Is There a Fountain of Youth?

Decades of Research Needed to Know Effectiveness for Humans

The researchers have published a number of papers over the last few years, including the recent study showing that mice that had received the concoction ran around and remained physically active three hours longer each day than mice that had not received the cocktail.

Rollo said the 11 percent increase in longevity is particularly impressive. In human terms, that would add a decade to a person's life.

But will it work for humans? Now there's the rub.

Nobody really knows, and it will likely be decades before enough evidence is accumulated to answer that question, one way or the other. A human clinical trial would probably last 500 years, Rollo said, and he wouldn't expect to see as much improvement in humans as he has seen in mice.

"Mice are relatively short-lived animals," he said, so it is possible to examine several generations over the course of a few years. They are also very prone to various afflictions, including cancer.

Anti-Aging Is $60 Billion Business

"Most people don't know this, but humans are quite cancer resistant," and we live relatively long lives, he said. "If you take an animal that is already adapted to a long life and is cancer resistant and you give it a supplement that addresses those features, do you expect the same benefit? I don't think so.

"I think there' a good likelihood we'll get some beneficial impacts, particularly in prevention and amelioration, but don't think this is the fountain of youth. That's crazy."

Too bad.

The anti-aging industry is now a $60 billion business, and while Rollo has no plans to market his research, rest assured you'll probably see it in your corner drugstore before long. The researchers have published their formula, and the ingredients are easy to get, so someone out there will surely make a profit, whether or not it works for humans.

"There's a lot of unknowns," Rollo said. "We're getting better results than we had thought possible, really profound." But when it comes to humans, he adds, we may be able to drink alcohol safely, and we may be able to take a tranquilizer safely, but "if you take them both at the same time you may end up in a coma."

The National Institute of Aging encourages this type of research, and there is some evidence that it will, indeed, lead somewhere, but at this point nobody knows whether throwing a boxcar full of supplements down a human throat will do more harm than good.

So the institute offers this advice. For now, eat a healthy diet and get plenty of exercise. Bet you've heard that before, too.

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