For people who see growing old in negative terms, anti-ageing treatments are understandably attractive when they claim to reverse the signs of ageing and prevent disease.
However, these treatments – which can include hormone therapies, supplements such as resveratrol, and antioxidants such as vitamins and minerals – have raised a number of concerns.
For instance, the reasoning behind some treatments may be based on an incorrect view of ageing. Rather than looking for a magic pill to hold back the years, the research now shows that medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes aren’t a natural part of getting older.
In fact you can experience ‘healthy ageing’ and be disease-free for many years. This is best achieved by adopting lifestyles such as not smoking, healthy eating and regular exercise.
What the research says
Another important concern is that the research isn’t good enough to support the claims made about anti-ageing treatments. Some studies, particularly in animals, have found positive results, but overall the impact on humans from these treatments is often unknown.
Even worse, there may be a potential for harm with hormone therapies. Hormones are powerful chemical messengers.
Produced by your glands, they enter the blood and instruct different cells on what to do. Many hormones decline naturally as you get older. The idea behind anti-ageing is to stop the decline. Here’s what our research shows on some of the commonly used hormone therapies.
- Human growth hormone (HGH) is essential for normal growth and development when you’re young. But there’s no proof from the research that taking it as an adult for anti-ageing is helpful. It may also cause side effects such as diabetes, joint pain and heart problems.
- Testosterone is a sex hormone mostly found in males that peaks during puberty. Studies are inconclusive on therapy for adult men with testosterone levels at the lower end of the normal range. In addition, it may double your risk of a stroke or heart attack.
- Oestrogen and progesterone are female sex hormones. They decrease naturally when menopause starts, usually at 45-55 years old. Taking these hormones can help reduce menopause symptoms such as hot flushes and osteoporosis (bone thinning), but may also be associated with an increased risk of heart disease and breast cancer.
- Dehyroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a basic hormone that’s converted into testosterone and oestrogen in men and women, which peaks in your mid-20s. Studies aren’t clear on whether taking it helps with anti-ageing and some evidence shows a possible increased risk of liver damage.
For more information
- See your GP
- Visit www.nia.nih.gov