This is a rich, layered piece from Aeon which we would strongly recommend that you read in full. The author “Denis Noble is emeritus professor of cardiovascular physiology at the University of Oxford. He was the first to develop computer models of the heart, published in Nature in 1960, and is one of the founders of the field of systems biology. His books include The Music of Life (2006) and Dance to the Tune of Life (2016).” This piece helps us understand how love, intimacy, arousal and sex are linked not just to our basic animal needs but also have a bearing on health, happiness and longevity through means that scientists don’t fully understand yet. Amazingly, the Japanese figured out much of this a 2000 years ago using research from China, India and Korea: “For more than 1,000 years, the Imperial Family of Japan and its physicians have preserved a treasure of oriental medicine: the complete 30 scrolls of the Ishinhō, or the ‘heart of medical prescription’. This compendium was derived from sources in India, China, Korea and elsewhere, though many of the original documents have since been lost or destroyed. In 2012, I found myself in the Imperial Archives in the Tokyo Palace examining the precious scrolls.
I was delighted to discover a holistic approach: not only did I find herbal remedies, and nutrition and lifestyle aids, but also, in Scroll 28, instructions for the creation and preservation of jingqi (the life force), with a focus on sexual energy. These prescriptions, which originated at least 2,000 years ago in East Asia, were almost the opposite of Western ideas, since they required the achievement of orgasm without the loss of semen.”
The author then refers to classical Chinese and Japanese texts which describe an approach to sex which has almost been forgotten in the contemporary world: “Throughout these works, colourful metaphors describe the unhurried and careful approach to the joys of sexual intercourse. The emphasis was on exceedingly slow and gentle movements, beginning with caressing what seem to be the mysterious energy meridians within the body.
What a perfect setting for the great compendium itself, written by the Japanese court physician Tamba Yasuyori in 984. It was in Scroll 28 of Tamba’s masterpiece that the classic Chinese narrative is revealed through the teachings of three women said to have advised the mythical Yellow Emperor on his longevity exercises.”
Then the author proceeds to link all of the above with modern Nobel Prize winning science: “This is precisely what modern science finds using the associations between genes and disease. Most genes contribute to most diseases….Gene expression is also controlled by epigenetic states – when the external environment tunes genes up or down….
…the entrepreneur Leslie Kenny…was working with the scientists Katja Simon and Ghada Alsaleh from the University of Oxford on a compound called spermidine – named for its presence in semen, where it was originally discovered. Unusually, she also had experience as a sexologist in China, and was familiar with the ancient Taoist practices and beliefs around sexual arousal, intimacy and their health benefits. She also knew of Oxford research demonstrating that spermidine triggered autophagy, the body’s inbuilt ability to renew and recycle cells, the foundation of life – and a youthful life – itself. So important is autophagy that Ohsumi Yoshinori, a Japanese scientist, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2016 for discovering its mechanism of action…
One of the most frequently cited scientific research studies on this topic was published in 2013 in the premier biology journal, Cell. The paper – by the Spanish biochemist Carlos López-Otín and his colleagues in Madrid, Cologne, London and Paris – hypothesised nine hallmarks of ageing, and posited it was possible to halt the ageing process…. One of the potential agents he mentioned was spermidine. Because spermidine triggered autophagy, it was able to prevent many of these hallmarks of ageing. But spermidine did more than that – it also protected mitochondrial DNA.
Mitochondria are the energy powerhouses of cells. It was the American biologist Lynn Margulis who first championed the theory that mitochondria were once independent microbes that joined other cells through the process of symbiogenesis to form the complex organisms we see around us today. More recently, a host of new studies reveal that spermidine guards against ageing of mitochondria. If spermidine prevents dysfunction in our mitochondria, the basis of cellular energy, then it stands to reason that it may protect human longevity as well.
And protecting mitochondria is just the start. Scientists have recently discovered that spermidine can prevent an additional four negative hallmarks of ageing: epigenetic changes that damage gene expression; impaired maintenance of proteins; impaired production of stem cells; and disruption of intercellular communication….”  The article then goes on to highlight recent scientific research which links affection, love and sex with the state of our chromosomes and how that impacts our longevity.

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