Episode 04: The Health-Span Plan

Dietary Changes,
Lifestyle Interventions,
and Other Experiments
in Aging Well

On our six-part Netflix series, The goop Lab, we explored six wellness topics. If you’re here, you’ve found one of them: We’ve gathered our best podcasts, Q&A’s, and articles as a resource for the deeply curious. The series is designed to entertain and inform—not provide medical advice. You should always consult your doctor when it comes to personal health and before you start treatment.

No matter how healthy you are, being obsessed with living forever is…not. When we talk about increasing longevity, what we’re really talking about is increasing the length of our health span, or years of good health, so we can make the most of the time we have on earth.

And it’s a good time to talk about it: There is an incredible amount of fascinating emerging research on longevity and the lifestyle modifications that are most effective at optimizing it and supporting our bodies as we age.

If you’re interested in skin care and facial treatments, we like to nerd out about that, too.

Longevity

Can we slow down the aging process?

“Only 20 percent of our longevity and health in old age is genetically determined,” says David Sinclair, PhD. “The rest is up to us.” The Harvard genetics professor joins Elise Loehnen on The goop Podcast to break down the science behind the aging process and our well-being. He explains why it’s good for us to experience biological stress, how we can relieve harmful stress, which supplements and health interventions he believes will keep us young, and which ones he predicts will forever change the future of medicine.

Why are scientists focused on epigenetics? And what does it mean for aging, cancer, and obesity?

Epigenetics is the idea that outside factors, like the environment, might affect how our genes express themselves. And what’s peculiar about epigenetic processes (as opposed to genetic ones) is that they have the potential to be reversed. We interviewed Richard C. Francis, PhD, the author of Epigenetics: How Environment Shapes Our Genes, about the compelling implications of epigenetics and where the future of epigenetics research is going.

running woman smiling girl

What is my biological age?

Morgan Levine, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Pathology at Yale who studies aging, has developed just that: an algorithm that uses a DNA sample to calculate what she calls biological age. We had her break down how the test works, the implications of biological age, and what lifestyle factors can affect it.

What are telomeres, and how do they affect aging?

In their book The Telomere Effect, biologist, psychologist, and Nobel Laureate Elizabeth Blackburn and psychologist Elissa Epel outline that the key to understanding the aging puzzle is telomeres—tiny caps on the ends of our DNA strands that protect cells from premature aging. The good news? Telomeres can be manipulated through simple lifestyle changes. Epel explains their fascinating research in layman’s terms, with brilliant tips for living healthier, longer.

Is there a secret to feeling and looking younger forever?

We asked Sara Gottfried, MD, the author of Younger—and a source of wisdom on over-forty health concerns—for her keys to avoiding inflammation (which causes accelerated aging), staying fit (tight core, tighter mind), retaining the natural structure and beauty of your face, and extending your invaluable health span as long as possible.

Where do people live the longest—and what can we learn from them?

New York Times–bestselling author Dan Buettner has studied longevity hot spots—the places where people live the healthiest for the longest—around the world. With a grant from the National Institute on Aging, he and a team of scientists and demographers set out, as he puts it, “to reverse-engineer longevity.” They established methods to tease out what might explain the long life spans in these places—there turned out to be five of them, now known as Blue Zones. He shared with us some of the common denominators and lessons for living.

Buettner also gave us happiness advice from the world’s happiest places—equally important research, if you ask us.

Is there anything I can do to counter the effects of sitting all day?

Sedentary behavior, typically in the context of sitting for extended periods of time, has emerged over the past decade as a focus for research on health and longevity. Various studies have linked too much of it to poor health—causing concern for those of us who work long hours in front of a computer. We asked holistic family physician and osteopathic practitioner Tudor Marinescu, MD, PhD, to help us counteract sitting during the day.

EXPLORE MORE ON LONGEVITY

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The Healthiest Diets

What is the healthiest way to eat?

Nutritionists, psychologists, and researchers agree on the basics: Eat a lot of vegetables, choose whole foods over processed foods when you can, and don’t obsess or stress over what you eat. Optimizing beyond that, of course, is deeply individual.

Looking for healthy (easy, satisfying, and filling) recipes? We’ve got you.

What do we know about the connection between diet and mental health?

Amid a sea of single ingredients marketed as “super,” it’s easy to lose track of a simple truth: Research shows that entire diets comprising a variety of whole foods—mostly vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and whole grains—are healthy. And a big part of that picture of health extends to the mind. We interviewed Felice Jacka, PhD, the director of the Food and Mood Centre at Deakin University in Australia, whose research shows that whole-foods diets are consistently linked with a reduced risk of depression. “Whole-foods diets in Japan, Norway, Spain, or Australia will look very different from one another, but they are all equally beneficial and protective for mental health,” Jacka says. “As long as your diet mainly consists of whole foods, you don’t need to be particular about the components of food you are consuming.”

We’ve had other experts weigh in on The goop Podcast: psychiatrist Uma Naidoo, MD, talked about how food affects our mood and psychiatrist Ellen Vora, MD, explained how she often uses food and other lifestyle changes to help patients who are struggling with anxiety or depression.

avocados

What are the best fats to eat?

Gerda Endemann, our senior director of science and research, has a BS in nutrition from UC Berkeley and a PhD in nutritional biochemistry from MIT. As an undergrad, she researched omega-3 and omega-6 fats, and she moved on to cholesterol and ketone bodies in grad school. She still loves to eat fats—we had her break down the healthy-fat basics, and the best fats to eat.

Tell me something good about bread.

We learned a lot of things we wanted to hear from physician and researcher William Li, whose book Eat to Beat Disease explains which foods support the systems in our body that are continuously working to prevent disease. You can read our Q&A with him or skip to the good part: Sourdough bread contains a healthy-gut bacteria called Lactobacillus reuteri—and enough of that bacteria to make a difference.

What are the benefits of a plant-based pescatarian way of eating?

A Mediterranean style of eating, including fish a couple times a week, is the diet preferred by longevity researcher Valter Longo, PhD. And we like his most salient advice: “I preach eating more, but more of different types of foods. Once you identify the thirty to forty foods that work for you consistently, you don’t have to go around with a manual. You just eat.” In our Q&A, Longo breaks down his philosophy, including why we should stop demonizing carbs, eat more protein, and carry a few extra pounds in our later years.

What is an autoimmune-friendly diet?

Some people with autoimmune diseases find that certain foods trigger their autoimmune symptoms—and removing those foods from their diet helps. Amy Myers, MD, is one of those people: You can read about her anti-autoimmune diet protocol here.

girl at farmers market

When is gluten an issue?

Our science and research team did an in-depth review of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, which covers symptoms, potential causes, treatment options, and emerging research.

I want to go plant-based—what’s the smartest way to do it?

Nutritionist Kelly LeVeque shared how she coaches her clients to do a plant-based diet without sacrificing protein or fiber.

If you’re trying a high-fat, ketogenic diet, we like functional medicine practitioner Will Cole’s plant-based approach, which he calls the ketotarian diet.

What should I consider if I want to go vegan?

Cardiologist Joel Kahn, MD, shares his perspective on how to approach veganism, what it can mean for your health, and how to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need.

Can supplements make a difference?

There is still a lot left to learn about the potential benefits of supplementing with certain vitamins and minerals. On the goopfellas podcast, Steven Gundry, MD, the author of The Longevity Paradox, shares his take on supplements. We also asked Sinclair for his. We interviewed Charles Brenner, PhD, to learn more about a form of B3 called nicotinamide riboside (NR) and the coenzyme nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD). Rhonda Patrick, PhD, taught us about the nuances of vitamin D. And we worked with Dominique Fradin-Read, MD, to formulate Madame Ovary: a vitamin and supplement pack for women approaching, in the throes of, or just past menopause.

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Fasting

Is intermittent fasting the key to health?

As with anything in life, fasting is clearly not for everyone. But there is research to support that intermittent fasting can have a beneficial effect on your health. And it’s not always as extreme as it sounds: Longo recommends eating in twelve-hour windows. That means, say, deciding to eat between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., or 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

For more, listen to Elise’s conversation with Longo on The goop Podcast: He explains the phenomenon of intermittent fasting and shares the forthcoming science that he’s most excited about—the lifestyle interventions that could have massive impacts on how long we live and how healthy we are.

What is the five-day fasting-mimicking diet?

It’s Longo’s program, which you can get in the form of a meal kit designed to mimic the effects of fasting—so you’re eating (although fewer calories than usual) and you’re still getting some macro- and micronutrients, but you’re also getting some of the benefits you could get from fasting. A lot of us at goop HQ have tried it; you can read about our wellness director’s experience with the fasting-mimicking diet kit.

Cognitive Decline

Are there research-backed ways to prevent cognitive decline as we age?

If you didn’t have reasons enough to envy that polyglot friend in your life, here’s another: Mounting research suggests that a side effect of bilingualism may be a brain that is more adept at navigating cognitive decline, especially as we age. To truly reap the health benefits of a bilingual brain, you need to maintain fluency throughout your life, says cognitive neuroscientist Ellen Bialystok, who has spent her career pioneering research in this realm. She’ll tell you—and this is the important part—it’s never too late to become bilingual.

We also asked neuroscientist Lisa Mosconi, the associate director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College, for her guide to eating for brain health. “A brain-healthy diet optimizes brain fitness over the course of a lifetime, while reducing the risk of developing age-related cognitive impairments and dementia,” she says.

Why does Alzheimer’s affect more women than men?

Richard Isaacson, MD, the director of the New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, is pioneering critical research on the underlying roots of Alzheimer’s in women. He is also studying new ways to prevent the disease in the first place, to reduce risk and delay onset, and to improve the symptoms of those currently living with the disease. When it comes to brain health, Isaacson explains that there is a lot we can do to make a difference—diet is at the top of the list of lifestyle changes he recommends. In our Q&A, he describes the signs of Alzheimer’s (versus brain fog and other more benign memory slips), outlines the (modifiable) risk factors all women should know, and shares his recommendations for what everyone can do today to optimize the way our brains age.

The Best Facial
Treatments

How do we talk about aging gracefully?

The pressure to “do something”—meaning dramatic steps, like a face-lift—about aging is everywhere in our society. The opposite pressure, to “age gracefully,” is at least as powerful, and neither is particularly helpful: One half of the population is supposed to look young for as long as possible—but also to reflect no signs of struggling against nature. This is one paradox that our beauty editors Jean Godfrey-June and Megan O’Neill explore on their podcast, The Beauty Closet—with guests like Bobbi Brown, Norma Kamali, and GP herself.

What do the experts say about maintaining the health of your skin?

And because the podcast listeners want to know, Jean and Megan also ask experts like dermatologist Robert Anolik for their secrets to healthier, better-looking skin (no matter what your age).

facial

What is an acupuncture facial?

You may have seen Elise getting one on the Netflix show—if that piqued your curiosity, read about our senior beauty editor Megan O’Neill’s experience getting an acupuncture facial for better skin.

Is threading the future of face-lifts?

Facial threading is the procedure that Wendy Lauria, our SVP of brand partnerships, tries (on-camera!) for our Netflix show. To learn more, read our Q&A with two of the more prominent physicians out there doing this type of procedure: Dr. Maurice Dray in Europe, and Dr. Woffles Wu in Singapore.

And for more on face-lifts, and alternatives to them, read this article our beauty team wrote: “The Face-Lift That Never Happened.”

What are the best skin-care products to use as we age?

Skin is less luminous and more easily dehydrated as we age. Mature skin needs an amped-up supply of the essential nutrients—from minerals and antioxidants to moisturizers and exfoliants. (Our cells turn over more slowly as we get older; one of the reasons a baby’s skin looks so fresh is the rapid-fire skin-cell turnover). Alpha hydroxy and salicylic acids and vitamin C can all make a serious difference. Go clean with as many products as you can, especially those containing SPF. (Chemical SPF—the stuff in some daily moisturizers, tinted moisturizers, primers, and foundations—contains some of the most problematic chemicals in the beauty industry.)

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MORE ABOUT THE GOOP LAB: EPISODE 04

What’s the one diet to rule them all? Gwyneth, Elise, and Wendy try three variations to see who can shave the most years off their biological age—and they do some work on their faces, too. Next, the trio meet with Valter Longo, PhD, the head of the Longevity Institute at USC, and Morgan Levine, PhD, to learn about the mechanisms of aging, the impact of fasting on disease, and what we can all do to increase our health span.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.