Inside the billion-dollar meeting for the mega-rich who want to live forever (MIT Tech Review)

“Who wants to live forever?” The immortal words of Freddie Mercury blast from the speakers as blue lights swivel around the room and a smoky mist floats up from the stage in front of me. If the audience is anything to go by, the answer to his question is: the mega rich.

All conference attendees were handed a gift bag with at least two containers of supplements. In mine, I found 60 days’ worth of “purity” supplements and a small tub of the resveratrol-containing booster supplement.

Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, was one of the scientists in attendance. He finds it concerning. In the past, he says, he took the line that the sale of most supplements was “good for the economy” and not much else—essentially a harmless waste of money. But today, plenty of companies are leaning on science to develop supplements designed to target biological functions that seem to be linked to aging.

We don’t know exactly what these supplements are doing. None have been through rigorous clinical trials. “You don’t know how they are interacting with each other … I’m worried that we don’t know what they are doing.” says Barzilai.

Evelyne Bischof of the Shanghai University of Medicine, who was also at the meeting, shares some of the same concerns. Bischof is trained as a medical doctor; after specializing in oncology and internal medicine, she turned her attention to longevity medicine. Today, she offers personalized treatments that she hopes will extend the health span of her patients in the US and China.

She has treated people who have become ill after taking longevity supplements. “They came to me almost in kidney failure in their 30s, because they jumped on a very high dose of supplements and it was just not good for them,” she says.

I do like Dr. Bischoff’s approach towards personally testing new therapeutics:

That being said, Bischof herself is self-experimenting with potential longevity treatments. “It made sense for me,” she says. So is Barzilai. He says he is doing so “as a scientist”—he’ll have blood tests taken before and after trying anything new, he says. “I want to maximize my health, so I’m experimenting with some things that I don’t care to talk about,” he says. “And by the way, I’m doing it with a doctor.”

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One very large hand… with many, many fingers :wink:

I’m moderately pro supplement (but with care), but they are not risk free:

An analysis of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) records revealed that, from January 2004 to April 2015, about 1,000 people ages 25 and younger had a health issue linked to dietary supplements. About 40% of them were categorized as severe problems, resulting in 166 hospitalizations and 22 deaths. And those numbers may only be the “tip of the iceberg,” the authors write, since many issues go unreported.

People taking vitamins or supplements are more likely to die over a given period than people not taking them, a new study from Finland says, adding weight to recent findings from the U.S. along those lines.

In the new study, researchers gathered data on nearly 1,800 people between the ages of 62 and 74 who were participating in a prospective, population health study of the residents of one town in Finland.

Over a 10-year period, 59 of the 221 people (26.6 percent) taking a vitamin or supplement died, whereas 281 of the 1,553 people (18.1 percent) of the nonusers died.

In the first study of its kind, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers estimated that 23,000 people end up in the emergency room each year suffering from heart palpitations, chest pain, choking or other problems after ingesting dietary supplements. Most of those patients were young adults, children or the elderly.

While that number is a small fraction — just 5 percent — of the number of ER visits involving pharmaceuticals, the issue is a cause for concern because the market for herbal and complementary nutritional products remains largely unregulated.