Antiaging products are big business--a multibillion-dollar industry. But the marketing of these products often misrepresents the science. Rather than let their silence imply compliance, 51 of the top researchers in the field of aging research collaborated to create a position paper that sets out the current state of the science. A shorter, more pointed essay, called "No Truth to the Fountain of Youth," by three of the position paper's signers, S. Jay Olshansky, Leonard Hayflick and Bruce A. Carnes, is in Scientific American's June 2002 issue; the position paper itself is here. --The Editors
In the past century a combination of successful public health campaigns, changes in living environments and advances in medicine have led to a dramatic increase in human life expectancy. Long lives experienced by unprecedented numbers of people in developed countries are a triumph of human ingenuity. This remarkable achievement has produced economic, political and societal changes that are both positive and negative. Although there is every reason to be optimistic that continuing progress in public health and the biomedical sciences will contribute to even longer and healthier lives in the future, a disturbing and potentially dangerous trend has also emerged in recent years. There has been a resurgence and proliferation of health care providers and entrepreneurs who are promoting antiaging products and lifestyle changes that they claim will slow, stop or reverse the processes of aging. Even though in most cases there is little or no scientific basis for these claims,1 the public is spending vast sums of money on these products and lifestyle changes, some of which may be harmful.2 Scientists are unwittingly contributing to the proliferation of these pseudoscientific antiaging products by failing to participate in the public dialogue about the genuine science of aging research. The purpose of this document is to warn the public against the use of ineffective and potentially harmful antiaging interventions and to provide a brief but authoritative consensus statement from 51 internationally recognized scientists in the field about what we know and do not know about intervening in human aging. What follows is a list of issues related to aging that are prominent in both the lay and scientific literature, along with the consensus statements about these issues that grew out of debates and discussions among the 51 scientists associated with this paper.
1Workshop Report, Is There an Antiaging Medicine? International Longevity Center, Canyon Ranch Series; New York, 2001.
2U.S. General Accounting Office. "Antiaging Products Pose Potential for Physical and Economic Harm." Special Committee on Aging, GAO-01-1129. September 2001.