Today I did something out of character. In the name of biohacking, I spent what I consider to be a small fortune on food supplements. As an aspiring minimalist, relying on pills in order to function can seem like a big no go. My attitude up until now has been that pure, solid food should be enough; if it isn’t, there’s something wrong with your diet (or you have health issues that require medical attention). That being said, getting every micronutrient you need from food is trickier now than it has been in the past, simply due to the fact that the food we eat is less nutritious. One of the reasons is that the industry is more focused on developing produce that looks good, grows fast and resists pests than produce that is actually good for you in terms of nutrition. Rock hard, symmetrical Dutch tomatoes, anyone?
Do read this article:
“A landmark study on the topic by Donald Davis and his team of researchers from the University of Texas (UT) at Austin’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry was published in December 2004 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. They studied U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritional data from both 1950 and 1999 for 43 different vegetables and fruits, finding “reliable declines” in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C over the past half century. Davis and his colleagues chalk up this declining nutritional content to the preponderance of agricultural practices designed to improve traits (size, growth rate, pest resistance) other than nutrition.”
One of the cited studies concludes that “[…] one would have to eat eight oranges today to derive the same amount of Vitamin A as our grandparents would have gotten from one”. The same goes for most kinds of meat and dairy; they don’t contain as high levels of micronutrients as they used to do. In light of this knowledge, maybe supplements are necessary, or at least beneficial? The possibilities of biohacking are definitely tempting.
Biohacking refers to various techniques aimed at manipulating, or rather enhancing, our biology by means of food supplements, more or less sci-fi-ish treatments and tech-devices, exercise, mental training and everyday habits. It stems from the recognition that we do not have to passively accept physiological limitations such as they occur to us at any given moment; we can actually take an active part in changing them in ways that go well beyond the scope of traditional medicine. In this excellent blog post, biohackers are described as health-pioneers set on changing “[…] the genetic material of organisms” in order to “[…] equip them with new characteristics”. Knowledge and possibilities are growing exponentially, which is certainly inspiring. But is the consumption and general fuss associated with biohacking compatible with minimalism? I’m constantly trying to minimise my expenditures and possessions, but engaging in biohacking seems to lead to buying and owning more stuff.
Nevertheless, I decided to give it a go. A common gateway drug to heavier biohacking is improving hair growth and quality, which is where I’ll start. I’m currently suffering the consequences of a undercut hairstyle like the one in the picture.
It looks great, but is very high maintenance. Getting a haircut more often than once a year or so is definitely incompatible with my minimalist economic policy. My first hack will therefore be an attempt to get my hair to grow out of this hairdo as quickly as possible.
This is what I decided to take:
- MSM (and vitamin C to boost uptake)
- Biotin (vitamin B7)
MSM is short for methylsulfonylmethane – that is, sulfur. It’s considered something of a miracle treatment for skin conditions, arthritis and other conditions related to inflammation. Because of its effects on muscles, tendons and joints, it is also widely used to enhance physical function and performance in general. And, to the point of my Long Hair Project, sulfur is a key component in most hair-, skin- and nail supplements. The same goes for biotin and zinc, although scientific evidence is inconclusive. My selection is inspired by Swedish biohacker and bioengineer Martina Johansson, who managed to increase her hair growth a great deal via these and other hair hacks. If you read Swedish, visit her blog.
The plan, then, is to measure the length of my hair before starting to pop pills. If it grows quicker than its usual one centimeter a month, I’ll consider Long Hair Project a success – at the risk of getting hooked on biohacking and compromising my strict minimalist economy.