Since recorded history individuals have been, and are continuing to be, victimized by promises of extended youth or increased longevity by using unproven methods that allegedly slow, stop or reverse aging. Our language on this matter must be unambiguous: there are no lifestyle changes, surgical procedures, vitamins, antioxidants, hormones or techniques of genetic engineering available today that have been demonstrated to influence the processes of aging.100,101 We strongly urge the general public to avoid buying or using products or other interventions from anyone claiming that they will slow, stop or reverse aging. If people, on average, are going to live much longer than is currently possible, then it can only happen by adding decades of life to people who are already likely to live for 70 years or more. This "manufactured survival time"102 will require modifications to all of the processes that contribute to aging--a technological feat that, though theoretically possible, has not yet been achieved. What medical science can tell us is that because aging and death are not programmed into our genes, health and fitness can be enhanced at any age, primarily through the avoidance of behaviors (such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, excessive exposure to sun, and obesity) that accelerate the expression of age-related diseases and by the adoption of behaviors (such as exercise and a healthy diet) that take advantage of a physiology that is inherently modifiable.103
We enthusiastically support research in genetic engineering, stem cells, geriatric medicine and therapeutic pharmaceuticals, technologies that promise to revolutionize medicine as we know it. Most biogerontologists believe that our rapidly expanding scientific knowledge holds the promise that means may eventually be discovered to slow the rate of aging. If successful, these interventions are likely to postpone age-related diseases and disorders and extend the period of healthy life. Although the degree to which such interventions might extend length of life is uncertain, we believe this is the only way another quantum leap in life expectancy is even possible. Our concern is that when proponents of antiaging medicine claim that the fountain of youth has already been discovered, it negatively affects the credibility of serious scientific research efforts on aging. Because aging is the greatest risk factor for the leading causes of death and other age-related pathologies, more attention must be paid to the study of these universal underlying processes. Successful efforts to slow the rate of aging would have dramatic health benefits for the population by far exceeding the anticipated changes in health and length of life that would result from the complete elimination of heart disease, cancer, stroke and other age-associated diseases and disorders.
100Living to 100: Lessons in Living to Your Maximum Potential at Any Age. Thomas T. Perls, et al. Basic Books, 1999.
101Time of Our Lives: The Science of Human Aging. Tom Kirkwood. Oxford University Press, 1999.
102Confronting the Boundaries of Human Longevity. S. J. Olshansky, B. A. Carnes and D. Grahn in American Scientist, Vol. 86, No. 1, pages 52-61; 1998.
103Aging, Health Risks, and Cumulative Disability. A. J. Vita, R. B. Terry, H. B. Hubert and J. F. Fries in New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 338, No. 15, pages 1035-1041; April 9, 1998.
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