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SCIENCE SALON # 137

Michael Shermer with Marta Zaraska — Growing Young: How Friendship, Optimism, and Kindness Can Help You Live to 100

From the day her daughter was born, science journalist Marta Zaraska fretted about what she and her family were eating. She fasted, considered adopting the keto diet, and ran a half-marathon. She bought goji berries and chia seeds and ate organic food. But then her research brought her to read countless scientific papers and to interview dozens of experts in various fields of study, including molecular biochemistry, epidemiology and neuroscience. What Marta discovered shattered her long-held beliefs about aging and longevity. A strong support network of family and friends, she learned, lowers mortality risk by about 45 percent, while exercise only lowers it by about 23 percent. Volunteering your free time lowers it by 22 percent or so, while certain health fads like turmeric haven’t been shown to help at all. These revelations led Marta Zaraska to a simple conclusion: In addition to healthy nutrition and physical activity, deepening friendships, practicing empathy and contemplating your purpose in life can improve your lifespan. Shermer and Zaraska also discuss:

  • diet, nutrition, and supplements: what works, what doesn’t, and what about meat?
  • exercise: how much, what type, and when?
  • the causal mechanisms behind how relationships and marriage effect health,
  • how friendships and community affect longevity,
  • how religion makes people healthier and longer lived,
  • why we need others and why handshakes and hugs will return after COVID-19,
  • the harmful effects of loneliness and isolation,
  • the deleterious effects of stress, and
  • how leading a purposeful and meaningful life leads to longevity.

Marta Zaraska is a Canadian-Polish science journalist. She has written about nutrition and psychology for the Washington Post, Scientific American, The Atlantic, The Los Angeles Times, New Scientist, and several other publications. She is the author of Meathooked: The History and Science of Our 2.5-Million-Year Obsession with Meat (Basic Books, 2016), which has been translated into Japanese, Korean, simplified Chinese, Spanish and Polish, and chosen by the journal Nature as one of “the best science picks” in March 2016. Meathooked has also been praised in The Wall Street Journal, Discover Magazine, Time, The Washington Post, Kirkus Reviews, Natural History Magazine, etc. She has also contributed a chapter to the recently published The Reducetarian Solution (TarcherPerigee, 2017) alongside Mark Bittman, Michael Shermer, and Peter Singer.

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