Our society respects the elderly but worships youth. As such, there exist many products that purport to arrest the aging process. But 51 leading aging research experts concluded unequivocally that none of them work, even a little.
They come in many forms. Starting alphabetically, antioxidant supplements are touted as being able to eliminate the production of free radicals and, by extension, slow a person’s aging.
As we sometimes see in pseudoscience, marketers will incorporate a grain of truth in their shaker of hooey. For an antioxidant is indeed a molecule that prevents the oxidation of other molecules, and said oxidation will produce cell-damaging free radicals. That’s why regularly eating fruits high in antioxidants is a wise lifestyle choice that may well reduce the risk of some cancers, macular degeneration, and other medical misfortunes. But there is no science to support the idea that antioxidant supplements will do this or slow the aging process.
A more invasive anti-aging idea is hormone treatments, which aim to replenish the body’s supply of estrogen, testosterone, or human growth hormone. Experiments with senior men have shown that declines in muscle mass and skin elasticity can be slowed in the short term with HGH replacement, while estrogen replacement may benefit some postmenopausal women. However, the men suffered from excess bone growth and carpal tunnel syndrome, while the elderly female patients showed increased risk of breast cancer and blood clots. But whatever rewards and risks come with the treatments, the team of 51 specialists stated that, “Hormone replacement therapy has a place in the treatment of specific age-associated disorders, but evidence that it affects the rate of aging is lacking.”
Then we have a large assortment of supplement mixtures. Unlike proponents of the previous products, most mixture advocates don’t pretend to be embracing scientific principles. Rather, they pride themselves on being in on a secret and getting one over on Big Science, Big Ag, and Big Pharma. Dr. Harriet Hall, the SkepDoc, notes that, “A typical example is Seanol Longevity Plus, which contains brown seaweed extract, resveratrol, iodine, and vitamin D. There have been no clinical studies of the product, and there is no evidence that the ingredients affect aging either singly or in combination.”
Hall also came across a couple of especially comical anti-aging postulations. She found an online chiropractors debate about whether the spine could be manipulated into a perfect alignment that would guarantee immortality. Then we have the most idiosyncratic method, which belongs to self-described futurist Ray Kurzweil. He thinks science will conquer disease, aging, and death by the time he is 120. He plans to make it that long through a regimen of gobbling 250 supplement pills daily at specified times, all of which are washed down with 10 glasses of alkaline water, 10 cups of green tea, and red wine. This is complemented by a weekly IV vitamin infusion. I’ll have my toddler check in on him in 2065 and see how he’s doing.
Many plays, films, novels, poems, paintings, and songs address death. These works of art deal with such themes as confronting one’s mortality, the impact on those left behind, and whether death makes life pointless or gives it its meaning.
Dispensing with such passions, death is the cessation of biological functions that sustain an organism. Whether one is a fruit fly whose day of birth and death are the same, or the 10,000-year old aspen tree in which the flying insect lands, death looms for all plants and animals. It is the invariable consequence of living.
The death process goes something like this. When cells divide, errors are made in copying DNA. As the mitochondria in cells generate the energy that sustains us, they also produce free radicals that do damage. Radiation and other environmental factors inflict further perniciousness by causing mutations. Repair mechanisms can limit the damage, but not eliminate it. Eventually the damage reaches an irreparable point. Strictly speaking, no one dies of old age. Instead, tissues, cells, organs, or other biological components malfunction or are left vulnerable to disease. Aging and death are byproducts of the genetic processes that keep us alive.
While there are no products to slow aging or stop death, scientific advances have given those in the developed world an average lifespan of 78, more than double what it was a century ago. The great irony is that those advances – antibiotics, vaccines, Germ Theory, sanitation, food production methods – are cited by those hawking and using anti-aging products as the reasons for the increase in heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, and cancer.
But they have it backwards. These conditions are not caused by vaccine ingredients, GMOs, chemtrails, gluten, Wi-Fi, fluoridated water, aspartame, or damaged chakras. They are increasing because scientific advances allow more people to live long enough to acquire these afflictions or to sell bogus products to prevent them.