Warning Against 'Anti-Aging' Medicine
A fresh warning against the growing hype of so-called "anti-aging" medicine is being sounded by a blue-ribbon panel of experts on aging and medicine, after one of the most comprehensive reviews to date of the scientific evidence.
Tuesday 21st of February 2017
Although, the panel finds "much promise" in recent basic research on aging, it says the anti-aging movement threatens to discredit serious longevity research and discourage investment in it by philanthropists, pharmaceutical companies, and government funders. Longevity research is vital as populations age, the panel says, because at the very least it could further reduce the diseases associated with aging. "The cost savings and health-related benefits to individuals and to our society in the near future would be tremendous."
The panel's review was organized by the International Longevity Center-USA (ILC-USA), a not-for-profit, nonpartisan policy research organization in New York City. The panel's report is part of a growing effort by scientists to oppose anti-aging medicine and support more significant research.
The panel states, "There is as yet no convincing evidence that administration of any specific compound, natural or artificial, can globally slow aging in people, or even in mice or rats." It links the anti-aging movement to a "long chain of quacks, snake-oil salesmen, and charlatans."
Yet anti-aging medicine is a "multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S.," the ILC-USA report says. The industry "is under the control of non-scientists who use terms like 'virtual immortality' and 'an ageless society' to attract customers to untested remedies that have not withstood the rigors of serious clinical trials" and that often have dangerous side effects.
A further danger of "anti-aging" medicine, the panel says, is that it "promotes and reinforces ageism," putting a "profoundly negative connotation on the very occurrence of aging, emphasizing its negative and depleting aspects" and denying "all that is enriching and positive about aging in the psychosocial sphere."
Even without scientific breakthroughs, the panel estimates that people in industrialized countries could increase their life span by "at least a 10-year increase" by eating less and exercising more: "Half the [U.S.] population is overweight, 20% is obese, and only 15% of people over the age of 65 regularly exercise. Our diets are overwhelmingly conducive to the development of [heart] disease, and far too many of us still use tobacco products."
For the future, the report summarizes the encouraging but so-far equivocal results from work in restricted-calorie diets, genetic and chromosomal manipulation, and treatments with antioxidants, hormones like estrogen and growth hormone, and stem cells.