"Are They Selling a Product?" as a Test For Longevity Science

A recent article on the Longevity Dividend initiative included these comments from some of the backers:

One fountain of youth; hold the snake oil

"We now know that aging is modifiable in the laboratory," said Dan Perry, president of the Alliance for Aging Research. "When you do this, you also eradicate or greatly postpone the whole array of diseases that come with aging."

I know what you're thinking: You've heard all this before. We are constantly, shamelessly bombarded by profit-seekers - and yes, the complicit media - who promise an easy way out of aging, from gingko biloba to red wine to hormone or stem cell replacement therapy. So how, I asked the distinguished scientists in New Orleans, do they plan to distinguish the Longevity Dividend from all those empty promises of the past and present?

"It's a greater threat than we may sometimes realize," Perry acknowledged. "Eons of snake oil salesmen have tarnished the genuine science that's starting to emerge. Just one example is human growth hormone, and the entire industry that came up around it."

S. Jay Olshansky said every genuine anti-aging breakthrough is being seized on by hucksters and sold to a gullible public. But, he added, there's an easy way for you to tell good medicine from bad. "Part of the problem," he said, "is that when research scientists have published papers in recent decades, as soon as a glimmer appears they start selling it to the public for profit, before there are studies for safety and efficacy.

"But we are not selling anything to the public. If they are selling it now, it doesn't exist."

This is a good general rule of thumb when it comes to the intersection of health, aging, and longevity. It won't be a good rule for much longer, because the cutting edge of medical research and development is not so many years away from turning out actual first attempts at rejuvenation therapies, or ways to adjust metabolism to modestly slow aging, but it is a good rule for today and for the next few years at least.

Why? Because despite the many ways of extending life in laboratory animals there is as yet no commercially available technology that can be shown to produce more than a fraction of the health and longevity benefits of regular exercise and calorie restriction. All of the most advanced lines of research than might produce more effective ways to extend life in healthy individuals, such as some of those described in the SENS proposals, are at least five to ten years removed from early clinical access even in the best case scenarios for funding and aggressive medical tourism.

So if someone is trying to sell you a product today, with the promise that it will greatly extend your life, then that person is a huckster. Plain and simple. The best and only sensible use for your money for the foreseeable future is to provide support for the advocacy and medical research programs that will speed the advent of future rejuvenation biotechnologies, therapies that will actually extend life and restore youthful function to a meaningful degree once realized.


"Why? Because despite the many ways of extending life in laboratory animals there is as yet no commercially available technology that can be shown to produce more than a fraction of the health and longevity benefits of regular exercise and calorie restriction. "

While it is indeed a fraction of exercise's benefits, nuts do seem to provide about the same level of benefit as exercise.(2.9 years vs 4.5 years). A recent study hinted at 20% reduction on mortality for frequent nut consumers, a good question is at what level of consumption do further increases in benefits peter out.

Posted by: Darian Smith at November 29th, 2013 9:12 PM

SENS therapies already exist. The most obvious is the beta amyloid vaccines which you can get if you enrol in one of the trials.
I'm already restricting my calories and exercising every day. But the fact that I am restricting my calories means I need nutritional supplements. Also I need to lower my cholesterol and try to get rid of my gallstones. And prevent Alzheimer's that I have the APOE4 gene for.

Posted by: Carl at November 29th, 2013 11:00 PM

Off topic... There is more news about Calico. Also 23andme is in FDA trouble.

Posted by: Carl at November 29th, 2013 11:17 PM

Hi, I'm relatively new to the anti-aging scene, and I find it fascinating is many ways. I do have some confusion, though.

I just received an email from David Kekich, CEO of MaxLife, who has Aubrey & Ray K, and others, on his scientific advisory board. He is offering a product with, I think to be, some bold statements which, in fairness, need some scientific backing, wouldn't you agree?

"...Because I've just released one of first in a long line of radical life-extension marvels.

It's just hit the market -- introduced by myself and my extensive network of researchers, technologists and preeminent anti-aging scientists.

We tackled the ONE culprit behind what Yale University, leading medical journals, and even Time Magazine reports to be at the very heart of chronic rapid aging.

It's concerning inflammation. But, it could be about any aging problem. My point is, this is certainly beyond "CR and regular exercise". So, what gives? Should I run out and buy this product? Are there any human studies that indicate that this solution works?

If not, then can someone explain why he would make such claims?


Posted by: Eugene at December 6th, 2013 8:29 AM

@Eugene: Like Kurzweil, Kekich is somewhat old school in his views on what is useful. My position is that pretty much anything beyond a multivitamin is a waste of time, based on the studies and the outcomes. The margin of uncertainty is larger than the suggested benefits, and supplements are a rabbit hole, within which much time can be wasted to no good end.

But much of the community are very interested in supplements, and think that there is enough of a benefit to be had there to chase it. I disagree.

So in the transition from the supplement-focused crew of past decades to the rejuvenation biotechnology focused crew of the next few decades, you'll find a bunch of people who are equally enthusiastic about both sides. Kekich is one such: he supports SENS, was one of the earliest donors to the Methuselah Foundation, but also sounds like a salesperson for the Life Extension Foundation supplement line at times.

When it comes to supplements, make your own choice, and do the research. But I don't see any studies supporting excitement over that versus exercise and calorie restriction. Certainly nothing to support excitement over that versus provided funding for rejuvenation research. The future is medical technology based on repair of cellular and molecular damage, not better supplements.

Posted by: Reason at December 6th, 2013 8:51 AM
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