Not In Front Of The Children

Posted in a comment by Rose, from the Sunday Times:

They smoke, they drink and brain scans suggest that they should be getting dementia but a group of “super-agers” — aged 80 to 100 and found to be mentally sharper than most fiftysomethings — are confounding medical beliefs.

Researchers who followed the group for years found that their brains seem resilient to age, keeping their powers of memory, cognition and language, despite lifestyles that often included the bad habits that doctors warn against. The super-agers retained these powers despite their brains having many symptoms associated with dementia — including neurofibrillary tangles, deposits of deformed proteins that are supposedly highly toxic for brain cells.

Daily Mail:

Most ‘super agers’ drink, smoke, gain weight and never retire – but their zest for life leaves them resistant to dementia

Scientists are baffled by the paradox which has emerged from the famed 90+ study, analyzing people aged 80 to 100 who seem resilient to cognitive decline.

To their surprise, they found the people in this unique group do not have an over-expression of the APOE 22 gene, which was thought to be protective against dementia.

But they did all share a more positive outlook on life than their peers, they cared more about close relationships, they were very active – and diet seemed to have little to do with it.

New scans also reveal these super agers have a higher proportion in their brain of a rare neuron called von Economo, a ‘social’ neurons which tends to be dysfunctional in people with autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.”

“Dr Claudia Kawas, professor of neurology at the University of California, Irvine, said the findings are challenging everything she has ever known after decades in the field.

‘I almost think we should stop doing research and just start using our bodies and brains more,’ she quipped.

‘These people are inspiring – they drink wine, drink coffee, gain weight, but they exercise and use their brains. Maybe that can tell us something.’


The researchers say they have also found that common human vices do not necessarily need lead to an early grave, with many superagers saying they smoked and enjoyed a tipple.

“We ask them why is it that you think you are a superager, how did you get here, and there are a couple of funny ladies and they will say, well it’s because I have a martini with my friends every day at 5 o’clock. Others have never had a drink,” said Rogalski.

Being underweight also seemed to matter, with those who had a very low body mass index after the age of 80 more likely to die. “It’s not bad to be skinny when you’re young but it’s very bad to be skinny when you’re old,” said Kawas.

However, Rogalski added, that did not mean that people should take up bad habits to live longer, noting that some people might have a genetic makeup that allowed them to tolerate smoking and drinking.

Nonetheless, Rogalski thinks we can learn from superagers. “We are getting quite good at extending our lifespan but our health span isn’t keeping up and what the superagers have is more of a balance between those two, they are living long and living well,” she said.

Forbes mentions the alcohol but not the smoking. Elite Daily:

To make matters even more interesting, these SuperAgers aren’t even that healthy in other regards, on average. According to Rogalski’s research, 71 percent of the SuperAgers in her study were smokers, and 83 percent regularly drank alcohol.

but adds

The first thing you can do to prolong your life (and live well for the duration of it) is to absolutely not smoke cigarettes, regardless of what the SuperAgers are doing…

I hope that no children get to hear about this, because they might get the silly idea that if they enjoy their lives to the full, they may expect to live long and fulfilling lives. And that would never do.

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13 Responses to Not In Front Of The Children

  1. sackersonwp says:


    • Philip Neal says:

      Agreed. Genes form clusters – those who have gene A tend to have gene B as well – and these people seem to have a cluster of apparently unrelated qualities in common.

  2. I just added a little comment on FORBES facebook rendition of the article, noting the smoking being mentioned in the DM, G, and ST and expressed a wonderment that Forbes somehow missed that little piece of information. I grabbed a nice screen capture of the posting but don’t know how to get it up here. Wonder how long it will stay there before the censor’s pen scratches it out…

  3. Lisboeta says:

    Oh dear. A problem for all the folks who make their living out of telling us how to live our lives?

  4. Smoking Lamp says:

    Once again evidence that contradicts the healthist’s agenda for prohibition. In California, they are trying to mandate cancer warning labels on cups of coffee and here we see drinking coffee actually prolongs life. A similar prohibitionist move is seen in the UK (especially Scotland and Wales) where the attack on alcohol has been ramping up with demands for minimum pricing and calls for plain labels. All of this despite evidence that moderate drinking actually is beneficial. We know the attacks on smoking have been exaggerated and much of the data supporting the tobacco control excesses is questionable or flawed. The ideological foundations of the healthist movement become more apparent as their propaganda become more extreme.

  5. Smoking Lamp says:

    Not totally O/T… The Swiss media is steady increasing the number of articles preparing the way for a total smoking ban at Swiss Rail stations. The newest article 100 tons of cigarette butts litter Swiss train platforms every year” (Comments are accepted) contends that litter from cigarette butts is excessive. So rather than enforce existing littering law a comprehensive smoking ban is suggested as a remedy. Of course they will likely add the weak and specious second hand smoke rationale, but this all boils down to “smokers must not be seen” — linking full circle to this essay’s theme “Not in Front of the Children.”

    • RdM says:

      Interesting. A more commented link off that is
      where the author has made some effort to be fair, re providing receptacles, but also
      (out of context – do read the whole thing!) (my emphasis)

      Since I don’t want my kids to smoke and spoil their health, I wanted to do something.

      As a first step, I got some gloves and took my kids to clean the tram station nearby. I was a little apprehensive about this but overcame my resistance and started picking up cigarette butts. Within half an hour, we collected around 500 grams of litter and cleaned the entire platform.

      We kept a couple of pieces and went home, where I dropped the remains in a glass of water. I showed my children how the water turns colour. I educated them that this is how the water in our body will become affected, and showed them pictures of smokers’ lungs. They said they were ‘yucky’. I started to feel good, seeing their dislike for cigarettes and smoking.

      I feel like commenting… maybe others will too;- expect a lot more links to Frank’s Black Lung page (when I can find it, should be easy enough) if and when it goes through!

  6. Joe L. says:

    So Forbes conspicuously failed to mention smoking in their article, as did the article I stumbled across from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. However, the Daily Mail, Sunday Times and the Guardian all faithfully represented the results of the study by including the fact that 71% of “super-agers” smoked tobacco.

    I just did a quick search and found a few more articles covering the study from
    U.S. News & World Report, Chicago Tribune, Tech Times, CBS Los Angeles and Detroit Free Press. All of these articles mention “super-agers” drinking alcohol but none of them mention the smoking.

    It appears that all American publications are deliberately censoring the fact that 71% of “super-agers” smoked tobacco, whereas British publications aren’t.

    • Well said Joe! :) And pretty much exactly what I said on the FORBES facebook page:

      “Michael J. McFadden Strange. The Daily Mail, Guardian, and the Sunday Times all covered this story as well… but every one of them mentioned that the superages tended to both drink AND SMOKE.”
      “Michael J. McFadden So how is it that Forbes somehow neglected to mention this one element of the story?”

      (Walt, thanks, yes: DumboMe forgot that I could just C&P the text because I was focused on “preserving the image” in case they censored the posts!)


  7. RdM says:

    As you can find in the first couple of posts linked here:

    Chris Snowdon puts it beautifully I think (my emphasis):

    It hardly needs to be said that smokers, like nonsmokers, have never volunteered to be role models for other people’s children. The claim that adult activity should be criminalised if it can be witnessed by minors does not have to be taken to its logical extreme for it to be exposed as absurd and totalitarian. It is plainly not a serious argument. And yet, if I did feel the need to act as a role model to children, I would, first and foremost, impress upon them the importance of ignoring and despising unjust laws. I would hope to teach them that there is, in any society, a minority of bigots who resent liberal values and who will do whatever they can to impose their own lifestyles upon them. If flouting a draconian law will help a child realise that the state is not its friend, then I will cheerfully light a cigarette in any street or park.

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