Just who is behind Agingdoc, the successful but anonymous longevity commentary? Longevity.Technology finds out…
Longevity is a fast-moving science with new papers on geroscience being published all the time. With myriad journals, company and university information portals and new papers being pushed out on social media, it can be tricky to keep up with research in the ever-accelerating longevity space. With this unprecedented pace of longevity progress, the information deluge can be overwhelming even for seasoned professionals. So, just how does the geroscience enthusiast keep up?
Enter the Agingdoc. With over 27,000 followers on Twitter/X with the handle @agingdoc1, Agingdoc has been offering clear, unbiased geroscience information and commentary on research papers since May 2020, making the profile a must-visit destination for anyone interested in longevity. As Agingdoc succinctly puts it: “I focus on compiling relevant and interesting publications – for discussion, and constructive debate.”
Longevity.Technology often reports on companies coming out of stealth, but today, it’s a person and one who has decided to leave his incognito days behind him.
Longevity.Technology: Social media platforms are ideal for those who want to remain anonymous. Sometimes it’s because they want to discuss ideas without the debate being appended to their professional profile, sometimes it’s because they don’t want who they are to get in the way of what they want to say. Aging Doc is one in a long line of anonymous commentators – The Poor Richard, Lady Whistledown or Banksy of longevity, if you will.
However, Agingdoc came out of the Twitter closet on Friday, revealing not only who he is, but what he plans to do next. Ahead of his big reveal, Longevity.Technology sat down with Agingdoc – or Dr David Barzilai to give him his proper name – to find out why, why now and what’s next now the Agingdoc genie is out of the bottle.
Barzilai says what originally brought him to Twitter was a deep interest in human longevity, and a longstanding interest in evidence based medicine emerging out of his PhD and teaching on the topic. What began as literature searches to keep up with aging biology, lifestyle medicine and other research publications pertinent to healthy longevity morphed into something bigger when he realized that as well as using the knowledge gained to optimize his own healthspan, he could share it and benefit others.
“From the beginning I thought it helpful to share the publications mostly by topic and interest rather than personal agreement so that both science communicators and researchers can see more broadly what is circulating in their field to better communicate the good and the bad,” Barzilai explains. “In addition, I wanted to foster discussion and debate, and hopefully raise awareness of the field of geroscience and its value.”
Twitter (which now brands itself as X) is a broad church, so Barzilai felt it might be a medium where he could hear directly from the authors of research, gleaning additional perspectives that may not have made their way fully into the research manuscripts he was going through.
So, why Agingdoc, apart from being a name that does exactly what it says on the tin? Barzilai, whose medical specialty is dermatology and has a PhD in health services research and is certified in both lifestyle medicine and longevity medicine, says that he didn’t start out with a desire for cloak and dagger, but realized anonymity was working in his favor.
“Agingdoc fit with my theme of healthy longevity and aging biology. I didn’t think initially too hard about not including my name, but as my posts and comments drew interest and I collected followers, I maintained anonymity to avoid confusing my patients by an aging biology presence when that’s not the focus of my medical specialty.
“I have always been a private person but also am much more interested in learning about others and learning things rather than discussing myself. Giving up anonymity comes with a trade-off but my hope is that it will allow me to engage more deeply with the aging biology, healthspan, and longevity communities.”
Going from zero to over 27,000 followers in just under three-and-a-half years is pretty impressive, and certainly not what Barzilai envisioned when he created Agingdoc.
“Unlike some who entered the space having written a book, or having a public-facing practice, blogs or podcasts, I simply silently entered as myself. I did not expect to have a major following – I remember when I was excited to have two followers! I thought that perhaps from my comments demonstrating some proficiency, knowledge and unique perspective around aging biology, lifestyle medicine, and healthy longevity that I might be followed by a few labs or people, but certainly not more than a dozen or two.”
Barzilai says he found the culture of health Twitter to be even more of a shock than his Twitter profile’s success.
“There is a lot of snake’s oil, hype, and misinformation, as well as heated debates with very little science to back up the position. So it became an early mission for me to promote evidence-based and data-focused discussion in a positive, courteous environment that treats everyone with respect. I think we get a lot further as a community by using reason and the best sides of ourselves working together toward the common aim of discovering truth and applying it towards better discoveries to enhance quality of life for everyone.”
Rather neatly for a longevity enthusiast, it was getting another year older (chronologically, mind) that changed Barzilai’s outlook.
“On my 49th birthday, I determined that I can do more in this world being public than keeping my life in silos. So while there is bound to be a cost for going public, hopefully it’s ultimately worth it for making a more positive impact over my lifetime. Since my first realization that life is finite, I’ve had this fire in my belly to give things my 100% – it’s the only shot I’m going to get. That means being authentic and compassionate, and striving for personal moonshots and doing more good in the world.
“The clock is ticking for all of us, and there is no time like the present.”
Putting his name under the spotlight is a change for Barzilai, who categorizes himself as gravitating toward stoicism and introversion, rather than hankering for the glitz of fame and the glam of public image.
“I am a believer in science and our capacity to rein in counterproductive attitudes and instead live mindful, responsible purpose-driven lives – even while moderation appears less popular these days.”
Barzilai is equally level-headed and balanced when it comes to longevity technology, believing in the technology that may have the greatest impact, and can get us there fastest.
“A balance between shorter-term potential interventions such as small molecules impacting nutrient sensing pathways and healthy metabolism, and longer-term technology such as in vivo epigenetic reprogramming and genetic engineering seems prudent to get the most out of both worlds.”
Once Barzilai had his lightbulb ‘now or never’ moment, he decided he wanted to put his longevity knowledge – and passion – to use.
“I felt it would be great if, in addition to practicing medicine in my narrow specialty and posting on Twitter if for a few hours a week, I could coach and consult clients,” says Barzilai, explaining he plans to do this in non-medical fashion which means he won’t be prescribing medications / regimens or diagnosing, but will instead be working one-on-one with clients in the capacity of being a “content expert” and healthspan and longevity coach with a unique life experience and perspective.
He also realized that following this passion would almost certainly ‘out’ him on Twitter, so he resolved to out himself on his own terms, simply telling his followers on Twitter what his real name is.
“I also realized that if I go public, this also means I can do much more than simply coach and consult for a small number of concierge longevity consulting clients each week. It now means my hands are free to contribute to geroscience, lifestyle and longevity medicine in new ways such as by talking to media outlets and spreading the word on the value of aging biology and longevity technology to society.”
Barzilai has also launched a podcast series in which he will aim to dig deeper into the current key issues in geroscience.
“These include where we should invest our greatest efforts, effective messaging for the public and other key stakeholders, and most broadly how to most efficiently take these technologies from promising interventions in animal models to tested and validated effective longevity medicine interventions in people.”
As well as keep an eye open for other longevity endeavors that may present themselves, Barzilai will be maintaining the Agingdoc profile on Twitter.
“Despite the noise and hype that can be distracting, Twitter has its merits. I try to be part of the solution when I can, so keeping at least a small safe haven of relatively hype-free respectable forum where content can be both critically and respectfully debated and discussed has its merits.
“Since I can only take on a few clients – I don’t scale – I hope to always be able to produce some general resources that help broader audiences in some way; my agingdoc1 Twitter channel is one place I can do that, and now on YouTube, too.”
Barzilai says he feels extraordinarily privileged to be part of the aging biology and longevity community.
“My followers are incredibly diverse with a disproportionate number of overachievers, creatives, and thought leaders and experts at the top of their disciplines – I am inspired, and it is incredibly rewarding to have this unfold as it has.”