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  • Helen Hawkes

Ageing Intelligently

How artificial intelligence can help us live healthier, longer. By Helen Hawkes
The screenless Whoop smart device learns your body’s baseline metrics and coaches you to achieve your goals. Photography courtesy of Whoop.

As scientists move ever closer to knowing exactly what causes ageing, it’s increasingly realistic that using AI to monitor our physiology could help us to increase our health span: living healthier for longer. Unfortunately, we still have to do the work — even supercomputers can’t negate the detrimental effects of a high-alcohol, high-fat, low-exercise lifestyle. It depends how far down the tech rabbit hole we want to venture, and how motivated we are. 

The biotech industry is expected to reach a market value of $100 billion in the next three years, and it’s enabling longevity enthusiasts to tap into ever expanding realms of research to improve healthy longevity. Harvard University has confirmed five key factors in living up to 14 years longer than people who adhere to none of them: a healthy diet; at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day; maintaining a body mass index of 18.5–24.9; not smoking; and keeping alcohol intake to one drink daily if you’re female and two if you’re male. Chronic insomnia has been associated with higher rates of Alzheimer’s disease and systemic inflammation, the researchers add, while a simple multivitamin and mineral supplement may help improve brain health.

Other research by Yale University shows that stress makes your life “clock” tick faster, something that can be managed by strengthening emotional regulation and self-control (so ditch the office politics). This field of knowledge is informing the development of apps for improving fitness, diet, sleep and stress reduction, and refining ever more sophisticated, tailored recommendations for healthy living. The National Institutes of Health’s Nutrition for Precision Health research program, for example, has already begun a multi-year study into developing algorithms that predict individual responses to various foods, while apps such as the soon-to-launch Zoe offer AI-guided eating solutions based on tests of blood fat and sugar as well as the gut microbiome.

In the most complex AI applications, computers are being used to sift through vast amounts of scientific data to pinpoint molecular differences that predict healthy versus unhealthy ageing, to derive new medical treatments for disease and to monitor the health of patients in real time. The global market for these applications is predicted to be worth $17.4 billion by 2030.

Australia’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research is using machine learning to help identify rare phyllodes tumours of the breast and improve the understanding of multiple sclerosis risk. Its researchers are also using AI to uncover genomic links to cardiovascular and autoimmune disease, with the hope of developing precision medicine that, ultimately, will improve longevity.

In the field of nutraceuticals, AI is proving useful personalising supplements. For example, the US-based vitamin company Persona tailor-makes daily packs using a digital health quiz. AI-powered drug discovery companies are helping to develop supplements designed to extend health span.

A workout with the Technogym app. Photography courtesy of Technogym.

Says futurist, biotechnologist, pharmacologist and SRW Laboratories founder Greg Macpherson: “AI is allowing us to use the world’s combined nutraceutical research to establish trends and patterns associated with cellular longevity pathways that may not be immediately obvious. This is revolutionising how we identify ingredients and formulate them together for optimal effect.” In his everyday life, Macpherson uses AI embedded within his iPhone, Apple Watch and Oura Ring to track personal health data. He then combines this with a DNAage test developed by SRW’s diagnostic-testing lab partner TruDiagnostic and trained using AI to monitor his biological, not chronological, age. 

Dr David Sinclair, a professor in the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, has said that what he is most excited by is a future where everyone “can be monitored constantly ... measuring vibrations as [we] speak, orientation in sleep ... sneezing, coughing, body temperature, heart rate and other parameters of the heart”. Such data, he says, could be used to predict sickness and extend lives.

While this may be some people’s idea of bliss, it should also come with a caution. “However much [an app] uses AI which sounds like the superior form of analytics, possibly better than even the smartest anti-ageing doctor, it does not take into account the individual’s personal circumstance or their biochemical, metabolic, familial, hormonal or nutritional history,” says Sydney-based medical practitioner Dr Michael Elstein. “These events need to be documented and their significance appreciated.”

In our attempts to live longer, it may also be necessary to ensure that the constant focus on AI-powered health data and directives doesn’t erode the joy of day-to-day living. 

5 tech tools to help you live longer

The Oura Ring. Photography courtesy of Oura.

Oura Ring: This is the daddy of all AI-powered wellness monitoring devices and the choice of longevity expert Dr David Sinclair. It features research-grade sensors that track temperature trends, heart rate, daily activity and recovery, sleep quality, menstrual cycles and even stress and overnight oxygen levels. A “rest mode” automatically activates when Oura detects you are under stress and your daily goals will be adjusted to prioritise recovery. Also included are meditation, breathwork and sleep audio sessions. The titanium ring comes in a choice of finishes and is priced from US$299 (approximately $465), plus a US$5.99 (approximately $9.30) per month app subscription.

Calm: This app offers personalised meditation and breathing exercises, mindfulness programs and soundscapes designed to help you sleep, rejuvenate and reduce life-shortening stress. Users can also access Sleep Stories, bedtime literature read by celebrities including Harry Styles, Dame Mary Berry, Matthew McConaughey, Kate Winslet, Idris Elba and Cillian Murphy. $79.99 a year; $6.67 a month, with a 14-day free trial.

The Eat Green plan on the MyFitnessPal app. Photography courtesy of MyFitnessPal app.

MyFitnessPal: Tracking kilojoules in meals and improving longevity via nutrition is easy with this app that includes data on 14 million different foods. Plans offer coaching and content to build better nutrition habits and set overall healthier lifestyle goals. Basic plan: free; Premium: US$79.99 (approximately $124.28) a year; US$19.99 (approximately $31.10) a month. 

Technogym: This app from the Italian

gym machine maker details customised longevity-promoting fitness regimens based on 350 routines including equipment and bodyweight exercises. (The Technogym Plus app gives access to more than 1,000.) You can also monitor your activity and progress. Free and available for download on Apple Watch. Technogym Plus: $139.99 a year; $13.99 a month.

Whoop’s screenless wearable device and app. Photography courtesy of Whoop.

Whoop: This screenless wearable health and fitness device is fitted with sensors to track sleep, recovery, training and “strain” — both physical and psychological — with a real-time stress score. Input more than 140 behaviours from caffeine consumption to morning sunlight exposure to see which habits help and hurt your recovery. All Whoop memberships include access to Whoop Coach, which uses generative AI to provide personalised, highly specific recommendations and guidance. Band options from $64, annual membership from $379; $44 a month, with a one-month free trial.

This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our twelfth edition, Page 26 of Winning Magazine with the headline: “Ageing Intelligently”. Subscribe to Winning Magazine today.  


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