My Life Extension Pilgrimage to Easter Island (#193)

Easter Island

“Most good science comes only after a massive amount of failure.”

– David M. Sabatini

This episode was a blast.

It was a tropical exploration of biology, life extension, and all good things. This included a lot of Carménère wine and good old-fashioned ball busting.

I was joined by:

Peter Attia, MD (@peterattiamd), who rejoins the show (catch his last appearance here). He is a former ultra-endurance athlete (e.g., swimming 25-mile races), compulsive self-experimenter, and one of the most fascinating human beings I know. He is one of my go-to doctors for anything performance- or longevity-related. Peter earned his MD from Stanford University and holds a BSc in mechanical engineering and applied mathematics from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He did his residency in general surgery at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, and conducted research at the National Cancer Institute under Dr. Steven Rosenberg, where Peter focused on the role of regulatory T cells in cancer regression and other immune-based therapies for cancer.

David M. Sabatini, M.D., Ph.D. (@DMSabatini) of MIT’s Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. David is on a short list for the Nobel Prize for his work in elucidating the role of rapamycin and mTOR.

Navdeep S. Chandel, Ph.D., the David W. Cugell Professor of Medicine and Cell Biology at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Nav established his lab there to further the understanding of how mitochondria work as signaling organelles to regulate physiology and pathology. He is also the author of Navigating Metabolism.

Perhaps you’ve heard of people in Silicon Valley taking metformin, rapamycin, and supplements for longevity. In this conversation, we dig into the real science, what current evidence supports (or doesn’t), and other important matters like how to staple properly, which fonts reasonable people use, and why Borat is a genius. Enjoy!

#193: My Life Extension Pilgrimage to Easter Island

Want to hear another episode with Peter Attia? — Listen to his first appearance on the podcast. In this episode, we discuss optimizing blood testing, training for ultra-endurance sports, consuming synthetic ketones, using metabolic chambers, extending longevity by avoiding certain types of exercise, and much more (stream below or right-click here to download):

Ep 50: Dr. Peter Attia on Ultra-Endurance, Drinking Jet Fuel, Human Foie Gras, and More

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

Show Notes

  • Nav introduces David and explains why we’re on Easter Island. [08:47]
  • David introduces Nav and his work in the study of mitochondria. [10:48]
  • Peter talks about how he’s connected to Nav and David and elaborates more on how our trip to Easter Island came about. [12:30]
  • The connection between Easter Island (aka Rapa Nui) and rapamycin — and how one of the most important discoveries of medical science was almost lost. [14:37]
  • David details his connection with rapamycin and what research was like with early, limited samples. [19:27]
  • Why metabolism research is the key to treating a long list of diseases. [22:58]
  • mTOR’s role in metabolism. [28:56]
  • Potential applications of rapamycin. [31:58]
  • Why rapamycin longevity studies in mice may be inaccurate — and how new dog trials may give us better data. [33:04]
  • Lifespan vs. healthspan. [36:40]
  • What is the logic behind intermittent dosing of rapamycin? [42:43]
  • Does intermittent dosing of rapamycin mimic fasting? [47:55]
  • Are there downsides to going from a fasted state back to a fed state? [49:19]
  • What is the difference between rapamycin and metformin? [50:23]
  • Do any of the guests use metformin — why or why not? [1:03:52]
  • Would having an expected lifespan of more than a hundred years make Nav less effective? [1:06:29]
  • Why Nav does not take metformin, and why David does not take rapamycin. [1:08:44]
  • Thoughts on supplementing with antioxidants. [1:13:11]
  • Where did Nav grow up, and what prompted his pursuit of science? [1:18:57]
  • Parenting advice from scientists: views on confidence and conflict. [1:28:19]
  • Most good science comes only after a massive amount of failure. [1:38:41]
  • Atypical advice given to students, and what it takes to be a bad scientist. [1:40:16]
  • Peter’s thoughts on the importance of the right fonts, and why he’s obsessive about what might seem like nonsense to most. [1:43:27]
  • What are the right fonts and why? [1:47:38]
  • Even though David’s vision has gotten worse in the past few years, why doesn’t he wear glasses? [1:51:27]
  • Thoughts about Basis by Elysium. [1:52:59]
  • Peter explains asymmetric risk and an aversion to spelunking from trees. [1:56:44]
  • How might David live to be 600 if he won’t take rapamycin? [2:00:13]
  • Peter channels Borat. [2:04:25]
  • Book Nav has gifted most. [2:08:33]
  • Books David has gifted most. [2:10:27]
  • What would Nav and David’s billboards say? [2:12:38]
  • On a subject outside of his everyday area of expertise, what TED Talk would Nav give? [2:16:03]
  • Why are Nav and Dave such close friends? [2:24:21]
  • Have I stumbled into Dumb & Dumber meets Limitless? [2:27:30]
  • Peter extolls the virtues of having nuanced scientific discussions in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. [2:29:22]
  • The benefit of “non-potato” relationships. [2:30:36]
  • What advice would David give to his 30-year-old self? [2:33:45]
  • What advice would Nav give to his 22-year-old self? [2:37:35]
  • Best investment in money, time, or energy that Nav has made. [2:40:18]
  • As an efficient person, what are the most common mistakes Nav sees inefficient people make? [2:44:19]
  • How does Nav instill the importance of efficiency to his daughter? [2:46:40]
  • Best investment in money, time, or energy that David has made. [2:47:50]
  • Why Nav considers being rejected by medical school three times in 22 years a good thing. [2:51:43]
  • Peter tells a story about rapamycin pioneer Suren Sehgal. [2:53:08]
  • Closing asks, requests, suggestions, and recommendations for the listeners. [3:00:42]

People Mentioned

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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46 Replies to “My Life Extension Pilgrimage to Easter Island (#193)”

  1. Hello Tim. Great episode as always . I m sure you have been asked before. When a video podcast ? would be so much more fun to see the faces 🙂

  2. Thanks Tim and team 🙂 I am a social sciences research student working on three things you mentioned: being comfortable in conflict, not fearing failure and improving my communication skills. Next step is to learn how to produce pretty data! Top podcast, as usual, I am within the 20% of your female audience but I totally appreciated the bar analogy x Sabine

  3. Amazing episode! Listened to it twice already

    A couple of comments/questions:

    -I believe it was Peter who said we don’t have people fasting for long periods of time in modern days. Wouldn’t Muslims fall in this category where they fast for 14-18 hrs/day for 29/30 days consecutively every year?

    -Regarding fasting in general, is there a biological response difference between fasting over night, with sleep being a major portion of the time, verses fasting while awake during the day?

    -Have either of the above been tested for similar results of rapamycin dosing?

    1. I was curious about that last question as well, particularly since some other podcast guests have discussed the possible benefits of fasting. Hopefully we’ll get some follow-up questions with these guys in a later episode.

      1. Most of the increase in all neurodegenerative disease has been shown recently to be largely attributable to excitotoxins like MSG, also it is one of the adjuvants in vaccines, no doctor has ever explained to me why it is in there or even known it is an adjuvant, the ones that increase the immune response have been shown to be a big factor in auto-immune problems which in the brain is a major factor in the rise of dementia.

  4. You know it was an interesting conversation until someone started talking about taking women home from a bar in the context of giving a parenting tip about having confidence / developing an immunity to rejection. Can’t you come up with a better illustration for developing confidence, say one that would apply to everyone, not just desperate teenagers? Really it is such a basic point the illustration wasn’t even needed, and yet you supplied an obnoxious one. This reminds me of the podcast with the guy that left his “kid” and went off to live in NZ, and then was going to write a lot of essays and book reports about the meaning of life. Hello? You can do better Ferris. Get grown men as guests or edit guys like this.

  5. Fav line of the whole podcast went something like, “are you afraid you will lose your sex appeal if you wear glasses?” Bwahahaha!! #nerdsrule

  6. Hey Tim, this might be a bit off but it’s still related to the life span extension, even to the point of infinite life. Have you ever heard of 2014 Initiative and Elizabeth Parrish from BioViva who has used gene therapy to slow the process of aging? It would be cool to have someone on the show to discuss this and perhaps explain if this process makes sense and do you think it would come to life? For now it sounds like sci fi to me, and a bit creepy. Thanks

  7. Awe-inspiring episode!! Just started my PhD and this is a great reminder what science is about. I love how sometimes things come together, I was just trying to understand a paper from the Chandel lab and a day later this episode is released. And: loved Navdeep’s last humble comment about how everybody is a self-proclaimed expert at metabolism, while he himself still feels he’s in the dark. Thank you!

  8. Best podcast in a while, loved the group format rather than the one-on-one. Felt more real and was hilariously insightful. Asscrack 10 to asscrack 3, please standardize this. Keep being awesome.

  9. QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode?

    My favorite lesson:

    Be confident. Do something new and truthful.

    It was my favorite episode so far! Loved all the science and the “smartness” of the conversation, deep thinking mixed with humor and fooling around.

    I learned and laughed a lot.

    Thank you Tim and all the guests for such an amazing conversation!

    I loved all the science about metformin, rapamycin, thoughts on longevity and different approaches to science, life, applying what you learn in a science lab to life (or not).

    I’m visiting Elysium lab this week so was curious to hear what you all guys think about their approach and product.

    Longevity is my biggest passion (and it makes me learn from so many disciplines since it’s such a multifaceted subject) – I had this mission since I was a kid – figure out a way to make 1000 lifespans/healthspans possible.

    I don’t believe the answer is going to be a drug or any substance because non of them fix the cause of all the symptoms of aging – but they might assist (and already do) in fixing stuff along the way, while we are figuring out how to “fix” the cause that make our physical bodies deteriorate they way they do at now.

    I have a question for the guests so heavily involved in research, experiments and science. Would love to hear the answers.

    Do you have a major goal/direction for your work? What are you driven by?

    Like Einstein (and many other great minds) was trying to figure out that formula that will explain the Universe, that was his goal that directed his research and life, the goal he never accomplished in his lifetime but that doesn’t really matter, the journey that the goal shaped is so much more important and fascinating.

    What about you? What moves you in your scientific research in one sentence or phrase?

    Thank you!

  10. Tim,

    Outstanding! Thank you.

    Not only has there been (half-way finished listening) information new to me, but making that new data likely reliable, the information already known to me is accurate, and making it all even more reliable, discusses things I thought I was only one who cared about, such as how to staple properly.


  11. “Confidence has to come from a healthy dose of failure and being comfortable with failure, and conflict.” “If you are actually not failing, then you are not being adventurous… You need to think incrementally.” Thank you for reinforcing this, with 4 kids ages 14 to 18, this is my number one goal for them, within humility. Tim, your recommendation for Peter Voogd’s course “Six Months to Six Figures” Chapter 7 is the blueprint for how to coach our children re confidence, an epiphany in my view. Set up the habits and make decisions that build confidence, and make selections that avoid reducing confidence. Particularly for my 14 year old girl, who has a beautiful heart and wants to do environmental science, this is a roadmap for her success (including failure, perhaps her happiness, more importantly). And from a young guy instead of Mom (who knows little 🙂

    Tim, God bless you for incorporating this concept of how to coach our children. We need a next generation of highly substantive, valuable people, who also know how to have fun and build each other and our society up. I used the 4HWW to launch a company in 2008, later sold, and rediscovered you just recently when thinking about coaching my kids as they embark on young adulthood. Thank you for helping me with this journey.

  12. Tim,

    Following up on my previous comment, having completed listing to entire podcast, it only became better.

    Thank you again,


  13. Glad I now understand what epidemiology is and asymmetric risk although now I know I should have learned about the latter at 13 instead of 71. My question is about a sponsor’s product. Can I toss one of those instant mushroom coffee packs in a 12 oz mug of Kimera Koffee or does that to much of a risk?

  14. Great podcast. Surprised David feels not wesring glasses will make his eyes stronger–not what I understand science says.

    I wish Peter had a larger role–he is always so interesting.

    Found it interesting that all say so much about nutrition is unknown. Don’t trust anyone who claims to know what is best.

  15. Could you ever do a clinical study about this? Because if you want to be more healthy – wouldn´t this be the start to change the external preconditions? Which means is there something like a real objectiv study in this kind of area at all?

    Truth is about seeing the facts and try to communicate them honestly.

    The book – although I don´t get it in whole – “Die Kunst vernetzt zu denken” – from Frederic Vester a biological cybernetic shows the compexity of systems. We forget the whole system by looking only on specialized small pieces. Systems changes – finding its own balance – which explains the butterfly effect. Or why often when you want to change an ecological environment it doesn´t quiete worked out like you thought.

    I recommend you be very careful what you try out – but who am I to say this 😉

  16. Just a spectacular episode on all fronts (e.g. guests, topics, humor, insights, etc…)!!!!!!! You continue to out do yourself. Many thanks!!!

  17. Great episode. One nit: Nav’s use of the term “glass ceiling” to describe the point at which it became apparent that others had an ability in mathematics that he did not (In an overnight takehome exam, he finished one problem, and learned that others finished all the problems in one hour, three hours etc.). That’s not a GLASS ceiling, that’s just a ceiling. Glass ceiling, as applied to women and people of color in the modern workplace, means an artificial ceiling, a ceiling that you can see right through (cause you CAN solve the problems on the other side), but you can’t go through it.

    The United States Federal Glass Ceiling Commission defines the glass ceiling as “the unseen, yet unbreachable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, *****regardless of their qualifications or achievements.*****

    Nav described not being able to do the problems in the time required. That suggest not having the qualifications, for whatever reason.

  18. As an undergraduate in biology, the quote that struck me the most was:

    “Most good science comes only after a massive amount of failure.” (David M. Sabatini)

    I do not have much experience with scientific research and publication yet, but I will make sure that I never forget this sentence in my career. As always, thanks for the amazing content on the podcast! This was to me especially interesting because of my current studies at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). I am thankful for what you are doing, Tim!

  19. Great podcast but those scientists…too much wine? It’s MAMMALIAN target of rapamycin not MECHANISTIC target of rapamycin. 🙂 Easter Island is now a place I have to go to. Tim, your podcast expands my horizons. Thank you.

    Emma Hitt Nichols, PhD (molecular biology), CEO [Moderator: website removed].

    1. Actually, I was thinking the same listening to the podcast but realized after a quick google search that the current term IS mechanistich target…🙂

      1. I know right? I looked it up right after I posted that comment and saw that it can be either. Then I felt foolish. But it won’t be the first time LOL!

  20. As someone who is suffering from stage 4 cancer and willing to try anything, does anyone know how would one go about procuring rapamycin/sirolimus… Willing to try anything to extend my lifespan as much as possible (in addition to chemo/radio), and believe it should be my decision to do so, especially given my prognosis. oncologist/doc wont prescribe anything unless part of clinical trial..

    1. Alibaba is the only place i’ve seen it, trying to figure out how much to dose and buy myself. good luck to you! Anybody have any experience with dosing this? Any advice?

  21. It would be helpful to have a guide on how to obtain different medicinal products that have been featured on your show.

  22. For Nav, “A common assumption in highly technical fields like physics is that only young people can make breakthroughs. While this research indicated that younger researchers are more likely to produce high impact papers, this was only because they tended to be in stages of their career where they can produce more total results. If you control for productivity, the role of age disappears. ”

  23. Tim, What are your thoughts on “Cycloastragenol” it is a molecule isolated from various species in the genus Astragalus that is purported to have telomerase activation activity.

  24. Question…aren’t the physiological outcomes of say 3-4 day fasting and Metformin (and perhaps Rapamyacin) the same for health span? And if so, why not just fast and fogo the possible longterm contra-indications of Metformin/ Rapa? Sorry kind of weak question because I’m pretty sure the answer will be laziness…

  25. Anybody know the proper dosage and how to take rapamycin? I obviously don’t want to overdose 🙂 Tim? Anybody try this?! I’m gonna try, wish me luck.

    1. Google Dr Alan S Green and see the interview and comments from him on RogueHealthandFitness. He talks a lot about the dosages he takes and he also prescribes it I believe.