AARP Bulletin featured Selling the Fountain of Youth in its regular series “The Author Speaks.” Here’s an excerpt:
Q. What started the modern antiaging movement?
A. In 1990, scientist Daniel Rudman published a sensational study. He gave human growth hormone (HGH) to about a dozen healthy men over 60. They significantly increased their lean body mass, including muscle, and they lost about 14 percent of their fat.
Q. How did we get from a single splashy study to an entirely new industry?
A. A small group of doctors latched on to the idea that if you replace your hormone levels to where they were in your 30s, you’ll feel as great as you did back then. Rudman’s study inspired the formation of the American Academy of Anti Aging Medicine and has been cited on the Web something like 50,000 times.
Q. What are the cornerstones of the antiaging industry?
A. It started with HGH and expanded into alternative estrogen and progesterone products for menopause, as well as testosterone, which has recently become quite a sensation in this industry. It’s being prescribed not just to men, but also to help improve women’s libido.
Q. What are proponents claiming about these products?
A. They say if you replace those hormones, you can prevent osteoporosis, shield yourself from Alzheimer’s, improve your sleep, lose weight, gain muscle mass and boost your sex drive.
Q. Does any good science support those claims?
A. Antiaging doctors often say HGH is one of the most studied hormones. Well, that’s true, but many of those studies were in children with growth hormone deficiencies, and you can’t extrapolate from those children to healthy adults. The original Rudman study of HGH in adults was very small, and some scientists have been disturbed by the popularity of it. Some antiaging doctors twist the research to fit their viewpoints.