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New Study Suggests There's a Limit To How Long People Can Live (go.com) 290

Life expectancies have risen in many countries around the world thanks to breakthroughs in medical treatment and sanitation in the last century. The maximum age of death has also increased. But as these numbers continue to rise, it raises the question as to how long can people live? ABC News reports: The record for the world's oldest person is 122 years and the odds of shattering that record are slim, according to an analysis published Wednesday in the journal Nature. In the new study, researchers [at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York] analyzed mortality data from a global database. They found that while there have been strides in reducing deaths among certain groups -- children, women during childbirth and the elderly -- the rate of improvement was slower for the very old, those over 100 years old. Next they examined how old centenarians were when they died. The record holder is Jeanne Calment, of France, who lived until 122 years old. Since her death in 1997, no one has broken her record. The researchers calculated the odds of someone reaching 125 years in a given year are less than 1 in 10,000. They think the human life span more likely maxes out at 115 years. Some aging specialists said the study doesn't take into account advances that have been made in extending the life span -- and health -- of certain laboratory animals including mice, worms and flies through genetic manipulation and other techniques. The goal is to eventually find treatments that might slow the aging process in humans and keep them healthier longer.
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New Study Suggests There's a Limit To How Long People Can Live

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  • Genesis 6:3 NIV (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 06, 2016 @09:02AM (#53023673)

    Genesis 6:3 NIV
    Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”

    • Good thing too. Can you imagine how bad tempered and cantankerous they'd be if they lived to be 200 years old.

      • Good thing too. Can you imagine how bad tempered and cantankerous they'd be if they lived to be 200 years old.

        What would the Early Bird Senior Special be like with such people?

    • Yeah but Genesis 9:29 also says:

      And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years: and he died.

      So I guess the LORD forgot, eh? And don't forget about Adad, Seth, Enosh, Cainan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Shem, Arphaxad, Shelah, Eber, Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor and of course Abraham.

      Though for some reason, despite being an utter cocknozzle to him, ole' blessed be he let Moses live for the "full" 120 years. Hey Moses, thanks for leading my chosen people to the land of milk and honey.

      • Patriarchal and matriarchal societies usually give credence to age. The old have knowledge of the past, especially when literacy is scarce, and so are your best resources. As such, a person's greatness can be shown by his age; should he live to be a thousand years, he must have died a great man, and lived a great man to have the wisdom to continue so long.

        • by HBI ( 604924 )

          I also had a sneaking suspicion that "lunar months" and "years" got conflated in the account of the Patriarchs.

          • Re:Genesis 6:3 NIV (Score:5, Insightful)

            by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @09:52AM (#53023997) Journal

            I also had a sneaking suspicion that "lunar months" and "years" got conflated in the account of the Patriarchs.

            Either that, or the whole thing was made up.

            • by HBI ( 604924 )

              There is that possibility, but the relatively consistent discovery of coins and stelae in the Near East which confirm Biblical characters give me a bit of pause about calling entire books of scripture fairy tales. That said, the whole Patriarchs story presumes a time before the departure of Abraham from modern-day Iraq west to Israel. It could have been a Sumerian fairy tale for all we know.

              • Legend vs Myth vs History. However, remember that the OT was basically written, or rewritten, after the Babylonian captivity, and that (being a living document) it was rewritten every single time it was copied in manuscript. It is chock full of anachronisms, and actually, a lot of its "history" does NOT line up with archeology. There is considerable doubt that Moses was a real person, for example, and if he was, there is no record of him on the Egyptian side (where they kept good records). Here is one

            • I think you're quite right... most of it made up, some small bits of truth wrapped in fantasy for political gain. He's not the messiah... he's a very naughty boy!
        • True. Mostly I was pointing out that just because those two numbers lined up, the bible gives many more which don't.

      • by grumling ( 94709 )

        Well, the Earth's orbit was a little more fluid back then.

      • Re:Genesis 6:3 NIV (Score:5, Informative)

        by TemporalBeing ( 803363 ) <`bm_witness' `at' `yahoo.com'> on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:44AM (#53024439) Homepage Journal

        Yeah but Genesis 9:29 also says:

        And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years: and he died.

        Noah was born pre-Flood. And if you follow the geneologies, they lifespans increasingly shorten with each successive generation; thus not an immediate effect but something that took a few generations to take in.

        So I guess the LORD forgot, eh? And don't forget about Adad, Seth, Enosh, Cainan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Shem, Arphaxad, Shelah, Eber, Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor and of course Abraham.

        Most of those you quote were Pre-Flood; however, that doesn't change the lifespan curve that occurred post flood. Abram (who could have known Noah as their lifetimes slightly overlapped) made it to 175 (Genesis 25:7 [biblegateway.com]). Joseph (3 generations later) only made it to 110. Genesis 50:22-26 [biblegateway.com].

        As with Death in Genesis 3, the shorted lifespan did not happen immediately. Could it have? Probably, but that would have had several major consequences:

        • Slower re-population of the earth post-flood
        • Inability to communicate the past to future generations using eye-witnesses that were able to fully establish what actually happened through numerous generations across the vast majority of the populace.
        • Re:Genesis 6:3 NIV (Score:5, Informative)

          by aethelrick ( 926305 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @11:10AM (#53024667)

          Noah was born pre-Flood. And if you follow the geneologies, they lifespans increasingly shorten with each successive generation; thus not an immediate effect but something that took a few generations to take in.

          Also... the bible is not a trusted reference source. It was written by people who weren't there, repeatedly re-written by people with poor translation skills (not to mention political agendas to achieve). Each new interpretation of "The word of God" heralded as an unchanging, perfect holy text. Codswallop!

          • Literally taken, the first twelve chapters of Genesis could have been written by just three generations (Adam > Methuselah > Shem), all who overlapped each other more than 100 years and lived 500 years after the flood. Even without written language, it would be pretty easy to convey verbally, per most primitive cultures. The remaining 42 chapters Genesis would require only one or two additional generations ending with Jacob (Israel) and son Joseph.*

            Also read literally, lifespans of Antediluvian people

          • Noah was born pre-Flood. And if you follow the geneologies, they lifespans increasingly shorten with each successive generation; thus not an immediate effect but something that took a few generations to take in.

            Also... the bible is not a trusted reference source. It was written by people who weren't there, repeatedly re-written by people with poor translation skills (not to mention political agendas to achieve). Each new interpretation of "The word of God" heralded as an unchanging, perfect holy text. Codswallop!

            Is' generally taken that:

            Genesis 1:1-2:2 was God's communication of events to Adam.
            Genesis 2:3-4 (at least) were Adam's record.
            Genesis 4-9 were Noah's record.
            Genesis 10 was a record of Noah's sons.
            Genesis 11-25 was the record of Abraham (Abram).

            Now keep in mind that per the Genealogical records, Adam knew God, and Adam and Noah's parents would have been able to know Adam; furthermore, Noah would have known Methuselah who would have certainly known Adam. Thereby Genesis 1-9 are fully accountable vi

      • Tough on you that you got a tiny bit annoyed for pissing away 40 years in the desert...

        The desert that a man on a crutch could cross in a couple of weeks, and that a healthy man could cross in a week on foot. God must have created a dimensional warp mid-desert that stretched its size out to, lessee, suppose we assume only ONE mile a day -- the distance one can crawl on hands and knees and still have time to spare to collect the morning manna and pitch the tents and all. 40 x 365 x 6 / 7 (can't crawl on th

        • After all, if you can dimensionally warp 100 miles into 100,000 miles and twist the night sky up so that tracking the sun East moves you in a drunkard's walk, performing an impossible toplogical trick of warping a spherical manifold into a flat plane with edges should be a piece of cake

          Maybe he got that song from The Proclaimers stuck in his head on loop. All those 500 miles (and 500 more) add up after a while. That's the trouble if you're omnipitent but for some reason don't simply warp the people to where

        • And yet flood legends are found all across the world (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_flood_myths). Sure, each writes his own creator and race progenitor into the tale, but water-related catastrophes are apparently not uncommon.

    • You have to understand, he was pissed at the constant yammering of the old geezers in chapter 5.

    • by hoggoth ( 414195 )

      What does some old fable have to do with this?

    • Re:Genesis 6:3 NIV (Score:5, Interesting)

      by 31415926535897 ( 702314 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @09:45AM (#53023973) Journal

      The first time I read that, I thought the same thing...oh, people are only allowed to live to 120 years old now. But read the chapter again carefully, the phrase means that the flood was coming in 120 years. The 120 years is how long Noah had to build the ark.

      • Clearly the lifespan of humans was reduced, as you see people living 900+ years before the downgrade to 120 years, then afterwards, you see lifespans around 120 years. Whether or not the 120 years referred to both lifespan and time before flood, the lifespan results are logged as well.
    • except he didn't because he's erm... imaginary and stuff
    • by jrumney ( 197329 )
      It seems when he wrote the simulation, he reserved 1 bit for the male/female flag and a few magic numbers for immortal Buddhist monks, Jesus and the like.
    • Genesis 6:3 NIV Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years."

      "Challenge accepted." -- Dick "El Diablo" Cheney

    • Genesis 6:3 NIV
      Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”

      I give you Genesis 3:21: And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”

      I read that as a biblical promise that somewhere out there we can find the knowledge of what is so poetically called the "tree of life", and live forever.

      Genesis is an interesting book anyway. Genesis 2:21 tells us that So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and

    • It doesn't make much sense to see it as a limit within the story of genesis, it was clearly not a limit before or after the flood.

      That was presumably written as an ultimatum for when the flood was to occur.

  • I thought this was a solved concept. Telomeres shorten based on cellular division and eventually the cells just don't divide anymore. The net effect is that the body stops replenishing itself and voila, old age. Unless you do something about that...

    • I thought this was a solved concept. Telomeres shorten based on cellular division and eventually the cells just don't divide anymore. The net effect is that the body stops replenishing itself and voila, old age. Unless you do something about that...

      Exactly. I thought I read somewhere that in most cancer cells, their telomeres (sp?) don't shrink. Most cancer cells are 'immortal' so to speak because of this and explains partly why they grow and expand uncontrollably.

      That would be the problem. Attempt to manipulate this little part of their biology and not end up like the folks on Miri's Planet...

    • I was trying to conceptually work out a drug that would reverse some quantity of cells in the general body, to the point of dedifferentiation into stem cells. If you can trigger the cellular machinery to rebuild telomeres in that situation and convert, say, 0.01% of cells, then you have an effective regeneration drug. Not sure on anti-aging.

      The main problem is fucking up means cancer, and reversing neurons means memory loss.

      • by HBI ( 604924 )

        Hadn't we determined (literally by slicing out pieces of brain!) that human memory was holographic in the sense that there is no 'storage location', and cutting out neurons would probably just make the memory more diffuse and imprecise rather than erasing anything? Not that losing precision sounds particularly appealing, but it's better than a mind wipe situation, no?

    • Re:telomeres? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @09:29AM (#53023879)

      I thought this was a solved concept. Telomeres shorten based on cellular division and eventually the cells just don't divide anymore. The net effect is that the body stops replenishing itself and voila, old age. Unless you do something about that...

      Too many people have a weird concept of humans beating biology, it goes hand in hand with the concept of all your frailites are some how your fault. Perhaps you ate red meat, maybe it was because you didn't run 5 miles every day, or that you ate tomatoes, or didn't limit your caloric intake to the point of starvation. Or that you cook your food. My old barber thought that longevity was achieved by not drinking water. Or that you need to go on a monthly fast and enema program. All have the commonality of they don't work.

      It isn't out of line to notice that in some ways, this BS resembles religion.

      • Re:telomeres? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by HBI ( 604924 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @09:40AM (#53023933) Journal

        Religion itself is a product of human frailty inasmuch as, at the personal level, religion mostly acts as a salve to the reality of guaranteed mortality. It's not altogether surprising there are other ways in which humans are illogical in their responses to this reality of death.

        In both cases, an illusion of control is maintained.

        • Also, fear of death is a means of enslaving others. Man's own selfishness leads to his own enslavement, because given the choice between life as a slave, or death, most men can and do choose life as a slave.

          We all have masters, choose yours wisely.

          • by HBI ( 604924 )

            I have thought much on the willingness of some to die for their beliefs or in combat doing things seemingly unworthy of life's sacrifice. To me, people always seem most alive at the moment when they perform an action like that. We used to call this valor or heroism. Instead, perhaps they are at utter liberty, untrammeled by fear of death.

            I hope I have my moment.

        • by e r ( 2847683 )

          In both cases, an illusion of control is maintained.

          And that's what sets Christianity apart from other religions (especially Buddhism in this case). Ephesians 2:8-9 [biblehub.com]:

          8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
          9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      Not so much solved as a serious hint. The reason you know this might be the direct result of my great aunt dying. When she died she was the oldest living person in the world [wikipedia.org] and she gave her body to science. (She open sourced her body)
      And the result was published : http://www.medicaldaily.com/bl... [medicaldaily.com]
      https://www.newscientist.com/a... [newscientist.com]
      http://www.the-scientist.com/?... [the-scientist.com]
      among other places you might find info on it.

  • by Calydor ( 739835 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @09:06AM (#53023695)

    I would much rather die healthy, sane and in the middle of doing something I love at age 90 than I want to be a drooling vegetable that needs help to do even the most basic chores like wipe myself after a visit to the toilet but living to the age of 130.

    • by Trailer Trash ( 60756 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @09:27AM (#53023861) Homepage

      I would much rather die healthy, sane and in the middle of doing something I love at age 90 than I want to be a drooling vegetable that needs help to do even the most basic chores like wipe myself after a visit to the toilet but living to the age of 130.

      My father had a massive heart attack at age 50. He didn't feel well that day and decided to lay down instead of eating supper. He never woke up. He died laying in his standard sleeping position, leading us to believe that he never even woke up at all.

      I consider him lucky, frankly.

      His mother had a stroke at age 73 and spent her last 2 months unable to think straight, have a conversation, get out of bed, feed herself, etc.

      I'd much rather just have the quick heart attack.

    • In general, quality of life has been going up, not just quantity of life. This is reflected for example in the average age of people being admitted to elderly homes going up.
      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        Elderly homes are where you go to vegetate either physically or mentally while your physical body finally decides to finally quit. It's basically live corpse storage.

    • I would much rather die healthy, sane and in the middle of doing something I love at age 90

      ...like driving a busload of nuns and orphans down the freeway.

  • "The record for the world's oldest person is 122 years... They think the human life span more likely maxes out at 115 years."

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
  • by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @09:10AM (#53023725)

    A similar study, performed with all available data in Portugal and Spain in 1490, would confirm zero percent chance of successful crossing of the Atlantic ocean to a western shore.

  • Selective breeding (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @09:15AM (#53023765) Homepage

    Nature doesn't want people (or any animal) to live past the point where it is producing offspring and launching them into the world. Most animals have been bred to die, because this is advantageous to the species as a whole.

    However, the limitations are largely artificial - we can see that some few animals are essentially immortal. Selective breeding in insects achieves dramatic improvements in just a few generations. IIRC, they tried this with fruit flies - by the simple measure of only allowing older and older females to breed - and they tripled the lifespan in just a few generations. Higher mammals have the same cellular machinery.

    Of course, as soon as anyone talks about selective breeding in humans, well... Even if we could experiment with selective breeding for longevity (perhaps something along the lines of Heinlein's book [wikipedia.org], it is a sure route to massive resentment and probably mass murder Apparently, if we cannot give a benefit to everyone, then we are not allowed to give it to anyone.

    • With large mammals, though, continued support of children that take a long time to grow is useful compared to insects. Still, you're right that it comes down to selective pressure. Once having our great-great-grandparents around helps our reproductive success then we'll start living longer.
    • There is absolutely no need for selective breeding with humans. It's not like we're suffering from a shortage of sustenance, no part of our population (at least where we could create a controlled breeding environment) is in any danger of being deselected for breeding due to a shortage of nourishment or shelter.

    • by Shimbo ( 100005 )

      Nature doesn't want people (or any animal) to live past the point where it is producing offspring and launching them into the world.

      No, not really. This is reductionist thinking - often from those whose dislike of collectivism prevents them reasoning clearly. Ants and bees survive quite well with the majority of their population not breeding at all.

      Humans are not ants, of course but neither are they salmon that spawn and die. Grandparents often look after children; old people may have a store of wisdom that can benefit the tribe. Also, your idea predicts that we shouldn't see people living long beyond their breeding age. When you see th

    • by iris-n ( 1276146 )

      Stop anthropomorphizing Nature. She hates it. But seriously, there is no intention in evolution, even if it were advantageous to the species as a whole to die young (which I doubt), it doesn't imply that humans would evolve this "mortality" trait. You need a clear mechanism, that works through inheritance and mutation.

      I find it much more plausible that some particular mutations are advantageous before breeding age but deleterious after breeding age, like for example some improvement in memory that leads to

  • by ITRambo ( 1467509 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @09:21AM (#53023813)
    46 years ago I took a college course on senescence. George Sacher developed an equation that calculated the maximum life span for any species, based on five factors. There are always a tiny number of exceptions to the rule. Humans were calculated to, on average, have a maximum life span of 120 year. This "new" study seems to be rediscovering old information.
  • by quietwalker ( 969769 ) <pdughi@gmail.com> on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:23AM (#53024259)

    From the article, this is not an estimate of upper max based on species capability, biological understanding of the aging process, or knowledge and subsequent realistic & accepted explanation of the limitations. They just graphed the current max age on a year by year basis and noticed that the last 20 years or so, there seems to be a plateau. At least in the countries that keep good track of age of citizens over the last 150 years or so.

    Even with poor or missing data, we can see that if we used this same technique in say, 1700, the expected max age would look a bit different. At one time, our expected max age was 30!

    Using a study like this to claim knowledge about the limits of age is like using a crime statistics study in the us to prove that certain minority groups are *genetically* prone to be criminals, and about exactly as useful.

    As mankind progresses and continues to innovate in the fields of medicine, biology, sociology, psychology, and technology, we'll keep pushing this limit, perhaps in fits and starts, but it'll continue to advance. That is, unless there's some difficult-to-impossible ACTUAL limitation that we hit. A study of statistics like this might hint at *a* current barrier, but this doesn't identify, describe, or explain it. It certainly can't claim it's the *final* barrier.

    • by m00sh ( 2538182 )

      From the article, this is not an estimate of upper max based on species capability, biological understanding of the aging process, or knowledge and subsequent realistic & accepted explanation of the limitations. They just graphed the current max age on a year by year basis and noticed that the last 20 years or so, there seems to be a plateau. At least in the countries that keep good track of age of citizens over the last 150 years or so.

      Even with poor or missing data, we can see that if we used this same technique in say, 1700, the expected max age would look a bit different. At one time, our expected max age was 30!

      Using a study like this to claim knowledge about the limits of age is like using a crime statistics study in the us to prove that certain minority groups are *genetically* prone to be criminals, and about exactly as useful.

      As mankind progresses and continues to innovate in the fields of medicine, biology, sociology, psychology, and technology, we'll keep pushing this limit, perhaps in fits and starts, but it'll continue to advance. That is, unless there's some difficult-to-impossible ACTUAL limitation that we hit. A study of statistics like this might hint at *a* current barrier, but this doesn't identify, describe, or explain it. It certainly can't claim it's the *final* barrier.

      The study is saying we have billions of data points and out of the billions of data points, there must be some people who by sheer chance avoided accidents, infectious diseases and diseases like cancer that occur by chance. If the best we can do is 120 years now, then it probably is the humanity's limit to age.

      If we have innovations like brain transplant or brain copying then there is no limit. Or with gene therapy or something like we can extend it. But, we can't extend it further living healthy or avoid

  • by hyades1 ( 1149581 ) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Thursday October 06, 2016 @10:40AM (#53024407)

    Why do men die before their wives?

    They want to.

  • I wonder how many people capable of living to 123 (or more) died to something like war or car crashes?

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