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Experts Call Anti-Aging Products a Waste of Money

They say there's no proof they work, and some are harmful

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthScoutNews Reporter
(HealthScoutNews) -- Anti-aging products that promise to turn back the clock do not deliver and may even be hazardous to your health, says a renowned team of scientists.
"Don't waste your money on anti-aging products," says S. Jay Olshansky, a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a senior research scientist at the university's Center on Aging.

Olshansky and 50 of his colleagues, all top researchers in the field of human aging, recently drafted a position statement on the subject. In it, they warn consumers that anti-aging products (such as growth hormone and antioxidant supplements) and promises of longer and longer life spans via such measures as caloric restriction are not proven to work for humans. Olshansky also co-wrote an essay on the topic that accompanies the position paper in the June issue of Scientific American.

Not unexpectedly, the paper drew fire from one of the leading proponents of anti-aging medicine, who calls it a "100 percent political" attempt by traditional doctors to wrest control of a growing industry.

In the paper and the essay, the scientists tackle a wide range of products, but in an interview Olshansky singled out human growth hormone, melatonin and dehydroepiandrosterone (better known as DHEA) as specific products to avoid. Some anti-aging proponents contend that replacing these hormones as their levels dwindle with age can keep people young.

Not only do these products not deliver what they tout, Olshansky says, but "some of these products are likely to be dangerous. In animal models, animals given growth hormone have shorter life spans. Short-term, the animals appear younger, but they die sooner."

Likewise, he adds, nutritional supplements rich in antioxidant vitamins E and C that purport to soak up free radicals, those renegade molecules that damage cells and tissues, aren't proven. The vast majority of studies showing that antioxidant intake is valuable for reducing the risk of cancer and other ailments have been done with foods, not vitamins, Olshansky says.

In the essay, he and his two co-authors further state that "no one has established that vitamin supplements containing antioxidants limit oxidative damage in the body or influence aging."

While the public is bombarded with misleading anti-aging claims, Olshansky and his colleagues say, serious biologists are studying the underlying nature of aging to determine how to slow it down, improve the quality of life and ward off disease.

"No product currently sold [for that purpose] has been demonstrated to reverse aging," Olshansky says.

Some areas under study, including caloric restriction and genetic manipulation, are viewed by the authors as worthy of more research.

The essay and the position paper have clearly outraged one of the more outspoken advocates of anti-aging medicine.

Dr. Ronald Klatz is president of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine in Chicago, and he posts studies on his Web site finding favorable effects for growth hormone and the use of megavitamins to fight disease.

"How can you be against anti-aging medicine?" asks Klatz, who says he plans to submit a rebuttal to Scientific American. The decision to publish the position paper, he says, "is 100 percent political. It's all about who will control a trillion-dollar industry."

He defines anti-aging medicine as "any intervention or modality that has to do with the early detection, prevention, treatment or reversal of age-related diseases. We don't promise to reverse aging."

While critics focus on anti-aging products, Klatz says anti-aging medicine is much more than that. It's committed to health promotion and advocates nutrition monitoring, managing risk factors for disease and disease screenings. According to Klatz, more than 10,000 physicians and scientists worldwide belong to his academy, and anti-aging medicine has matured into a prestigious medical field.

The only common ground Olshansky and Klatz seem to share is promotion of a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a sound diet.

"If there is a Fountain of Youth -- and by the way, there isn't -- the closest you can come is exercise and, of course, a good diet," Olshansky says. "Exercise has been shown to reduce blood pressure, increase muscle mass, reduce body fat, improve mental acuity and improve skin elasticity."

If you're wondering how to spend the money you now spend on anti-aging products, Olshansky has a few suggestions. "Arrange a meeting with a registered dietitian. Buy a good pair of walking shoes. And get a massage."


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