Don't Fall for Anti-Aging Quackery

By Smith, Barbara Peters | Sarasota Herald Tribune, May 22, 2012 | Go to article overview

Don't Fall for Anti-Aging Quackery


Smith, Barbara Peters, Sarasota Herald Tribune


A doctor who has spent his career studying longevity wants people to know there's a difference between healthful aging and refusing to age at all.

Only the first option, he believes, is even remotely possible.

The anti-aging industry's promises of supplements or hormones that can arrest or delay the aging process are nothing but quackery, says Thomas Perls, a professor of geriatrics at Boston University who conducts the New England Centenarian Study.

"To me, it's like being able to build a rocket ship to get people to Pluto," he said last week during a webinar on brain health sponsored by the American Society on Aging.

Perls studies supercentenarians -- people age 110 or over -- to discover why they often manage to make it to the end of life with so few health problems. There is evidence, he said, that other people can achieve this same compression of disease and disability.

"Their example provides an enabling message about aging: The older you get, the healthier you've been," he said. "Most of that you have a role in determining, in terms of your health behaviors."

But too many Americans, Perls said, are looking instead for miracle cures that don't require lifestyle adjustments.

"Baby boomers believe they can get anything they want, and have a lot of money," he said. "They have seen their parents age and they succumb to anything they see on TV or the Web" that they hope can help them avoid the same fate.

Perls finds these consumers "gullible, and to a certain degree narcissistic." But he also blames a federal law, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, for opening the floodgates to anti-aging quacks.

"It's really a ridiculous piece of legislation that allowed a multimillion-dollar industry to bloom," he said. "It takes away any safety mechanisms for the government to monitor what we see on our drug store shelves. …

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