The anti-aging movement is a social movement devoted to eliminating or reversing aging, or reducing the effects of it. A substantial portion of the attention of the movement is on the possibilities for life extension, but there is also interest in techniques such as cosmetic surgery which ameliorate the effects of aging rather than delay or defeat it.
Two popular proponents of the anti-aging movement include Ray Kurzweil, who thinks humanity can defeat aging through the advance of technology, and Aubrey De Grey, who advocates that the human body is a very complicated machine and thus, can be repaired indefinitely. Other scientists and significant contributors to the movement include molecular biologists, geneticists, and biomedical gerontologists such as Gary Ruvkun, Cynthia Kenyon, and Arthur D. Levinson. However, figures in the gerontology community in 2003 tried to distance their research from the perceived pseudoscience of the movement.
Anti-aging medicine has become a budding and rapidly growing medical specialty as physicians who initially sought treatment for themselves have received training and certification in its practice by organizations such as the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M).
Central to anti-aging medicine is administration of human growth hormone. Clinical studies have shown that low-dose growth hormone (GH) treatment for adults with GH deficiency changes the body composition by increasing muscle mass, decreasing fat mass, and increasing bone density and muscle strength. It also improves cardiovascular parameters (i.e. decrease of LDL cholesterol) and affects the quality of life without significant side effects. However, it is also said to have potentially dangerous side-effects when used in injectable form, if proper protocols are not followed. It is not approved for use in healthy aging patients, though many have been using it for this reason for decades now. That restriction is sidestepped by means of a diagnosis of some injury or organic condition, adult growth hormone deficiency, which supposedly has resulted in reduced secretion of the hormone.
Administration of estrogen and other hormones such as progestin were popularized by the 1966 book Feminine Forever by Robert A. Wilson. However, the increase of the use of estrogen was shown to be associated with an increased risk of cancer. Later, in 2002, research into the long-term effects of estrogen on post-menopausal women, the Women’s Health Initiative, produced evidence that there were serious side effects. Physicians who prescribe the hormones now prescribe low doses of the drugs. Research into the long-term effects of hormone replacement therapy are continuing, with a 2009 Cochrane review concluding that long-term use may decrease the risk of bone fractures, but increase the risk of stroke, heart attacks and breast cancer.
An annual conference is held which, in addition to presentations by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M), offers booths and presentations by manufactures of products and providers of services. The 17th annual conference was held December 9–12, 2009 at the THEhotel at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada. According to the A4M website, key conference topics included the following:Alternative cancer therapies
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy
Weight Management including non-invasive procedures for obesity
DNA mitochondrial repair
Infectious disease and restoring the immune system
Exercise physiology for seniors
Hormone restoration in men and women
IV parenteral nutrition
Biogerontology is a scientific discipline which has the same area of interest but, as a branch of gerontology, takes a more conservative approach.
Age Management Medicine distinguishes itself from anti-aging by being a more evidence based, proactive, preventative approach to healthcare for an aging population focused on preservation of optimum human function and quality of life making every effort to modulate the process of aging prior to the onset of degenerative aging. Age Management Medicine is led by the Age Management Medicine Group (AMMG), which provides education and information on the specialty of Age Management Medicine to physicians and healthcare professionals through evidence-based continuing medical education conferences, workshops, seminars, certifications, publications and web media.
A substantial fraction of older people, taking their cue from alternative medicine, purchase and use herbal supplements and other products which promise relief from the incidents and dangers of aging. Some products are not effective while others hold promise.
There are at least two opposite views on the prospects of anti-aging research and development. One group states that there is a great deal of over-heated rhetoric in use with respect to life extension with over-optimistic projections on the part of its advocates. They also claim that there is little evidence that any significant breakthrough has been made, or is on the horizon. Some state that, this is largely due to a current lack of funding or interest in the issue. A study of the common supplements and hormone treatments used published in 2006 in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine showed that none of them are effective with respect to extending life. Another group notices that recent scientific successes in rejuvenation and extending the lifespan of model animals (mice 2.5 times, yeast and nematodes 10 times) and discovery of variety of species (including humans of advanced ages) having negligible senescence give hope to achieve negligible senescence (cancel ageing) for younger humans, reverse ageing, or at least significantly delay it. Moreover, stopping or delaying aging should be a focus of the modern science and medicine since ageing is the major cause of mortality in the world.
Though some scientists think curing aging is impossible, there are some criticisms of both the time frame life extensionists envision (the first, perhaps somewhat crude, treatments within the next several decades, or at least before the beginning of the 22nd century) and of whether curing aging is even desirable. Common criticisms of the idea of life extension are fears it will cause the world to be more overpopulated; however De Grey counters that by saying that since menopause would also be delayed, women could wait longer to have children and thus, the rate of growth would actually decline as a result. Also, the slowly growing population would buy centuries of time to figure out new places to live, such as space colonies.