drugs, which I have now calculated would have cost me about a million U.S. dollars it had I continued to take and to take them up until this point in time. And I, I must say that facing one’s own mortality makes you get curious about what the limits of longevity are, especially if you discover that you are capable of reversing an illness when an authority tells you it’s not possible.
Peter Bowes: [00:05:52] You touched on it just now, but I’m curious to delve a little deeper, you were given a life expectancy of about five years at that point, and you, as you touched on how that affected you, how it affected your mindset. And I’m wondering if you could just describe a little bit more if any of us are told that we have potentially five more years to live, how we would feel about it and how it would change our lives.
Leslie Kenny: [00:06:15] Well, it changes your priorities for one, previously I was mostly interested in competing with my Harvard classmates. And there is a joke among HBS students that the older you get, the more mellow you get as you watch each other, not necessarily succeed at business or have a divorce or just not everything. Go to plan your well. You’re more compassionate towards each other. And I certainly changed my priorities from wanting to have a high powered career at that point in time to simply staying alive, wanting to live a happy life with my parents, with my mother, with my husband. And I had also been told at the time I was infertile. So I had been looking forward to actually bringing life into this world. And I had been faced with not only being told I could not bring life into this world, but that my own life was limited. So I began to I began to really search for a sense of meaning. What was my purpose on the planet? Was I destined to die young like my father had? Was I here to make a contribution? And if so, what was that contribution going to be? Once I was able to reverse my diagnosis, I began to feel that perhaps I should use myself as an example to others that they did have within their grasp, possibly within their grasp, the ability to reverse their own illnesses using diet and lifestyle and prevent illness by taking active steps in preventative healthcare. So the obvious things. Sleep, movement, diet, friendship, family.
Peter Bowes: [00:08:04] There’s quite a correlation, isn’t there, then, between what you went through in terms of your mindset at that stage in your life, reassessing your role in the world, there’s a correlation with what we’ve all gone through in the last 12 months with the coronavirus, how everyone has been forced to reassess how they do things, what they do and their relations with other people.
Leslie Kenny: [00:08:24] Yes, I think that’s right. I think that this is this is underscored the importance of health. It is perhaps a cliche to say your health is your wealth. But I do believe that this is this is really your wealth. It is not something that we can buy as much money as one has. We all looked at Steve Jobs, who was a real master of the universe, an absolute innovator and leader, and yet he succumbed to illness at a very untimely age. So it’s this is something that we must all actively invest in, in the way that we invest in our 401Ks or our Roth IRAs. We need to to think about these steps. We need to take and invest in them so that when we get to older age and that will it’s usually 65 where things begin to change dramatically. We actually have a nice savings bank there of good health upon which we can draw and exceptional lifestyle habits that will serve us in good stead.
Peter Bowes: [00:09:29] So how did you come to launch Oxford Healthspan? What does it do and how did it evolve?
Leslie Kenny: [00:09:34] Right. Well, it has partly to do with my own auto immune journey, I was introduced through Oxford Science Innovation, which is a half a billion dollar fund here in Oxford, to a fantastic scientist at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology at the University of Oxford. Her name is Katja Simon, and she was looking at rheumatoid arthritis in her lab and in particular looking at a polyamine, as you said in your introduction, very, very common substance that is in all plants and in humans and how it modulated the immune system. It was through that introduction that I became very interested in all the other things that Spermidine did that were not to do with supporting immune health, but also heart health, brain health, bone health, hormone balance, sleep, all of those very critical things that we want to maintain as we age. And as a matter of fact, it also inhibits five of the nine hallmarks of aging. It commonly occurs together with another poly aming called spermine, and that inhibits a sixth hallmark of aging. So as I began to get a layperson’s picture of this substance, I thought, why isn’t this available? How come I can’t find this easily? And in particular, I wanted to make it available to my mother in the United States and it simply wasn’t on the market there. Now you can get it through your diet. And as a matter of fact, those individuals who live in the blue zones have to have very high quantities of these poly amines in their diet. That would be, say, the Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California, the Okinawans or the Sardinians. And they might get it from, say, wheat, legumes or from from soy. And in my mother’s case, she was already eating natto, which has an exceptionally high amount of of these polyamines, but in particular spermidine in it. But it really was a problem for my stepfather, who he’s Caucasian and he can’t stand the smell of it. My mother is Taiwanese, so of course she’s used to it. Taiwan was a colony of Japan. So this is a food substance, which they’re used to eating in Taiwan. But my my stepfather couldn’t stand the smell of it. And so I wanted to really give her a solution so that she could get it on a regular basis and still have a happy household with my stepfather as well. And I sourced it in Japan and brought it to the United States and decided to launch it as a supplement, which is which is what Oxford Healthspan is doing.
Peter Bowes: [00:12:47] And the name Spermidine, is it anything to do with male reproduction?
Leslie Kenny: [00:12:52] It is indeed so spermidine, the names spermidine comes from van Leeuwenhoek the 17th century, father of modern biology, he invented the microscope and what he did is he cast about his his lab looking for things to put under the microscope, things like saliva and leaves and things like this. He decided to put some sperm under the microscope and here he noticed some crystals, which he could not identify, but he decided to call spermine and spermidine. Now, we did not know what they did until the 20th century. So in the late 1930s, we discovered that they actually protect the DNA in semen. And so they have a very important role in procreation. But that is also one of the five hallmarks of aging, is when DNA loses its integrity.
Peter Bowes: [00:13:54] And to what extent has spermidine supplementation been shown through clinical trials to be beneficial? I know there have been trials with animals, with yeast and with mice and with flies as well, I think. But what about human trials?
Leslie Kenny: [00:14:09] That is correct. Well, there have been many epidemiological studies, so a number of epidemiological studies, so I touched on the fact that the blue zone populations get a significant amount more so than, say, the average Brit or the average American would. But in addition, there have been some clinical studies and there will be an increasing number of them coming down the pipeline. So there is there was a clinical human study on brain health and cognition where they showed that spermidine and spermidine supported positive changes in the hippocampus. This is where our memories are stored and retrieved. This was a study of 28 humans between the age of 60 to 90 years old. They all had subjective cognitive decline and their memory improved after 90 days of supplementation with one milligram of spermidine. So it is generally known as neuroprotective from clinical trials. As you mentioned, we would like there to be many more studies in humans. And I would say that for both immune health and for heart health, I would be very keen personally to see those studies done in terms of other clinical trials. There was one done in hormone health where they showed that spreadin and specimen’s supplementation reduced salivary cortisol levels in both men and women by 58 percent in 30 days. They also those two polyamines normalized hormones, including DHEA, testosterone, progesterone and estradiol. Now, one of the things I’m 56, I’m postmenopausal, so I actually supplement with both DHEA and estradiol, in fact, also with progesterone. But this is something which which I found very, very intriguing, that it seemed, again, to help with homeostasis on the hormonal side. The authors of that particular study, Bendera and Wilson, also showed that in men under the age of 50, testosterone increased an average of 49 percent. So it wasn’t just in people who were, say, andropausal or the equivalent of female menopause and men, but it also had benefit to those under the age of 50. The study authors there also said that both fertility and sexual performance would be benefited by reducing cortisol levels, which both speridine and spermine together do. Certainly a larger trial is needed to confirm these hormones support of effects. But that, I thought, was a very promising, a very promising study. In particular, as I said, being of an age where my own body’s production of hormones is in great decline.
Peter Bowes: [00:17:21] I think one of the barometers that people use when they’re using supplementation is quite simply how they feel after a
Leslie Kenny: [00:17:29] Yes.
Peter Bowes: [00:17:30] Period of use of whatever the supplement is. And a lot of the things that you’re talking about, there might be changes happening, but we wouldn’t necessarily physically feel those changes certainly in the first few months. I’m curious what people who’ve used Spermidine in terms of your supplementation, what do they
Leslie Kenny: [00:17:47] Hmm.
Peter Bowes: [00:17:47] Say that they actually feel like after a few months of using it?
Leslie Kenny: [00:17:51] They do say that they feel more energetic and they also say that they they feel better and they feel better the way that they look, and this is due to the impact on hair and nail growth. So I suppose that we’ve had more women reporting back on her health. But we do know that sperm leading causes hair follicles to stay in the antigen or growth phase for longer than normal. Now, the antigen phase also is where Melanogenesis happens. So that is where pigment comes into the hair follicle. And we also know that spermidine modulates human epithelial stem cell function in the hair follicle. So and it boosts keratin production as well. So we do get those reports from women saying that they have more they have thicker hair, they have longer eyelashes. And in some cases we’ve had some n of one indications that there has been a pigmentation as well. Now, I hasten to add, there have been no clinical studies on that except in animals but that’s what we’ve had reported.
Peter Bowes: [00:19:12] I’ve got a lot more questions, Leslie, we’re going to pause our conversation for a second, will be back
Leslie Kenny: [00:19:15] Yes.
Peter Bowes: [00:19:16] In less than a minute. You’re listening to the Live Long and Master aging podcast.
Peter Bowes: [00:19:19] This episode is brought to you by AgeUp, a new product that helps fill in the financial gaps that are often created. Once you’ve mastered aging and achieved an exceptionally long life, small monthly payments to AgeUp stuck over time to create a secure income stream for your 90s and beyond. Contributions to AgeUp are shielded from market swings and wants payouts begin at age 91 or above. They’re guaranteed to last for life. AgeUp is backed by MassMutual and sold by Haven Life Insurance Agency. You can find out more at Age-Up.com. That’s Age-Up.com.
Peter Bowes: [00:19:59] My guest is Leslie Kenney. Leslie is the founder and CEO of Oxford Healthspan. Leslie, we’re talking about Spermidine. I want to go back to one aspect that I’m always curious about. Everyone is curious about when they’re contemplating a new supplement like this. And this is a very simple question. Is it safe? What sort of safety regulations are there governing something like this and what research has been done?
Leslie Kenny: [00:20:22] It is indeed very safe, imagine it is a food and we have this not just in the food supply in in the endosperm of Krames, but it’s also something which our gut microbiome and our tissues manufacture. However, as we age that natural endogenous internal production declines. So topping up with that spermidine and spermidine in our diet becomes ever more important as we age. The safety studies done in Europe indicate that you can have up to six milligrams of spermidine per day without any problems whatsoever. So that is for the general population. Those are the European guidelines. The United States does not have guidelines on this. However, this is a wheatgerm derived concentrate and it is already in the food supply.
Peter Bowes: [00:21:26] And you mentioned earlier that the clearly ideal world we want more and more human trials when we’re considering something like this. And again, I think that probably raises the question with people, are we at a point where it is worth the investment for individuals? Because supplementation like this all supplementation, it doesn’t come cheaply and people have constantly to make decisions about what is best for them. So what is that decision making process and how do you balance the need for this kind of supplementation with perhaps something else that might
Leslie Kenny: [00:21:58] Correct.
Peter Bowes: [00:21:59] Perhaps do something very similar in terms of cellular health? And I suppose what I’m getting at is that it’s very difficult for laypeople to make these informed decisions about something that could questionmark, could benefit them down the road.
Leslie Kenny: [00:22:13] And yes, I think that’s right. Well, I would first like to address the issue of clinical trials. So the issue, as you know, with any kind of a food derived substance is that there is no opportunity to patent this. So no one is really going to invest the amounts of money that are necessary to do human clinical trials because there is no commercial incentive to do so. On the safety side, as I mentioned, it is already a food. It is already in the food supply. So there is no particular issue there. But in terms of how a consumer would make that decision, we often look at supplements and we think about, say, vitamin D three for immunity, or perhaps we’re thinking about, you know, vitamin C in the same way. For me, what struck me as interesting about spermidine was a remarkable paper by Brian Kennedy at the National University of Singapore, formerly the head of the Buck Institute in Novato, California, and then two University College London researchers Linda Partridge and Matias Fuentealba in Nature, that was published in May of 2020 and they were looking at the hallmarks of aging and spermidine inhibits five of the nine hallmarks of aging, in particular epigenetic changes. So we know that when are we know that we are born with DNA, but it is really the epigenome that is important.
Peter Bowes: [00:23:50] Just explain what the epigenome is.
Leslie Kenny: [00:23:52] So the epigenome is where our lifestyle habits turn our genes on and off in certain ways. So you may be born with a gene that predisposes you for, say, poor vitamin B synthesis. However, if you eat a lot of green leafy vegetables, which have plenty of B vitamins in them, that doesn’t ever come into play. So that gene is never really an issue for you or say you have an obesity predisposition and you might be doing other things in your life, for example, getting good sleep, avoiding sugar, these things which would then turn that gene off. So that’s the epigenome. And we know that that is more important than, say, the genome, the static set of blueprints that we are that we are born with who say that we run through 23 and me. So the fact that spermidine inhibits epigenetic changes is quite important. It also inhibits impaired proteostasis. So inside ourselves, we have these proteins and they need to be properly folded so that they can function properly. These cells act as transporter’s in the cell and they help maintain cellular homeostasis. So if we don’t have those proteins folded properly, things begin to to fire or not fire. But let’s say they don’t function optimally in the cell. And, you know, that also leads on to another hallmark of aging, which is mitochondrial function. At a certain point, I suppose it’s like taking your car into the garage. You know, the fan belt isn’t working. You need to do an oil change. Well, it’s the same on ourselves. So we’ve got this protein folding that might happen. We’ve got mitochondrial dysfunction and the mitochondria are the powerhouses of ourselves. If we don’t have properly functioning mitochondria, we don’t feel energetic. And that’s perhaps why some individuals clinically are reporting more energy. A fourth hallmark of aging would be stem cell function. So as we get older, these stem cells don’t function as they did when they were younger and spermidine inhibits that. Finally, it it also inhibits impaired into intercellular communication. So our cells not only need to experience cellular renewal and recycling that autophagy process, but they’ve got to be able to communicate with each other again, perhaps like a car in traffic. They need to signal to each other if they’re turning right. So there isn’t some kind of an issue. And so that was fascinating to me that five were inhibited. But because spermidine occurs naturally in foods together with spermine and putrescine it, it was also interesting to me that spermine inhibits the sixth hallmark, which was altered nutrient something. It is when the cells are looking for nutrients and are able to then take those nutrients in. And so if the signaling is impaired, then the cell is not getting the nutrients that it needs. So because of the fact that spermidine and spermine occur together right away, we’ve got more than 66 percent of the hallmarks. We probably you know, we’ve got we’ve got quite a few of them taking care of them, which given that there aren’t really downsides to having this, seemed a bit like a no brainer to me personally.
Peter Bowes: [00:27:55] I always say to people whenever considering anything like this, the first thing you should do if you’re thinking about a new dietary regime or indeed changing your exercise regime significantly, that you should speak to your own medical professional, you should speak to your own doctor. Would you agree with that?
Leslie Kenny: [00:28:12] Always.
Peter Bowes: [00:28:12] I think it’s it’s basic. It’s point number one to speak to your doctor before you change anything, before you add anything to your diet.
Leslie Kenny: [00:28:19] Always, and I should I should also add that this is not a replacement for a healthy diet. The reason the Okinawans, the Sardinians and the Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda live a long time is because they are getting a naturally occurring spermine and spermidine in their diet. So I would always suggest individuals to start there, just as my mother was doing with nato. Now, if that becomes inconvenient or if one would like to have a standardized dose, then supplementing is a way to do it. However, always start with with good diet and there is never a replacement for the basics of good sleep, low stress, strong family ties movement and making sure you’re getting the nutrients you need. And you can you should always work with your doctor on that.
Peter Bowes: [00:29:14] Let me ask you about your company again and the name of your company, Oxford, Healthspan, Healthspan, this word that
Leslie Kenny: [00:29:20] Hmm
Peter Bowes: [00:29:20] I use frequently and many others do as well. What
Leslie Kenny: [00:29:23] Hmm,
Peter Bowes: [00:29:23] Does it mean to you?
Leslie Kenny: [00:29:24] Well, I have to say, when I’m an only child and when I was a young girl, my grandparents and my parents were really my world. But by the age of 21, I had already lost my grandmother, my grandfather and my father at age 39, 63 and 67. And when I was told that my life was time limited, I began to wonder if I did live, would my life be shortened because of the illnesses that my grandparents had had run into. And so I wanted not the promise of lifespan or longevity, which I heard doctor after doctor or a scientist say, this is fantastic. Our lifespan has increased since the early 1900s. I began to realize that this could be a double edged sword and I didn’t want to live in poor health. Women in particular, they outlive men. However, usually those years that they outlive men are spent in poor health. And as a woman, I didn’t want that. I already knew when I went through menopause, I could feel the changes happening right away. So personally, my idea around Healthspan was that I wanted to live a healthy life for as long as possible. And then as soon as things began to fall apart, I wanted the wheels to all fall off at exactly the same time. And I wondered if other people would feel the same way, because I knew that the demographics in the Western, in the high income Western countries was changing. And we know that by 2030, those aged 60 and above are going to make up 20 percent of the population in these high income countries. In Japan, we know that 33 percent of the population already is aged 65 and above. But are these individuals living a healthy life? And naturally, here in the UK, we hear about the need to protect the NHS. And I know that as a Brit yourself, you know, this is something that that everyone is born with. Everyone reveres the NHS, the democratisation of health
Peter Bowes: [00:31:56] Yeah.
Leslie Kenny: [00:31:56] Care. But that system was built at a time when it was meant to deal with acute conditions. Now, a huge amount of what the NHS deals with are chronic conditions. And if we even just look at diabetes, a single chronic condition, and we think about the cost involved, not just taking metformin, but what about macular degeneration, cardiovascular disease, amputation? Once someone loses a limb or two, then they need wraparound care. They cannot get around and do the things that they commonly did. Not only is it expensive for the British government and the NHS taking resources away from, say, other individuals, young mothers, others who have acute conditions, but it cost a huge amount of money. And it also leaves that individual with a lack of independence and a lowered quality of life. So my thinking with healthspan was really, can we create a paradigm shift and think about preventing ageing, slowing ageing, even if by one year we could save huge amounts of money?
Peter Bowes: [00:33:17] And you hit the nail on the head there with the phrase paradigm shift, and that’s what it has to be across the board, there has to be a greater understanding of exactly as you have just beautifully explained, the difference between healthspan and optimizing those years when were vital and healthy and interacting with people and doing things physically that we want to do as opposed to lifespan when the life may not be particularly good in the final five, 10, 15, 20 years. Sometimes with people as that decline, it can be quite a slow decline sometimes, but the quality of life isn’t great. And while clearly you understand it, you get it. There are many within the longevity space. You could say that that get this as well. But there’s got to be a greater understanding and acceptance that we can’t be continuing as a disease care system. It’s got to be a disease prevention system.
Leslie Kenny: [00:34:08] Yes, absolutely, and I think that had I not experienced the inability to use my hands at age 39, the point would not have been driven home to me. It was only because I could not open doors, I could not turn doorknobs, I couldn’t use scissors. I couldn’t type on my laptop. When that happens, you really understand the importance of prevention, of slowing the aging process and in my case, reversing that process and regaining health.
Peter Bowes: [00:34:40] And how are you actually doing right now with your health?
Leslie Kenny: [00:34:42] I think I’m doing all right every six months I do a blood test because I don’t want to say terrified, but I am I am always concerned that the autoimmune diseases might come back. I take a lot of preventative steps, so I get my blood test done every six months. Every year I check my cytokines, tumor necrosis alpha. These were the things that were highly elevated when I was age 39. Everything looks good. I always try to keep my C reactive protein levels below one and I try to optimize my sleep. So I have an aura ring, which I love. I’ve been tracking my sleep for you.
Peter Bowes: [00:35:26] I’ve got one too.
Leslie Kenny: [00:35:27] Yes We’re tribe tribe members.
Peter Bowes: [00:35:29] Yes.
Leslie Kenny: [00:35:29] Exactly. I’ve been I’ve been tracking my sleep for probably seven years now. So I had a sleep tracker on my iphone for a long time, but I get about two hours of deep sleep a night that does help with the lymphatic system in the brain carrying away those waste. So there is some evidence that spermidine helps reset the aging circadian clock and supports sleep health in that way.
Peter Bowes: [00:36:00] How much REM sleep do you get tonight?
Leslie Kenny: [00:36:02] Anywhere from one to two hours, and if I get two hours of sleep, then often my deep sleep will be lower.
Peter Bowes: [00:36:09] Oh, it’s interesting.
Leslie Kenny: [00:36:10] So I would say between the two, it’s between three and a half to four hours of sleep plus REM sleep. Even if I’m getting sort of six and a half hours of sleep, I will get that block.
Peter Bowes: [00:36:21] And has it helped just to know that to know those numbers and to be able to adapt your lifestyle as perhaps the lifestyle in the immediate hours before you go to bed, since being able to monitor these things using the wonderful technology that we have these days, how has it helped to improve?
Leslie Kenny: [00:36:36] It does, and I would say that even in the evenings when I do get deep sleep, that two are the two areas of deep sleep. Sometimes if I go to bed too late, my heart rate, my resting heart rate does not lower until later in the evening. And that impairs my readiness scores for the next day, my HRV, my heart rate variability. So I do then say right next day, I can’t stay up late, you know, either talking to someone in Miami or trying to wake up early to deal with someone in Japan. I really do focus on sleep hygiene. It is always about the basics. We’ve got to help our bodies just maintain homeostasis or balance for as long as possible. And we have so many tools that are free, such as sleep, good food, lowered stress through yoga, meditation, even some devices. I like a sensate device or a new calm device. And then, of course, friends and family, social network and movement. So many of those things are free.
Peter Bowes: [00:37:46] I totally agree with you, and I think it’s fascinating the way that I refer back to to the ring and the fact that we have this new sphere of knowledge and technology that can help us acknowledge exactly what you have just said in terms of what is important to us to achieve a great age. Just one final question. You clearly come from a unique position in terms of your own personal health. I often ask people, as you look ahead, as you contemplate your own longevity in your own, hopefully long life, what kind of aspirations do you have?
Leslie Kenny: [00:38:19] Well, I’ll start with the micro and then go to the macro, so on the micro side, I couldn’t I could not imagine life going forward without family and my two daughters, my eldest is adopted from China. We adopted at a time when I didn’t think it was capable. I had been told I was infertile and too old to have children. And then my youngest daughter, who was born biologically. And when I brought my body back to balance at age 43, I delivered her here at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. So that is very, very important to me. Again, the basics and they’re free. But on a macro level, my vision is really to take some of the discoveries on health and nutrition and lifestyle from the University of Oxford and make them more available to a lay audience. And I don’t think that’s just in Britain. I think that’s also in other countries, whether that’s Northam in North America or in other Commonwealth countries. But I do feel that we have some outstanding scientist here at Oxford and that there are a lot of discoveries that have been made, but they haven’t been commercialised. And the reason they haven’t been commercialised is because there are no patents around anything to do with food or lifestyle. So that is my ikigai is helping share these discoveries with other individuals. And I do hope that that I will be able to use them to prevent aging or slow ageing in the future. That is my goal.
Peter Bowes: [00:40:02] Leslie has been great to talk to you. I wish you all the best. Thank you very much indeed.
Leslie Kenny: [00:40:06] Thank you very much too.
Peter Bowes: [00:40:07] And if you’d like to dig a little deeper into Leslie’s work and that of Oxford Healthspan, I’ll put some of the links in the show notes for this episode. You’ll find them at our website, Live Longer, Master, Aging. We use the acronym LLAMA. So it’s the LLAMA podcast that’s LLAMApodcast.com. The LLAMA podcast is a Healthspan. There’s that word again, Healthspan Media production. If you enjoy what we do, you can rate and review as it Apple podcast. You can follow us in social media @LLAMApodcast and direct message me @PeterBowes. Both your thoughts about the podcast and suggestions for future episodes are always welcome until the next time. Do take care, wear a mask, social distance and thank you for listening.