This long NYTimes article describes the activities of 87-year-old David Murdock, a billionaire who has used his wealth to do major laboratory research on how to live a healthy life and all the way to age 125. He never gets sick, although his hearing is going. Described throughout are what he eats and how he lives. At the end of the article, some doctors claim that it all has to do with your genes, which “trump behavior,” that no one has ever lived to 125, and there are some things, like overeating, that will kill you earlier than your genetic potential.

If this is accurate, that “no documented intervention has been shown to radically extend duration of life—ever,” according to a doctor quoted in the story, then does it make sense to deny yourself all those good foods and subject yourself to all those difficult exercises? That’s a personal choice. I still feel that for however long I am destined to survive by my genetic inheritance, I’d like to live as actively as I can, with high energy and vitality and without self-created illness.

“Murdock’s methods are utterly mainstream, an example of extraordinary discipline rather than frontier science…and a plant-based diet that’s low in animal fat while still allowing for protein sources beyond legumes has emerged as the consensus recommendation of most medical professionals.”

When he developed a rare and unfamiliar sore throat. He went crazy wondering what went wrong…that sore throat wasn’t just an irritant. It was a challenge to the whole gut-centered worldview on which his bid for extreme longevity rests. “I went back in my mind: what am I not eating enough of?” he told me. Definitely not fruits and vegetables: he crams as many as 20 of them, including pulverized banana peels and the ground-up rinds of oranges, into the smoothies he drinks two to three times a day, to keep his body brimming with fiber and vitamins. Probably not protein: he eats plenty of seafood, egg whites, beans and nuts to compensate for his avoidance of dairy, red meat and poultry, which are consigned to a list of forbidden foods that also includes alcohol, sugar and salt.

He is careful to get a little bit of daily sun, which is crucial for proper absorption of vitamin D, but not too much, lest he court skin cancer. He tries to go to bed no later than 11 p.m. and to get more than six hours of sleep every night. Perhaps the only real eyebrow raiser in his regimen is his rejection of any medicine that isn’t truly necessary. When he had that sore throat, he didn’t suck on a lozenge or swallow aspirin. When he has had precancerous growths removed from his face, he has passed on anesthetics.

“I just turned my brain on and said, ‘Cut!’ ” he said. “Of course it hurt. But I controlled that.”

The doctors who work with Murdock say that he has ideal blood pressure, clear arteries, good muscle tone. They point out that he didn’t adopt his healthful ways until his 60s.

The life expectancy for an American man born today is only 75½, and demographic data suggest that an American man who has made it to 87 can expect, on average, another 5¼ years. The longest life span on record is 122½, and that belonged to a woman. Her closest male competitors reached only 115½.

As for beating those statistics? The doctors are skeptical. I still think it’s good to have a lofty goal, even if it is unattainable. Not so bad if he falls short by 10 years. If he only goes for 100, he might make it “just” to 93…

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