What is biohacking? Health experts shed light on the new wellness trend among Millennials and Gen-Z

Biohacking is particularly observed among Gen-Z and Millennials, according to experts, as they try out DIY biology hacks because of their access to technology to optimise their health. Image for representational purpose only. Photo Courtesy: Pixabay

Vasai-based Jervin D’Souza has been biohacking long before the term became popular among Gen-Z and Millennials. It started with him actively working out three years ago. He shares, “When I started training, I found personal training and nutrition coaches were too expensive. I had to rely on learning and experimenting by myself.” Today, the 29-year-old says he knows which food and routines impact him physically and mentally. The added benefit is that he can plan his daily tasks better when he is training than when he hasn’t been working out for a while, and that has been an enriching experience for him.

According to a recent IANS report, Google searches for ‘biohacking’ have grown by 900 per cent over the last 90 days. The wellness trend is particularly observed among Gen-Z and Millennials, according to experts, as they try out DIY biology hacks because of their access to technology to optimise their health and get the most out of it and D’Souza is one of them. “I have an Apple Watch, subscriptions to workout apps and I read a lot about diets and food. I rely heavily on data.” Ever since the Mumbaikar made this change, he has adopted a high-protein diet and hasn’t consulted a doctor but says he will when something doesn’t agree with him.

Interestingly, D’Souza isn’t the only one. Powai-based Vipul Yadav has also consciously been altering his diet and lifestyle to get maximum benefit from the food he eats. Interestingly, Yadav as a brand manager also conducts food walks in the city, manages to do it even though he loves to try out different foods often. The city professional is very conscious about how he consumes it. Even with a nine-hour workday, Yadav ensures he eats his dinner before 9:30 pm, when he reaches home, trying to avoid traffic. “I am very mindful about what goes into my body. I only eat sugar when I am sharing a dessert with someone, or I don’t eat sugar unless it is a mawa cake because I know it won’t have too many calories.”

Being in the FMCG industry, the 38-year-old actively reads and follows food labels on packaged foods, and that has made him hyper-aware of the food he consumes. It is also why Yadav avoids packaged foods and pickles, and only consumes oil and farsan that is not more than a week old.

Beyond these practices that he has developed over the years, the Mumbaikar has been tracking his health on Google Fit, and approximately does 10,000 – 12,000 steps. “I realised that the app has these heart points, and you realise that it is not how many steps you do but the quality of your steps. So now, I make sure I have 30 heart points in a day.”

When Yadav takes a shared taxi in the morning, he stops before his office so that he can walk the rest of the way. Beyond that, he steps out for a five-minute brisk walk after lunch, and then at 5 pm again, to make sure he is not stuck to the desk for a long time. He sleeps three hours after eating dinner, ensuring he follows healthy practices. “It is not just about doing it but doing it 5 out of 7 times that helps,” he adds.

While technology is only one aspect of ‘biohacking’, with the advent of smartwatches and a growing interest in biohacking, reached out to Mumbai experts. Dr Anand Ram, consultant interventional cardiologist at Wockhardt Hospitals in Mira Road, and Sweedal Trinidade, chief dietician, P. D. Hinduja Hospital and Research Centre in Mahim break down the concept of biohacking. They not only shed light on the concept but also stress why it is becoming popular and how people should be mindful and consult a health expert when necessary.

What is biohacking?
Ram: Biohacking involves the intentional modification of one’s biology through lifestyle changes, diet, technology, or other means to enhance physical and cognitive performance.

Trinidade: The use of technology, biology, personal experiments, or research to optimise human performance is known as biohacking. The term biohacking was coined by Dave Asprey.

Why are more people (Gen-Z) resorting to biohacking for their health?
Ram: The appeal of biohacking to Gen-Z individuals lies in the desire for optimised well-being and performance. They are drawn to biohacking as a proactive approach to health and self-improvement.

Trinidade: Gen-Z as we know has grown up in an environment with easy access to technology and evolving scientific innovation. There is a sense of curiosity and urge to optimise health using DIY culture in young minds that lack patience. In the journey of self-empowerment to optimise and enhance health status, Gen-Z often turns towards biohacking.

Have you come across people who are biohacking?
Ram: Yes, many individuals, especially in health and fitness communities, are actively engaging in biohacking practices to optimise their physical and mental performance.

Trinidade: Biohacking happens at different levels. It can range right from making minor changes in lifestyle to invasive techniques that interfere with genetics. It is commonly noticed that people opt for intermittent fasting for weight loss, use nutraceuticals for health optimisation, and gadgets to track sleep or movement throughout the day.

Does biohacking work?
Ram: While some aspects of biohacking have shown promise, the effectiveness varies, and scientific consensus on its overall efficacy is not fully established. Results can be subjective and depend on individual factors.

Trinidade: It depends on what one is opting for, whether all precautions are taken, enough scientific evidence and precision of the user.

When can biohacking become too much or dangerous?
Ram: Biohacking can become dangerous when extreme methods or substances are employed without proper understanding or supervision, potentially leading to adverse health effects or unintended consequences.

Trinidade: Biohacking can become dangerous when people do it with:

1. The biggest drawback of biohacking is the lack of scientific evidence.
2. Self-experimenting medicine or drugs not approved by regulatory bodies.
3. Extreme diet regimes like keto, elimination diets when not done with background checks or lack of supervision may pose serious health implications ranging from deficiencies to compromised immune status making way for opportunistic infections.

Why should people consult a doctor even if they are biohacking?
Ram: Consulting a doctor is crucial during biohacking to ensure that the chosen interventions align with individual health conditions and to monitor for potential risks or side effects.

Do you advise biohacking to make minor adjustments to your daily routine to get health benefits?

Trinidade: Yes, making minor changes under the supervision of experts with well-backed scientific evidence is advisable in daily routine.
If people are biohacking, how can they do it effectively without causing harm to themselves?

Ram: Individuals should research thoroughly, seek professional advice, and gradually implement changes. Regular health check-ups can help monitor the impact on the body.

What are the different ways that people are biohacking these days?

Ram: Biohacking methods include nutritional optimisation, wearable technology, nootropics, intermittent fasting, and even genetic testing to tailor lifestyle choices based on individual genetic makeup.

Trinidade: The following are the different ways of biohacking:

Optimising sleep cycle and quality for improving quality of life using tracking devices, and wearables benefits of which are longevity and low incidence of diseases.

Elimination diets, intermittent fasting: Adaptive stress or physiological stress promotes health benefits like DNA repair, and autophagy and decreases inflammation.

Short-term fasting promotes weight loss, improves insulin sensitivity, and corrects lipid profile and blood pressure by improving metabolic health.

Strength training for healthy aging: Studies have shown that strength training improves muscle mass and conserves bone density preventing frailty, fall risk, and related complications.

Meditation: It can be termed as the best bio-hack as it is non-invasive but has immense benefits like improving cardiac health, reducing stress, improving immunity, and achieving a state of calmness and mental well-being. Regular practice of meditation can keep the stress under control and maintain cortisol levels making one more tolerant to stressful situations.

Ecotherapy: Spending time in a natural environment opens our brain to many questions, promoting healing and a positive attitude.
Technology: Wearables like smartwatches, and continuous glucose monitors not only help in updating one’s health status but also prompt continued efforts to improve health.

Who should avoid biohacking?
: Individuals with pre-existing health conditions, those without proper knowledge, or those prone to extremes should avoid biohacking without consulting a healthcare professional to minimise potential risks.

Trinidade: Vulnerable population like minors, people with medical conditions, and pregnant ladies should avoid biohacking.

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