Like it or not, “anti-aging” now has a number of quite different common meanings and connotations. Each is championed by a particular group or loose coalition of interests, but advocates for these groups have a way of diving into the fray without defining their terms. This makes reading about anti-aging techniques, technologies, medicine, products, and debates very confusing for the newcomer.
For the scientific community, anti-aging research refers exclusively to slowing, preventing, or reversing the aging process. There is no medical technology that allows this to be done – although the jury is still out on calorie restriction in humans. Nor is there any currently available method (short of waiting for people to die) to accurately measure the effects of an alleged anti-aging therapy.
In the medical and more reputable business community, anti-aging medicine means early detection, prevention, and reversal of age-related diseases. This is quite different from tackling the aging process itself, and a wide array of strategies and therapies are currently available. Calorie restriction, for example, is a demonstrated way to lower risk for a wide range of age-related degenerative conditions.
The wider business community – including a great many fraudulent and frivolous ventures – views “anti-aging” as a valuable brand and a demonstrated way to increase sales. At the worse end of the scale, this leads to snake oil salesmen, “anti-aging” cremes that may or may not make your skin look younger, and infomercials that tout the “anti-aging” benefits of exercise machines. Broadly, and very charitably, we can look at these varied definitions of anti-aging as meaning “to look and feel younger in some way” – which has no bearing on how long you live or how healthy you actually are.
The confusion of most interest is between the first two definitions. Many interventions lengthen life span for individuals by preventing or curing specific age-related diseases that would otherwise prove fatal. For example, ask yourself whether preventing heart disease or diabetes is anti-aging medicine. This would have no effect on the aging process, but it would help many people to live longer, healthier lives. Is this anti-aging research? Scientists say no, some medical and business groups say yes.