Top clinic warns on anti-ageing therapies

New York: The advertisement sounds too good to be true: All you have to do is take a pill, and you’ll suddenly find yourself muscle-bound and full of youthful energy. What those ads don’t tell you is you’ll also empty out your wallet and possibly harm your body using an unproven therapy, warns the Mayo Clinic.

The ageing process isn’t fully understood and scientists have yet to find a “magic bullet” that can reverse the effects of aging. To help you sort out the science from the hype, find out what evidence — if any — there is backing these anti-ageing therapies.


As you process food for energy, your body produces substances called free radicals. Free radicals are believed to contribute to aging and certain diseases.

To neutralize free radicals, your body uses antioxidants — certain vitamins, minerals and enzymes — that come from the food you eat. Proponents believe that antioxidants can prevent chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.

Some antioxidants you may have heard of include:

Vitamin A
Vitamin B-6
Vitamin B-12
Vitamin C
Vitamin E
Beta carotene
Folic acid

The best way to give your body the antioxidants it needs is to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. If you can’t obtain all the nutrients you need from food, your doctor may recommend using supplements to make up for any deficiencies. Also, if you have certain medical conditions, such as macular degeneration, your doctor may recommend that you supplement your diet with antioxidants.

There’s no proof that antioxidants in pill form can improve your general health or extend your life. In fact, they can have the opposite effect. For instance, smokers who take beta carotene supplements might actually increase their risk of lung cancer. If you’re interested in increasing the amount of antioxidants in your diet, talk to your doctor before you start taking supplements. And remember, there’s nothing harmful about adding a few servings of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables to your diet.


Hormones are chemicals your body makes to help keep your vital organs working properly. Some hormone levels decline naturally as you age, leading some people to believe this decline is responsible for the aging process. Their theory: Restore those hormone levels and reverse aging. But it might not be that simple. Some hormone supplements you might have heard of include:

DHEA. Your body converts DHEA into the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. Proponents say it also slows aging, increases muscle and bone strength, burns fat, improves cognition, bolsters immunity and protects against chronic diseases.

Testosterone. Declining levels of this male sex hormone have been linked with common complaints of aging, such as decreased energy and sex drive, muscle weakness and osteoporosis. Women’s bodies also make testosterone, though in much smaller quantities than men’s do.

Melatonin. This hormone is produced in your brain. It helps regulate sleep and holds promise as a remedy for insomnia and jet lag. Proponents claim it can slow or reverse aging, fight cancer and enhance sexuality.

Human growth hormone (HGH). This hormone, responsible for growth spurts in children, tapers off after adolescence. Proponents say injections of prescription-only HGH can burn fat, build muscle and renew energy.

None of these hormone supplements has convincing medical evidence to back up the claims made by anti-aging enthusiasts. And they each carry risks. For instance, even short-term use of DHEA or testosterone may cause liver damage.

One type of hormone treatment that has been the subject of extensive research is menopausal hormone therapy. Many women take supplemental estrogen to relieve symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness. But hormone therapy also carries significant risks, including an increased risk of blood clots, heart disease, heart attack and breast cancer.


Many people are drawn to supplements because they’re usually advertised as “natural” remedies. You might interpret the term “natural” to mean harmless, but that’s not necessarily true. People looking to defy nature sometimes turn to supplements such as coral calcium, ginseng and echinacea as anti-aging therapies. There isn’t any evidence to support the claims for these supplements.

Talk to your doctor before taking any supplement. Ingredients in supplements can cause harmful interactions with your medications and serious side effects. Because the US Food and Drug Administration doesn’t oversee supplements, you can’t be sure of product purity or the amount of active ingredient in any given supplement —even from one package to the next of the same product.

Calorie-restricted diets

Calorie restriction refers to the theory that restricting the number of calories you consume can lead to a longer life. Calorie-restricted diets have about 30 percent fewer calories, but they’re rich in fruits and vegetables so that dieters still get the nutrients they need. The theory is based on studies in animals, including rats, mice, fish, flies and worms. These studies found that the life span of each species could be extended by reducing the number of calories consumed.

But it isn’t clear if the calorie restriction theory applies to humans. Clinical trials are investigating whether eating fewer calories can lead to a longer life for people. Some studies following underweight people — not those specifically on a calorie-restricted diet — show that they have a higher risk of certain diseases and death.

Reducing the number of calories you eat may be a good way to lose weight, but restricting your diet to the point that you aren’t getting enough nutrients is dangerous. Calorie restriction can lead to malnutrition and severe weight loss.

What you can do to live a long and healthy life

Ageing is an intricate, complex process that involves many areas of your body. It’s unlikely that a product, pill or potion could cure all of the ills age can bring. Your best bet for a long and healthy life is to keep yourself healthy and prevent chronic diseases by:

Eating a varied diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables
Maintaining a healthy weight
Exercising every day
Seeking prompt medical care when you’re ill or injured
Using sunscreen
Quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke
Getting screened for diseases such as cancer and heart disease
Maintaining close ties to your friends and family

Work closely with your doctor to make sure you’re doing all you can to stay healthy. And if you have any questions about products that claim to slow or reverse aging, ask your doctor for the lowdown. He or she can help you sort through the hype and get the facts.