The average age of enlistment in the US army is ~ age 21 and the average age of US army enlisted men and women is ~age 27. Only ~9% of army personnel are over age 40. These troops have barely begun to age biologically. So, what's the impetus to introduce an anti-aging pill in today's military?
The US Military's Special Operations Command (SOCOM) intends to test an experimental pill as "smart weaponry" to enhance performance in the battlefield. News headlines portray this as a nutraceutical that will stave off the effects of ageing on older soldiers.
"It has the capacity, if successful, to actually prevent ageing and hasten recovery from injury as well as enhance mental function," say news reports.
A spokesperson for SOCOM said "this is about improving the mission willingness of our troops."
Is an anti-aging pill going to be a carrot to get young Americans to enlist in the military? A modern fighting force will likely be removed from the battlefield while AI confronts an enemy. There would be more emphasis on mental acuity than physical endurance. An anti-aging pill would offer both.
The "new" anti-aging pill
While portrayed as something new, this anti-ageing pill has actually been around for a few years. It is based on vitamin B3, niacin, which helps to convert food into energy within living cells.
Niacin-based pills help to make a molecule called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) that energizes mitochondria, cell energy compartments that act like "batteries" and need continual recharging. By age 80 only a small portion of mitochondria are operational.
Niacin (vitamin B3) is essential for life but is usually in adequate supply in the diet, particularly in fortified foods.
A frank deficiency of niacin results in pellagra, the disease known for its three hallmark symptoms: diarrhea, dermatitis and dementia.