One of these days we'll be able to pop a pill and stay young for our entire lives. Well, probably not, but serious scientists around the world are claiming some success in at least slowing the aging process.
Mainstream researchers are taking over a field once dominated by charlatans in the quest for supplements that may help us stay alert and nimble for as long as possible.
The field now basks in the glow of scientific all-stars, the best known of whom is probably University of California-Berkeley's Bruce Ames, awarded the National Medal of Science by the White House in 1998 for his pioneering research in cell mutations.
These days, Ames is perhaps better known as the creator of Juvenon, an anti-aging supplement that purportedly peps up the body's mitochondria, tiny powerhouses that provide energy for many vital functions.
The supplement contains two natural compounds thought to give mitochondria a boost and thus aid in fighting off memory loss and a host of diseases linked to aging.
Most researchers pinpoint a few vitamins or other supplements as they search for allies in the fight against aging, but a team of scientists at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, has taken a new approach.
They have called in heavy artillery in the form of an anti-aging "cocktail" that consists of 30 vitamins and supplements that are thought to play a role in fighting five debilitating, age-related losses in motivation, cognition, sensory perception, physical capacities and physical mobility.
For several years now the McMaster researchers have experimented with mice, and they have met with "profound" success, David Rollo, lead author of a study published in the current issue of Experimental Biology and Medicine, said in a telephone interview.
"We were more surprised than anybody," Rollo said, when their "cocktail" increased the lifespan of lab mice by 11 percent. Perhaps more importantly, the supplement increased the production of mitochondria and reduced the emission of free radicals, thought to be the basic cause of aging.
Rollo got into the anti-aging business a couple of decades ago when he was astounded at how quickly lab mice that had been genetically engineered to age more quickly were "decrepit within a year." Mice normally live up to around three years.
He began looking at supplements that are advertised to help combat aging, but he found little encouragement.
"Most of the tests on these things have been pretty disappointing," he said. "People weren't getting good results with one or two of these things, so we thought, why not put a bunch of things together and see what we get."
Rollo and his colleagues visited a local drug store and stocked up on all those things that are supposed to help slow the grim reaper -- numerous vitamins and supplements, along with the usual suspects: green tea extract, ginko biloba, ginger root extract, folic acid, flax seed oil, and others. They ended up with 30 ingredients.
The cocktail is potent in that all those 30 ingredients can interact with each other, in effect forming new compounds by the hundreds, thus attacking the problems on many fronts, Rollo said.