‘I had never known that the world was beautiful until I reached old age.” Alvise Cornaro (1467 – 1566) in The art of living long.
The Fountain of Youth, a myth persistent in the human imagination throughout the ages, was at times a river, or a spring, or any other water source that reversed the aging process and cured sickness when drunk or bathed in. We can’t blame Herodotus for dreaming about it, as did the Chinese and the Arabs (who created the word “elixir”). You can’t blame people for dreaming, and you can’t blame the Chinese emperors for sending explorers to look for the fountain of youth. Whoever went searching for it, came back empty-handed.
But you can blame people for falling once and again for snake oil in the XXI century when we should know better.
The fountain of Youth, by Lucas Cranach the Elder, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30264218
Let’s have a look at the modern era elixirs of youth.
In 1993 the American Academy of Anti-Age Medicine (A4M) was established by 12 practitioners; now it probably has thousands. The A4M has dedicated itself to “addressing the phenomenon of aging as a treatable disease.’ And make money. An MD, or a DO, or whatever title does not necessarily indicate the possession of a strong conscience or ethical rectitude.
Long before 1993, you could find “doctors” that replaced the old gonads in old people with those of young (usually executed) ones or, if there were none handy, with animal gonads. There are even yukkier stories but I will spare you. Did they tell their patients that they were experimenting on them while the surgeon was making money? If the patient died, there were plenty of possible explanations. The patients may have died, but they died feeling younger!
Since then, scientific-sounding proposals for everlasting youth have proliferated.
Human growth hormone (HGH) is a substance secreted by the pituitary gland that promotes growth during childhood and adolescence. Growth hormone acts on the liver and other tissues to stimulate the production of insulin-like growth factor I, which is responsible for the growth-promoting effects of growth hormone and also reflects the amount produced. Blood levels of circulating IGF-I tend to decrease as people age or become obese. A lot of stuff decreases as we age, but it does not follow that adding A (or Z) will make you younger. HGH has been advertised as a medically proven plan ‘‘to lose fat, gain muscle, enhance your sex life, decrease wrinkles, prevent disease, and reverse the aging process.’’ The FDA has prohibited the use of HGH as antiaging. Indeed, HGH does not improve performance and side effects can be nasty. The whole thing is a fiasco, one more blot in the history of quack medicine.
Mid 1990’s: the turn for dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). During the 1960s, the metabolism of DHEA was studied: it was shown that DHEA is the most abundant circulating steroid hormone in the human body and that its concentration in the blood declined steadily with age. Grandiose declarations were not followed by convincing data, on the contrary. Still, in 2005 there were about half a million people consuming DHEA. But taking DHEA doesn’t work, as some people who took it proved by dying after their bodies failed prematurely. Have a look at the episode “Dying to be young” of Dr. G.
Even when something “makes sense” it does not mean that it works. You still need to do the experiment. In the case of a multiyear experiment, that means waiting for the data.
In the case of menopausal hormone therapy, a.k.a. “hormone replacement therapy” or HRT, (a name that is in itself an advertisement), it seems like common sense to top up on the hormones that nature is taking away from you. Recover your femininity! Stay young! HRT is still a popular anti-aging method in some states of the US, irrespective of bad news. “The primary outcome was coronary heart disease (CHD) (nonfatal myocardial infarction and CHD death), with invasive breast cancer as the primary adverse outcome. A global index summarizing the balance of risks and benefits included the 2 primary outcomes plus stroke, pulmonary embolism (PE), endometrial cancer, colorectal cancer, hip fracture, and death due to other causes.” (Rossouw, AU et al, 2002). One of the nastiest types of breast cancer, invasive lobular breast cancer, is associated with HRT. As we age, DNA mutations accumulate, and if those mutations are in genes related to the regulation of cell division, and the cells respond to hormones in the HRT cocktail, you got yourself a perfect storm. The cancer cells will divide so quickly that by the time the tumor is detected it will have spread to the rest of the body. Maybe it is antiaging because you don’t get to age!
How about caloric restriction? It works on experimental animals, but we don’t have any good data for humans. Caloric restriction benefits many health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, cancers, and neurologic disorders (De Cabo & Mattson, 2019). It takes a lot of discipline to achieve health and lifespan improvements using this method, so we hope that scientists will be able to find a trick that will make the body think you are using caloric restriction while you enjoy your ice cream. The good news is that for human skin there seems to be such a trick. Please read about sirtuins and NAD in my blog here.
One by one, the “remedies” to aging that humans have imagined are been shown to be as elusive as the Fountain of Youth. Doctors who claim to have the ability to measure “biomarkers of aging” and extend life by manipulating them, don’t have scientific evidence on their side. For more information on these types of claims, see quackwatch.org and its affiliated websites.
What Skin Actives can do for you
If you are reaching menopause and are not ready to see your skin and hair age practically overnight, there are some options. For example, you can go for skin and hair care products that will slow down, and even reverse, aging of skin and hair. Soy isoflavones will help a lot, as will nutrients such as collagen peptides, hyaluronic acid, and various vitamins.
For hair, try our Hair Care Serum, it will stop hair loss and give you back some volume; look for apigenin in the ingredient list. We also offer a serum to recover eyelashes and eyebrows. Be careful with the shampoo you use: you don’t need the bubbles, and if the bubbles are there because of sodium lauryl sulfate, the price you will pay will be further hair loss. When it comes to your hair conditioner, look for nutrition for your scalp. We use Sea Kelp Coral for that and for softness as well.
For lips, see our Lip Care Kit, full of nutrients that nature denies to the lips of women over fifty. You can also try our Anti-Aging Cream, it contains a bit of everything and it works. This very complex cream contains soy isoflavones and resveratrol, which, among all of their properties, include the increase of phytoestrogenic activity.
Our Anti-Aging Cream contains soy isoflavones and resveratrol, but if you are over fifty you may need even more help. The new Elixir10 Phytoestrogen Booster is a mix of botanical extracts that can supply your skin and scalp with beneficial chemicals that will bind to the estrogen receptors left vacant by menopause.
Phytoestrogens are plant chemicals that can interact with two of the most important receptors of steroid hormones: the sex hormone-binding globulin and the cytosolic estrogen receptor. The chemical structure of phytoestrogens may vary greatly from estradiol, but a part of the molecule is similar enough to human estrogen to fool the receptor. For SAS Elixir 10, we are using botanical extracts standardized for chemicals with estrogenic properties. As a bonus, many of these chemicals have other beneficial properties, including antioxidant and anticancer activities, and protection from UV damage. The ingredients are soybean genistein, flax lignans, wild yam diosgenin, soybean daidzein, licorice extract, luteolin, resveratrol, apigenin, phloretin, kudzu puerarin. Please note that the beneficial properties listed below are on top of the estrogenic properties.
Cagnacci, A., & Venier, M. (2019). The Controversial History of Hormone Replacement Therapy. Medicina, 55(9), 602. doi:10.3390/medicina55090602
Rossouw, AU, JE, Anderson GL, Prentice RL, LaCroix AZ, Kooperberg C, Stefanick ML, Jackson RD, Beresford SA, Howard BV, Johnson KC, Kotchen JM, Ockene J, Risks and benefits of estrogen plus progestin in healthy postmenopausal women: principal results From the Women’s Health Initiative randomized controlled trial.Writing Group for the Women’s Health Initiative Investigators SOJAMA. 2002;288(3):321.
Hauray, B., & Dalgalarrondo, S. (2018). Incarnation and the dynamics of medical promises: DHEA as a fountain of youth hormone. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine, 136345931876943. doi:10.1177/1363459318769437
Haber, C. (2004). Anti-Aging Medicine: The History: Life Extension and History: The Continual Search for the Fountain of Youth. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 59(6), B515–B522. doi:10.1093/gerona/59.6.b515
Butler, R. N., Fossel, M., Harman, S. M., Heward, C. B., Olshansky, S. J., Perls, T. T., … Wright, W. E. (2002). Is There an Antiaging Medicine? The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 57(9), B333–B338. doi:10.1093/gerona/57.9.b333
De Cabo, R., & Mattson, M. P. (2019). Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging, and Disease. New England Journal of Medicine, 381(26), 2541–2551. doi:10.1056/nejmra1905136
Elixir of life in Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elixir_of_life