Gray Power: Scientists blast anti-aging claims

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 4, 2006

In one of the strongest attacks yet leveled against anti-aging medicines, 51 top scientists are warning consumers that such remedies don&8217;t work and may be dangerous.

&8220;Anyone who claims that they can stop or reverse the aging process is lying to you – even if they&8217;re a doctor. It is not currently possible,&8221; says S. Jay Olshansky, a demographer at the University of Illinois at Chicago. &8220;Anti-aging medicine is an industry intended to make money for those who are selling these products.&8221;

In a position paper posted on the Scientific American website last month, Olshansky and 50 other internationally recognized scientists on aging refute practitioners&8217; claims of miracle treatments and caution the public that some untested substances may be harmful.

Proponents of anti-aging medicine, such as the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M), are already counterattacking.

&8220;The A4M is the first serious affront to the gerontological establishment in 30 years, and they want to kill anyone with a competing philosophy,&8221; says A4M&8217;s president, Ronald Klatz, D.O., a Chicago osteopath. &8220;The old-line philosophy was aging is inevitable, nothing can be done, get used to it, grow old and die.&8221;

No one knows how many Americans buy remedies like &8220;youth&8221; hormone treatments, megavitamin cocktails, herbal elixirs and the like. But experts say it&8217;s a multi-billion dollar industry that&8217;s exploding. Longevity clinics, some charging $2,000 a visit, are popping up around the country. Anti-aging entrepreneurs also hawk their wares on television infomercials, in direct mail solicitations and on more than a thousand websites.

Most likely aging is due to cumulative damage to tissues that surpasses the body&8217;s ability to repair them, eventually wearing down essential organs and systems. The damage leads to the well-known signs of aging – loss of muscle and bone, impaired hearing and vision and greater susceptibility to disease.

&8220;Even if major age-related diseases were magically cured by tomorrow morning,&8221; says Olshansky, &8220;we would still age and suffer frailty from the body&8217;s inability to repair damage to the building blocks of life.&8221;

Dr. Marvin Copes is Education/Community Service Volunteer for AARP Alabama in Maylene. He can be reached by e-mail at