Anti-Aging and Media


Staff member
Just got from MSN:

Can we prevent aging

Jan. 21 — A recent medical study suggests that 60 percent of people over the age of 65 are using alternative medicines in the hopes of finding that “fountain of youth.” But are the claims of these medicines valid? And are they safe? On NBC’s “Today” show, Dr. Richard Dupee, chief of geriatrics at New England Medical Center, takes a look at some of the alternative therapies being offered over the counter at health food stores and drug stores. He offers his thoughts on some of their claims below.

SEVENTY-SEVEN MILLION baby boomers are entering the Medicare demographic in the next 10 years. A recent study from Mt. Sinai Medical Center found that 60 percent of people over the age of 65 are now using alternative medicines. This includes hormones, acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal therapies and vitamins (such as gingko and garlic), and over a billion dollars is spent each year in the United States on anti-aging medicines and sports supplements. But the question still remains, do they work?

(Note: The following medications are not prescription. They can all be purchased over the counter at health food stores and drug stores.)

Dhea is a steroid produced by the adrenal glands. It has been called “the anti-aging hormone.” Among the anti-aging claims are: boosts sexual performance, fights cancer, reduces risk for heart attack, reduces risk for diabetes and osteoporosis, and burns fat and builds muscle.
Are the claims valid? Currently there is no data to support its use but there are ongoing trials. Research shows no benefit in breast cancer (possibly higher incidence), minimal decrease in risk for heart disease and actually a slight increase in women. One trial suggested weight loss induction in males — subsequent trials did not confirm this. It may be of help in the post-menopausal state, and may help ease symptoms of lupus. It may also improve mood and memory.
Adverse effects: Due to the male hormone, side effects are acne, deeper voice, hair loss and rise in blood sugar. Dhea has been banned for all use in the U.K. and Canada. Higher doses can have serious health risks.


Growth hormone:
Growth hormone is secreted naturally by the pituitary gland. It’s the primary hormone responsible for growth in humans. Levels at age 60 are 1/2 of those in young adults. Reduction in growth hormone contributes to decreased muscle mass and strength. Among the anti-aging claims are: enhances athletic and sexual performance, increased joint health, sleep aid, enhanced immune function, protects heart and brain.
Are the claims valid? There is no evidence that oral human growth hormone has any health benefits. In several studies giving growth hormone to elderly males yielded no change in strength, but there was an increase in muscle mass and skin thickness, and a slight reduction in fat.
Adverse effects: higher blood sugar levels, fluid retention, carpal tunnel syndrome, breast enlargement and headaches.


Estrogen is the female hormone produced by the ovaries and gonads. Levels drop sharply at menopause, and there are numerous synthetic and natural estrogen therapies available to women as a replacement after menopause.
Are the claims valid? Estrogen replacement therapy makes sense if there is no family history for cancer or cardiac disease. It’s unquestionably effective in maintaining bone mass and reducing hot flashes.
Adverse effects: Studies have shown there is an increase incidence in heart disease and an increase risk of breast cancer.


Testosterone (also known as “androstenedione”):
This hormone made in the adrenal glands and gonads. Commonly known as “andro,” it became popular because of its use by baseball player Mark McGuire. It was synthesized in the 1930s with an expectation it would become “the fountain of youth.” Among the anti-aging claims: increased muscle mass and strength.
Are the claims valid? The data is unified regarding the serious health risks of the use of testosterone. It does play a role in patients with diminished libido and decreased testosterone levels, but is contraindicated in patients with prostate enlargement or prostate cancer.
Adverse effects: Increased risk for prostate cancer, acne, breast enlargement, hair loss, behavioral changes, lowering of “good” cholesterol.


Gingko biloba:
Gingko biloba is a traditional Chinese medicine herb which helps to boost memory. It’s the top-selling medicinal herb in the United States. It comes from the maidenhair tree. It’s an extract from the dried leaves.
The claim is that it raises brain oxygen levels, which theoretically improves memory.
Are the claims valid? Studies show gingko biloba doesn’t enhance memory for people who don’t have a significant memory problem. But it does improve memory slightly in people with Alzheimer’s.
Adverse effects: It blocks platelets (cells that make your blood clot). You must stop two weeks before surgery.


Vitamin E:
Vitamin E is an essential nutrient and a fat soluble vitamin. It’s a major antioxidant in the body. Among the anti-aging claims are: reverses skin aging, increases male fertility, increases sexual performance, and increases exercise performance.
Are the claims valid? Numerous studies have yielded conflicting data, but there is currently no credible evidence that vitamin E reverses the aging process. It appears to be protective against heart disease and some forms of cancer and it may help in Alzheimer’s disease, but again, there are conflicting studies.
Adverse effects: There are no real adverse effects. However, you should not take it with coumadin (blood thinner).


Ginseng and gingko biloba are the two most commonly used “anti-aging medicines.”
The term ginseng applies to several plant species coming from various countries in Asia. Traditional Chinese medicine uses ginseng to restore a balance flow of “qi” (pronoun: chee), or “life energy.” In the United States, many athletes take ginseng as a sports performance enhancer.
Are the claims valid? A number of well-performed studies confirmed that there is no significant difference between those who take ginseng and those who don’t in terms of heart rate, oxygen consumption, respiratory exchange rate, or total work load. In other words ginseng has no exercise benefits.
Adverse effects: Only Asian ginseng has been reported to occasionally cause side effects, and there are many. The side effects increase when the use is extended beyond three months. They are mostly hypertension, rapid heart rate, vaginal bleeding, palpitations, along with sleeplessness.

Vitamin C:
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and an essential nutrient. It is an important antioxident in the body.
Are the claims valid? Numerous studies have yielded conflicting data, but there is currently no credible evidence that vitamin c reverses the aging process. Vitamin C “may” be protective against heart disease and certain cancers; it “may” lower blood pressure; it “may” decrease the risk of cataracts; and it “may” decrease the symptoms and duration of a cold.
Adverse effects: There are no real adverse effects aside from stomach acidity.


Vitamin A:
Vitamin A is important in maintaining proper functioning of the immune system. It plays a vital role in vision, skin differentiation, growth, reproduction, bone development, red and white blood cell formation and brain development. Some sources of vitamin A are liver, egg yolk, butter and cream.
Are the claims valid? There is no credible evidence that vitamin A has any anti-aging effect. But it “may” have an anti-oxident activity and “may” reduce cancer. It also “may” help with certain skin conditions.
Adverse effects: In large doses smokers have a significantly higher risk of lung and prostate cancer.


If you do choose to self-medicate with one of these alternative medicines, don’t forget to tell your primary-care physician that you are doing so. They could have an adverse effect when taken with other medications, and some medications need to be stopped many days before a surgery.

Try a holistic approach to keep living a functional and quality life without magical elixirs. The holistic approach includes: diet, exercise, smoking discontinuation, moderate use of alcohol, a network of relationships (family and friends) and a sense of purpose.


Dr. Richard Dupee is chief of geriatrics at the New England Medical Center in Boston.
I got excited when I read "Fountain of Youth?" from MSN home page. The site trapped me to read further "Anti-aging facts & myths - 'Today' expert critiques 10 alternative remedies"

Then I clicked on the link to read stuff as posted in the beginning of this topic. I am crushed! I thought I do not have to deal with the American Medical Association or Dr. Richard Dupee for my health.

What is going on here?
kmguru... Don’t be crushed! :( Some things I always remember when reading these kinds of “recent medical study results.”

1. What kinds of studies? (how were all the studies involved conducted; where did all of the figures/statistics come from?)

2. Who footed the bill for the research? (pharmaceutical companies? U.S. gov.? Independent? )

3. Note all qualifiers: “may,” “ongoing studies,” “appears,” etc...

4. Phrases like “well-performed” trials or experiments are slightly more convincing but still don’t say a lot.

5. Every human body is at least a little different than the next. Some are more so. For example, a prescription drug like Claritin isn’t supposed to make most people sleepy, but does make me sleepy. And the same story with ranitidine (Zantac). Neither knocks me out totally, but I definitely felt “drowsy” whenever I’ve taken them. (a couple years ago) Zyrtec, on the other hand, “may” cause drowsiness in most users, but it didn’t make me drowsy.

6. A non-prescription ‘nutrient’ like Melatonin (a natural molecule made by the pineal gland) will often work the first night someone tries it, yet there are other people who have to take it for several days before they notice any benefit.

So, I tend to take all “reports” such as this one offered by MSN with a grain of salt. Some truth and plenty of unknowns, and hard to know which is which. The most useful thing out of the article though was the following reminder:

If you do choose to self-medicate with one of these alternative medicines, don’t forget to tell your primary-care physician that you are doing so. They could have an adverse effect when taken with other medications, and some medications need to be stopped many days before a surgery.

This is true. Even if you’re not taking a prescription med, mixing some “natural” supplements doesn’t sit well with every human body.

km, you seem to be pretty knowledgeable about these things, but I thought I’d mention 'em for anyone else who’s curious.


Thanks Counterbalance. Your comment re-enforces the point I am trying to make and is directed to all our readers - that one must dig deeper to get at the truth for ones use.

BTW, over the last 30 years, I have dealt with some of the best doctors in big cities all over in USA (I moved around a lot). Except one Osteopath (with full MD) - most of them had/have no idea about herbal medicine and other so called nutrition chemicals. I had to do the research myself and provide them the report at their request. The latest family doctor told me, he can not remember nor understand his biochemistry and chemical uptake pathways, actions etc.

So, you are on your own my friends - when it comes to herbals, nutrition supplements and even OTC drugs.
And true, unfortunately, that too many physicians know as little about prescription meds as they do about herbals.

The good news?

The revived interest in alternative medicine in recent years (hence, web sites galore on the Internet) has inspired more people to ask their doctors or local pharmacists about these products. This has prompted retail pharmacy to step up their general knowledge, though few pharmacists can really offer more than limited assistance. (been out of school too long) Never hurts to pick their brains anyway. Some help is better than none when making important choices. And, as not all doctors are comfortable with appearing to be behind the times, more are now condoning patients' explorations with alternative therapies.

The usual caveat: Buyer beware. (about any kind of medical/herbal advice.)