November 2010 - Selling the Fountain of Youth Selling the Fountain of Youth
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Archive for November, 2010

Health Magazine: Are Natural Cures Bad For You?

26 Nov

Health Magazine has embarked on a series of stories about the dangers of herbal supplements. I found the first story in this series to be both eye-opening and disturbing.

The story starts with an anecdote about a woman who developed ventricular tachycardia–an irregular heartbeat–after taking an over-the-counter diet supplement. She assumed because the product was made of herbs, it must be safe.

Millions of people take herbal supplements–often in enormous doses–because they think they’re natural and safer than pharmaceutical products. Fact is, the laws in our country provide little oversight over the makers of herbal supplements, and these remedies can be just as potent as what the pharmaceutical companies make.

According to a poll by Health.com, 83% of people take some sort of supplement sometimes. And 56% of respondents said they believe supplements are safer than prescription and OTC drugs.

I’m not surprised. Some people who find out about Selling the Fountain of Youth tell me that they’re taking super-potent doses of resveratrol–the red wine supplement that was shown in Harvard studies to extend the lives of mice by about 30%. (The same incredible results have not been shown in humans as of yet.)

Yes, you can buy resveratrol over the counter at your local health food store and many other places. And because it’s a non-prescription product, you can take it in super-potent doses if you choose.

But that doesn’t mean it’s safe. As reported here in June, GlaxoSmithKline ended a trial of a resveratrol product because some patients in the trial developed kidney problems. So it worries me when people tell me they’re taking massive doses of the resveratrol they can buy at their local store.

Since late 2007, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has received 2,000 reports of adverse side effects from nutritional supplements, according to the Health story. The report goes on to describe several examples of dietary supplements that contained trace amounts of prescription drugs, some of which could be dangerous.

As of earlier this year, supplement makers must comply with good-manufacturing practices set out by the FDA. The agency could take enforcement actions against those who don’t comply.

In the meantime here’s some advice for anyone who is taking nutritional supplements:

1. Check the bottles of your supplements to make sure they include a seal from US Pharmacopeia (USP). That at least will ensure the supplement contains the ingredients it says it does.

2. Google the name of the supplement and the manufacturer to make sure there are no safety reports on file.

3. Get your doctor’s opinion on any supplement you plan to take.

4. And finally, don’t take enormous doses of anything. Remember, you are self-medicating. And even if you think what you’re taking is perfectly “natural,” that doesn’t mean it’s risk-free.

 
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KVOA Tucson Features Selling the Fountain of Youth

22 Nov

I was interviewed today about the book by Martha Vasquez of KVOA Tucson.

 
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Huffington Post: 3 Anti-Aging Thanksgiving Ideas

22 Nov

I initially groaned when I saw the headline “An Anti-Aging Thanksgiving Feast!” on the website, Stop Aging Now. But while it’s a bit far-fetched to suggest chowing down on a Thanksgiving feast will make you younger, I can definitely get on board with some of the holiday recipes presented on this site. After all, you can get many of the nutrients you need from healthy food.

Read more here on Huffington Post.

 
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Faux Ad on Miracle Anti-Aging Drug Says it All

18 Nov

Earlier this week I was interviewed on “On the Street,” a radio show broadcast over the Internet by CyberStationUSA.com. The producers of this show prefaced my segment with a fake ad for “AgeAway,” a miracle anti-aging supplement made from horse urine, bilberry and baklava–just $99.99 for a one-ounce bottle! (Call 555-DON’T-B-OLD Today!) As ridiculous as it sounds, it’s not that far off from much of the snake oil sold these days as the fountain of youth.

For a good laugh, take a listen: AgeAway 60

 
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Finally A Sane Article About Healthy Aging

07 Nov

At first, the headline in the November issue of Men’s Health made me cringe: “The End of Aging.” I was prepared for another hype-filled article promising men that if they just replace their hormones, they’ll never age.

But the article, by geriatrician Dr. T.E. Holt, is quite the opposite. It doesn’t mention hormones once. Instead it reviews the science of aging–at least as much as we know about it today–but makes no grand promises that it will help us live forever.

I took two major conclusions away from this article: First, aging is merely a series of tiny accidents. Years of breathing in oxygen results in oxidative stress, which in turn causes aging. But Holt wisely advises readers not to run out and buy anti-oxidants.

Why? Here comes the second conclusion: How well we age depends largely on our genes and our gender. (Sorry guys: Women have the edge.) In other words, we can’t control how long we live.

That said, Holt still provides a number of tips for achieving longevity. I can definitely get on board with these, as they match the conclusion of my book. They are:

1. Know your risk factors, such as hypertension, and get them under control

2. Exercise

3. Watch what you eat

4. Watch what you weigh

5. Don’t go overboard–i.e. with Ironman-style workouts

6. Control your cholesterol

7. Watch your blood pressure

8. Check your blood sugar

9. Stop smoking

10. Use your brain–be a lifelong learner

None of this is brain surgery. All of it has been said by proponents of healthy, hormone-free aging, including me. But it’s certainly worth repeating.

Read more of Holt’s tips here.

 
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Suzanne Somers at the Movies: More of the Same on Hormone Replacement

05 Nov

Last night I ventured out to my local multiplex and sat through the hour-and-a-half long movie Suzanne Somers’ Breakthrough–which was a video of her speaking at an unnamed conference in Canada. During this speech, she repeated much of the same inaccurate information about bio-identical hormones as she has talked about in many previous speeches, and in her three best-selling books on the topic. Thus the only positive thing I have to say about the movie is that only 15 poor souls showed up.

For fun, let’s look at a few of her major points:

go here Somers Says: Forgetfulness, bloating, migraines and farting in public can all be blamed on a lack of estrogen.
go to site I Say: Smart people accept these symptoms as signs of growing older–not signs of a disease that needs to be treated with estrogen.

http://architecturalhilites.com/wp-json/oembed/1.0/embed?url=http://architecturalhilites.com/canopies/ Somers Says: “You’ll lose weight sleeping if you sleep with balanced hormones.” (That is a direct quote–I can’t make this stuff up.)
I Say: Show me the double-blind, placebo controlled study that proves people on hormones lose weight in their sleep.

Somers Says: Thyroid hormone keeps her strong, cures her constipation and thickens her stringy hair.

Ok, this one deserves a little closer attention. She didn’t mention in the speech what type of thyroid she takes. But in her books she parrots the advice given by the anti-aging industry, which is that everyone should take Armour thyroid, which is derived from pigs. I investigated this claim while reporting my book, and I don’t buy it. Armour thyroid fell out of favor in the 1950s, when drug companies learned how to synthesize copies of T4–one form of thyroid, which the human body processes into another form called T3. The problem with Armour is that it contains both T4 and T3, which can cause an overdose of T3. That in turn can put patients at risk of atrial fibrillation and arrhythmias.

And there’s another problem. Throughout this speech and her books, Somers expresses disdain for Premarin and PremPro, the estrogen products for menopausal women that are derived from the urine of pregnant horses. Somers believes bio-identical estrogens and progesterones, derived from soy and yams, are safer and more natural menopause remedies than Premarin and PremPro–a claim that’s never been scientifically proven.

Here’s a more basic question: Why is pig thyroid good but horse urine bad? And don’t tell me that pig thyroid mimics what the human body does naturally–I just explained to you why that’s not true.

During the speech, Somers also glorified the work of a controversial doctor named Stanislaw Burzynski, who specializes in alternative cancer treatments. But as Newsweek pointed out last year, Burzynski synthesizes peptides from human urine for one of his so-called cures. So how is it that this synthetic version of a urine-derived compound cures cancer, but Premarin (derived from horse urine) causes it?

Perhaps the most disturbing part of this movie is what happened at the end. As I left the theater, a man handed me a business card and said “call us if you want more information on bio-identical hormones.” His card said his title was “bio-identical hormone coach.” I checked out his Web site. He doesn’t appear to be either a doctor or a pharmacist. He has merely appointed himself an expert in bio-identical hormones, clearly without any medical training.

I guess if Somers can dole out questionable advice on aging to an unsuspecting public, anyone can.

 
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Stealth DNA May Control Aging

03 Nov

Most scientists who study human longevity search for genes that determine who is most likely to make it to age 100. Researchers at the University of Miami are taking a different approach: They’re studying the genes that allow people to stay healthy into old age.

By focusing on Amish people who have lived to 80, the researchers hope to pinpoint the genes that promote “successful aging”—the ability to live without disease, depression, frailty, or loss of independence for longer than average. “We’re looking not just to predict how old you’ll get, but how well you’ll age,” says William K. Scott, professor of human genetics at the university’s school of medicine.

Read more at Technology Review.

 
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HuffPo: Centenarians on How to Make it to 100

03 Nov

What is it about centenarians that gives them the gift of extraordinarily long lives? On Nov. 1, Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York launched a website, www.superagers.com, which tracks one scientist’s decade-long quest to answer that question. Dr. Nir Barzilai, director of the college’s Institute for Aging Research, has been studying 500 Ashkenazi Jews age 95 and older, along with 700 of their children. He’s trying to uncover the genes that promote long life — discoveries that he hopes will lead to drugs to prevent age-related diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Read more here.

 
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