The new biohacking trend deciphered

“Biohacking”, behind this rather strange English word, hides a trend that is increasingly present in the US, especially among Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Composed of two words: bio, life in ancient Greek and hacking, piracy in English. This concept consists of optimizing human capabilities through routines called biohacks.

Some of these routines are simple and natural, such as fasting or meditation, others make use of food supplements, the so-called “nootropic” substances that enhance brain activity, or even technology or biotechnology. Any ” biohackers is what biohacking enthusiasts call themselves, they use connected objects to “track” their physiology for the purpose of improving it or performing genetic tests.

Health is a vast field ranging from a dying state to full health. As a resuscitator anesthesiologist, my goal was to enable my patients to survive a life-threatening condition. The role of conventional medicine is to treat the diseases it can cure and to stabilize chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes or Alzheimer’s disease. Biohacking aims to enable the transition from a state of good health to a state of optimization of physical and mental capabilities. This is precisely what led me to develop biohacking in France and to write the first book in French on the subject.

The demanding level of performance of our time is at the origin of this renewed interest in a healthier lifestyle, especially after the COVID crisis, the confinement and stress of an entire population. Furthermore, although life expectancy has steadily increased over the centuries, in recent years the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer or Alzheimer’s disease has changed the data. In France, life expectancy dropped in 2015, a first according to INSEE! Since 1990, cardiovascular disease has progressed 5 times faster than the population, cancer 4 times faster, diabetes 6 times faster! These chronic diseases are in part due to diet, lifestyle and environment. But we now know that many of these diseases are preventable.

So who are these biohackers who want to regain control of their lives by mastering their own biology? Among the most famous is Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, a fervent advocate of intermittent fasting who eats just one meal a day and fasts entirely one day a week. Numerous studies show that intermittent fasting increases cellular energy, promotes mental clarity, and extends longevity. For example, Mark P Mattson’s 2017 study in the Aging Research Review concludes that fasting is effective for weight loss and improving several health indicators, including insulin resistance and risk factor reduction. risk of cardiovascular disease through cellular mechanisms that repair DNA. Fasting without malnutrition is the best way to delay aging in all animal species.

Biohackers also seek to optimize sleep by adopting simple routines: exposing yourself to daylight in the morning to set your biological clock, avoiding coffee after 2pm and above all avoiding digital screens on computers, smartphones, etc. are blue light sources. Blue light blocks the synthesis of melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep. If necessary, biohackers equip themselves with special “blue light blocking” goggles. Some biohackers equip themselves with trackers in the form of connected watches, rings or bracelets around their heads to better control their brain waves and the depth of their sleep.

Biohacking is still a very young concept and the prospects for development are immense!

To fight stress, the disease of the century, biohackers are often followers of the so-called mindfulness meditation. This meditation is inspired by oriental meditations but removing the spiritual side. Developed in the 1980s by Jon Kabat-Zin, a professor at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), this method has been very popular since the 2010s, even in companies like Google. In 2007, a Google engineer, Chade-Meng Tan, created a method developed in situ combining meditation, neuroscience, emotional intelligence and leadership. Chade-Meng Tan’s goal is to increase productivity, creativity and happiness within the company.

Meditation can be free, i.e. focusing on natural breathing or following a particular rhythm whose effects can be measured by sensors connected to smartphones. These sensors measure heart rate variability, one of the main techniques used by biohackers.

All these routines, called biohacks, are not just fads. They are supported by studies carried out by independent researchers and, above all, no conflict of interest. Even a biohack as simple and bizarre as putting oil and/or butter in your coffee to feel more energized has a scientific basis. This speeds up metabolism and “forces” the body to consume fat. This biohack made the fame and fortune of Dave Asprey, businessman who developed this coffee under the name Bulletproof coffee and who is considered the father of biohacking in the United States. Dave Asprey has spent tens of thousands of dollars on self-experimentation and hopes to live to be 180!

Biohacking also seeks to personalize health care taking into account the individuality of each person. For example, Nutrigenomics uses simple biological analysis to determine the most suitable nutrition for an individual.. DNA analyses, not yet authorized in France but expanding in the US, make it possible to determine genetic predispositions to diseases and even resistance to stress. In the US, it’s easy to order a test to determine your own genetic traits from a simple saliva sample.

Biohacking is still a very young concept and the prospects for development are immense! It is a rapidly expanding field that combines daily routines that can be optimized by biotechnologies, nanotechnologies, robotics…. The market is growing. Initially confined to entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, biohacking is growing across the world and is attractive not only to entrepreneurs but also to anyone looking to optimize their daily lives and potential. In 2016, Elon Musk created the company Neuralink whose goal is to increase the brain’s capabilities thanks to implanted sensors. It is not necessary to use technology to improve the brain. One movie, Limitless released in 2011 with Bradley Cooper, portrays a man who has his brain capacities increased tenfold by a fictional substance: NZT. Even if NZT does not exist, the diversion of drugs such as Piracetam used in Alzheimer’s disease or Modafinil used in narcolepsy, allows you to increase concentration and memory abilities.

But what about ethics? Biohacking is not transhumanism, a doctrine that seeks to defeat death. The idea of ​​biohacking is more to give life to years than to give years to life. Increase quality of life more than quantity. The cornerstone is mastering your biology to master your life.

A personal anecdote about it. My mother lived longer than my father, but in what state? She suffered from constant memory loss. So, what’s the point of living longer if it’s to age badly and suffer daily? Biohacking makes it possible to extend lifespan without sacrificing well-being. To be continued…

In the United States, biohackers aim for performance at all costs and productivity. The French, attached to their art of living, will find in biohacking a way to increase their efficiency, that is, maximum productivity and efficiency, while respecting the quality of life.

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