Forever Young: The Anti-Aging Movement Seeks a 200-Year Lifespan

Dr. Ronald Klatz, D.O., is looking forward to sailing past his 120th birthday with the body of a man half that age. In fact, he's half serious about the idea of competing in an Ironman triathlon at the age of 150. And that's just the beginning of how far this prophet of the anti-aging movement thinks life can be extended. "Ultimately, people will live as long as they want to," he says.For some people, that may include near-immortal lifespans of 500 years or more, a prediction made by Dr. Marvin Minsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a genius credited with the invention of artificial intelligence.Many anti-aging scientists claim that average lifespans of 120-150 years will be attained within the next 50 years. And many of us reading this article will live long enough to blow out 100 candles on our birthday cakes.These are exciting days for the anti-aging movement, similar to the Age of Discovery that launched Columbus to the New World. Aging is not inevitable! The war on aging has begun! rings the slogan of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M), founded in 1993 in Chicago. Today, the Academy draws more than 1,000 physicians and scientists to its annual conference and keeps tabs on the work of up to 3,000 anti-aging researchers working around the world to extend life, compared to 500 just five years ago.Surfing the Age WaveMedical knowledge on aging and life-extension is doubling every three-and-one-half years, says Dr. Klatz, whom is president of the A4M. That means that by the year 2010 -- just 13 years from now -- scientists will know 16 times as much about life-extension as they do now. He notes that life-expectancy would immediately leap to 99 years of age if we could eliminate many lifestyle-related diseases such as cancer, stroke, diabetes and heart disease. With our present knowledge of hormone therapy and supplements, lifespan could lengthen to age 120 or longer. "If we can get you to the age of 120 today, how far are we going to be able to get you 15 years from now with what we'll know? People will start surfing the age wave, and if you're a good surfer, we might be able to get you to age 150, 180, who knows?"Dr. Klatz himself is age 41 chronologically, but claims that his biological age is 33, according to health and fitness tests. He says the use of mineral supplements, hormones, vitamins, exercise and diet have had an "incredibly significant" effect on reversing his own aging process. A Field GuideYou don't need a roomful of scientists to tell you that lifespan is increasing. Consider that in 1897, the average lifespan was 48 years. Today, the average American will live to be nearly 80, thanks to better public health, clean water, good nutrition and the suppression of infectious diseases."Living to 65 used to be a big deal -- that's why the government thought that Social Security was a bargain in the 1930s," Dr. Klatz wrote in his 1996 book Stopping the Clock. "Only one in 10 Americans ever saw their first Social Security check. Not today, when fully 75 percent of the population will sail past 65 without a care." Co-authored with steroid and exercise specialist Dr. Robert Goldman, Stopping the Clock is packed with theories on aging and advice on nutritional supplements, exercise and diet. It's a field guide to the anti-aging movement, with tell-all information on what pills the gurus are popping.Bugaboo or Fountain of Youth?Dr. Klatz's new book Grow Young with HGH from Harper/Collins, hits the bookshelves in mid-April. It's a testament to the value of Human Growth Hormone (hGH) in reversing the aging process. Many people think of Human Growth Hormone as the bugaboo of the bodybuilding world -- a grotesque drug that induces brute behavior and brain tumors in witless behemoths.But used correctly, hGH can restore decades of youthful vigor, says Dr. Klatz."People who get into trouble with hGH are using large amounts of it for body-building purposes," he notes. "We suggest using only small amounts for replacement purposes, and not for the superhuman, Incredible Hulk kind of people. There are no side effects of using hGH as a replacement hormone."He clarifies that to state that hGH can be hazardous to men who have large prostates, since the hormone increases the size of all organs in the body. "That's the only dark side, I know of." On the plus side, "Human growth hormone is the only drug proven to actually reverse aging in humans. There's been a lot of talk about the value of hormones such as DHEA and melatonin reversing aging, but those studies have been done on animals. With hGH, however, we've seen it reverse the bio-markers of aging by as much as 20 years. If you give hGH to a 75-year-old, you can see his biomarkers regress to that of a 55 year-old."Brave New WorldGenetic engineering and cloning will push human beings to far longer lifespans."I think President Clinton very wrong for putting the kibosh on federal funding from cloning research," he says. "It's completely unlike a President of the United States to make a sweeping edict on the basis of some speculation.""It's probably very unethical to clone people for organs, but I don't think it's unethical to clone pigs, goats and monkeys that have genetically-altered organs. These organs won't be identical to human organs, but from an 'immune' point of view they will be identical. "Your immune system won't reject a pig heart, a monkey heart or a monkey liver, and that's the promise of cloning technology. There could be enough organs for anyone who needed them within five or ten years if we pushed the technology, with no rejection by the body -- it would be the same as getting an organ from your closest relative." He also believes that genetic engineering will come into its own within the next ten years, making it possible to identify the genetic markers for diseases such as cancer and diabetes. It will be possible to detect cancer 10-15 years before it can appear. "We'll be able to reset the DNA within a cells. If you want blue eyes instead of brown, you'll be able to do it."Getting StartedDr. Klatz was pursuing a career in hard science medicine back in 1981 when someone handed him a copy of the best-seller, Life Extension. "The prevailing view in the medical community was what a bunch of shit," he recalls. "But it opened my eyes to the potential of anti-aging as a medical discipline. It wasn't a big leap for me to move from high technology medicine to anti-aging medicine." He notes that medicine breaks disease into four categories: genetic, infectious and trauma afflictions generally kill younger people; the fourth category -- degenerative diseases -- kill the elderly through cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis among others. "Fifty percent of the nation's health care budget goes into treating the chronic degenerative diseases of the elderly, and these diseases are directly related to the aging process. So, by curing the process of aging, you're going to cure most of the degenerative diseases associated with aging."What is Aging?Science, as yet, has no all-purpose theory of aging. Instead, there may be hundreds of interconnected biological factors and systems involved. Drs. Klatz and Goldman say, however, that aging may be Mother Nature's way of discarding us once our peak childrearing days are over. "Generally, scientists believe that aging is a mechanism installed in the human body to insure the continued survival of the species," they write. "From the species' point of view, the most important time of our lives is our period of fertility, the years during which we're able to create new life. While it's socially functional for some people to live longer than that, to pass on the accumulated wisdom that might help the young survive, from nature's point of view, we are not that useful after the age of around 40."As a result, many bodily functions begin to decline, with ever-accelerated losses of function continuing in each succeeding decade." There are four major theories on aging:1. The "Wear and Tear" Theory holds that the cells and organs of the body are "worn down by toxins in our diet and in the environment; by the excess consumption of fat, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine; by the ultraviolet rays of the sun; and by the many other physical and emotional stresses to which we subject our bodies." 2. The Neuroendocrine Theory states that in our youth, various hormonal systems and organs work to regulate body functions. "As we age though, the body produces lower levels of hormones, which can have disastrous effects on our functioning."3. The Genetic Control Theory claims that our DNA is genetically programmed to self-destruct once we've completed our biological mission of having children. After our prime child-producing years are over, a "biological clock" goes off, signalling our bodies to age and die. 4. The Free-Radical Theory claims that healthy cells are destroyed by an action that is similar to rusting.Eating food and consuming oxygen creates energy within the body. Free radicals are waste byproducts of this process. They are atoms with an extra electron and a negative charge. These free radicals attach themselves to other molecules, attempting to "steal" a matching electron to create equilibrium. The result is violence at the cellular level: they do extensive damage to the cells, and ultimately, the body. Attacking the Aging ProcessLiving to be 150 with the youthful body of a Toni Braxton or George Clooney may take some genetic tinkering with human beings somewhere down the line.But in the meantime, anti-agers say that you can rack up a lot more mileage on life's highway through the use of various hormones, vitamins, mineral supplements, fitness regimens and good nutrition. In essence, this therapy thwarts the designs of nature by reintroducing hormones which the body no longer produces, or by attacking free radicals with antioxidants such as vitamins C, E and beta-carotene (A).Drs. Klatz and Goldman draw their conclusions from studies around the world, in which lab animals such as mice, have been induced to live 25-50% longer. Studies have also shown that hormone replacement can fight age-related diseases such as cancer and diabetes. The Bad NewsYet for each breakthrough, there are also side-effects and contradictions to consider. DHEA, for instance, is a hormone which has proven effective in fighting breast cancer in one study, while stimulating the growth of breast tumors in another.And there are no long-range studies on melatonin as yet, despite its immense popularity, and it can be hazardous to pregnant women, nursing mothers, and people suffering from mental illness, depression, allergies and autoimmune diseases. Drs. Klatz and Goldman note that the melatonin doses recommended by popular magazines and books "are many times more than the physiologic doses, and could have unforseen long-term effects." The authors also caution anyone from embarking on hormone therapy until you are past the age of 45, since younger adults have adequate supplies of naturally-occurring hormones. Part of the problem with nailing down a "forever young" formula is the sheer volume of studies pouring in from around the world. When nutritionists can't decide from one year to the next whether staples such as milk and eggs are good for you, one can understand how difficult it is to weigh the merits of complex hormones -- especially hormones taken in a way never intended by nature.Take CautionAlthough Dr. Klatz consumes nearly 20 supplements per day, including hormones, he also gives his body a two-week rest free from the pills every two months. "I want to see how I feel off the supplements and give my body a metabolic rest," he says. "Your body develops a tolerance to everything, so taking a break gives your body a chance to equilibriate." He also has ongoing blood chemistry tests performed by a lab to ensure that his hormones aren't headed off the map. "If you're going to take anything on a regular basis, you really should follow your blood levels." "Hormones are powerful substances. They have a very high safety index -- no one's ever died of taking melatonin or DHEA, but that doesn't mean that they can't have adverse effects on you if you take too much of it, or that they can inhibit your body's own production of hormones. My advice is if you're going to take these things, do it under a doctor's supervision or educate yourself very well and find a laboratory that can follow your blood levels."A Cross to BearPilgrims in search of longer life may be disappointed to learn that immortality involves more than popping a few magic pills each day. A suggested diet for longevity is mostly vegetarian: raw or lightly cooked cereals and veggies; lightly cooked beans, lentils and peas; fruit, nuts and soybean products such as tofu. Meat, fish and poultry should be eaten only two times per week.In terms of exercise, one should practice a balance of aerobics, strength training, and flexibility at least three times a week. And a certain level of sweat and strain is required for longer life: According to the latest on a Harvard study of 17,000 alumni, it was those who exercised strenuously for decades who lived longest. Moderation doesn't cut it in the long run.So, are you ready to eat oats and broccoli the rest of your life; consume a handful of pills each day (by the way, they're expensive); and practice some aspect of weight lifting, yoga and aerobics every day of the week for the next 100 years or so? Then congratulations, you could be a winner in the Long Life Sweepstakes.Then again, you might just drop dead next week. That's the beauty of life and the anti-aging movement -- as yet, no one knows how it will turn out.SIDEBARStars of the Anti-Aging SupplementsRobert DownesThe life-extending properties of various hormones, herbs and supplements are being trumpeted in the pages of magazines such as Time and Newsweek at a dizzying rate.Yet as each new sensation sweeps the country, counter-claims are raging against anti-aging supplements. A recent article in Reader's Digest scoffs at the properties of melatonin, while American Health magazine warns that DHEA may be dangerous. As such, you should take hormonal-based supplements under a doctor's supervision. And people under the age of 45 should avoid anti-aging hormones altogether, since they already produce them naturally.DHEA: Has been shown to prolong life expectancy up to 50% in lab animals. DHEA, or Dehydroepiandrosterone, is a naturally-occuring steroid hormone produced in the adrenal glands. The body uses it to produce the male and female sex hormones testosterone, estrogen and progesterone, among others. Our bodies produce DHEA until age 25, when it begins to drop. Studies claim that DHEA boosts the immune system, helps prevent hardening of the arteries, inhibits Alzheimer's, osteoporosis, lupus, cancer and diabetes. It also helps with weight loss and building lean muscle mass by raising the metabolism and decreasing appetite.The Antioxidants -- Vitamins C, E, and Beta-carotene: Antioxidants neutralize free radicals and convert them into harmless waste. Vitamins C, E and A (produced by beta-carotene) have also been shown to boost the body's immune system, fight heart disease and stroke, keep arteries clear of plaque, prevent cataracts, inhibit cancer, and many other anti-aging benefits.Physicians are divided on how much vitamin C and E to take, but all agree that vitamin A is toxic. Doctors recommend taking beta-carotene, a substance which allows the body to produce its own vitamin A. Vitamin A improves your skin, hair, mucous membranes and bone health. Increasing your vitamin intake is important because the Recommended Daily Allowance on vitamins is considered long out of date and may be far less than what the average person needs. The RDA was compiled early in this century by government officials to serve as a guide for avoiding vitamin deficiency diseases such as rickets and scurvy in prisons and orphanages. By contrast, experts such as vitamin C researcher Linus Pauling say that an Optimum Daily Allowance (ODA) would be 5 to 100 times the RDA.Melatonin: Secreted by the pineal gland, melatonin is a hormone being hailed as a "wonder drug" that may extend lifespan by as much as 25%, according to studies on mice.Studies have also credited melatonin with fighting cancer, heart disease, stress, jet-lag, AIDS, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes and more. It is also purported to be a "natural" sleeping pill which doesn't disrupt REM (dream) sleep. Not safe for young people. Chromium, Selenium & Magnesium: These minerals are purported to fight cancer, balance blood sugar levels, lower "bad" cholesterol, improve the immune system, lower blood pressure, strengthen muscles and bones, and more. "Animals starved of magnesium are nearly perfect specimens of accelerated aging," say French researchers. Human Growth Hormone (hGH): Recently approved by the FDA, hGH has been shown to produce stronger bones, more muscle mass, younger skin, improved organ function, enhanced sexual performance and more. One senior citizen said his penis grew 20% after taking hGH. New manufacturers have made treatment possible for about $4,000. And cheap hGH "precurser" amino acids such as glutamine, niacin and lysine can induce the natural production of hGH.Your body can produce its own hGH through high-intensity exercise, such as lifting free weights three times a week. -- Source: Stopping the Clock by Dr. Ronald Klatz and Dr. Robert Goldman

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