Sam Bauman: Seniors target for anti-aging schemes that offer little help | NevadaAppeal.com

Back to: Opinion

Sam Bauman: Seniors target for anti-aging schemes that offer little help

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The fountain of youth that a Spanish explorer hunted in Florida centuries ago might have been the first potion that would return the drinker to youthfulness, but it wasn't the last. Today many charlatans are peddling all kinds of things that "reverse" aging for seniors.

Consumer Reports in a recent issue noted that this year the anti-aging products will come in at $292 billion worldwide. This despite the advice from reputable medical authorities that the best anti-aging formula is simply regular exercise. Yep, a walk a day or time on the treadmill is the best anti-aging medicine there is.

Consumer Reports magazine recently ran an article with specifics about the many products promising youthfulness for a price. Here's a digest of what the editors came up with.

Brainpower boost — These products claim to improve your attention, cognition and focus. These products, called nootropics, offer dietary supplements often containing caffeine, fish oil and herbs and Piracetam, a drug used in the U.K. for movement disorders. Another group includes prescription-only stimulants for ADHD, the Alzheimer's drug Donepezil and the narcolepsy and sleep apnea drug Modafinil. Doctors can prescribe these drugs for off-label or one not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. They can't prescribe Piracetam. There's not much proof that nootropics can boost cogitation. Some products in this category possibly can interact badly with medicines you're taking. If you use products not approved by the U.S. Pharmacopeia you may wind up with something not what the label claims. Prescription drugs don't boost cogitation in everyone, and may worsen it for some. There are no long term studies on how the drugs may affect healthy people.

Sex life enhancers — The ads claim that testosterone therapy will boost the libido that goes with low levels of the drug in men. Hitting the condition, the ads call "low T," these drugs will up your sex drive and assist in reclaiming energy is the claim.

Prescription testosterone is FDA approved for men who fail to produce normal levels. These come in gels and patches and can be prescribed off-label.

It was in the 1990s when the term "low T" came into use when customers started seeing ads for testosterone therapy.

But such therapy can increase the risk of heart attack, strokes and blood clots. Studies show this therapy could boost the growth of existing prostate cancer and sleep apnea, grow breast tissue, swollen feet and a lower sperm count.

"Get strong and lean" is another category for anti-aging. Human growth hormone (HGH) is claimed to boost muscle mass, reduce body fat, make skin more elastic and slow bone loss.

Synthetic HGH is injected as practice by athletes seeking more performance. Pituitary derived HGH helps maintain tissue and organs and is vital to children and teens. Therapy with HGH is FDA approved for hormone lack. It's illegal for doctors to prescribe HGH for anti-aging. It can cause may side effects such as carpal tunnel syndrome, swelling, joint pain, enlargement of the heart and liver and Type 2 diabetes. It also may increase cancer risks.

Then there's "look and feel younger" using hormone therapy (HT). This is good for short term help for hot flashes and other menopause symptoms, but some sellers push long term use to make women feel younger longer. What the sellers are offering is bioidentical hormones allegedly the same as the body produces for women's needs. These products are compounded or made in drug stores to a doctor's specifications.

Like traditional HT, they can increase blood clots, breast cancer, heart disease and strokes that grow with long term use.

Some claim way to maximize health. Sellers here promoted higher use of vitamins and minerals injected into the blood stream. The claim is that they can enhance immunity, detoxify the body and even fight infection. (Celebrities love this one.)

The vitamins and minerals are given intravenously. Nutrients won't do much for you except lighten your wallet and they may harm you.

The cost is $75 to $150 per shot.

OK, that's a look at anti-aging "miracles." For me, I'll stick to my daily hour or more of exercise and my evening martini with cheese and crackers. Plus aerobics three times a week.

Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.