When navigating the world of anti-aging techniques it is crucial that we keep our wits about us. Not everything is what it seems. Not even when seven Nobel prize winners are backing it.
As 2017 has kicked into full swing, critics have been assailing seven Nobel prize winners and two dozen high profile scientists for lending their names to an anti-aging supplement.
Elysium Health is the company marketing $50-dollar-a-month subscriptions to anti-aging supplement Basis. The trouble comes in when you realise that this supplement has only been found to work in mice. Furthermore, supplement regulations only stipulate that:
- the substance must be safe for human consumption and
- not make false health claims
When you examine the Basis packaging you will notice that the company has stuck to making vague health claims such as the supplement will “optimize your health” and “support the long-term health of your cells.”
At this point you may be asking yourself – well ok, but so what? Many supplements have similar claims.
The difference is that this New York supplement company has the backing of some serious scientific names. And this will lead people to believe that the supplement has more to it than the packaging claims.
So Why Have These Scientists Lent Their Credibility To The Supplement?
Jeffrey Flier is an expert in metabolism and the Former Harvard Medical School dean. He is one of the critics that has spoken out against the list of 35 scientists who have lent their name to the supplement. He told MIT Technology Review that the scientists are being short sighted:
“Some of these people may think that they’re being asked to do this because of their deep insights. That’s the part that’s a joke. They’re not. They are part of a marketing scheme where their names and reputations are being used.”
Flier is far from their only critic:
A number of scientists have taken to Twitter to put pressure on the advisors to resign. Last month one published an open letter arguing that the board members were being exploited.
Lenny Teytelman is the CEO of protocols.io, a repository of scientific protocols. He circulated the letter, which read:
“With Elysium prominently featuring each of you on their website, there is a sense of scientific gravitas and anti-aging promise that is unheard of in this industry.”
Since the complaints have come to light, several of Elysium’s scientific advisory board members have said that their involvement should not be seen as an endorsement of the company or its pills.
Thomas C. Südhof is a Stanford University neurophysiologist who won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. He says: “The SAB [scientific advisory board] does NOT endorse the products of Elysium. Its sole role is to advise Elysium on the development and testing of its compounds.”
Well, what more do you need to know?
What Does Elysium Have To Say?
MIT professor Leonard Guarente co-founded Elysium two years ago. He is a prominent anti-aging researcher who studies genes called sirtuins. He has shown that these genes can extend the life of laboratory organisms. It could take years to prove whether or not sirtuins can help people. However, it has been shown that sirtuins can be activated by molecules already sold as supplements.
As a result, Guarente decided to help create Elysium and offer his own supplement mixture. He believes that he can then use profits to follow up with scientific studies of the pill’s effects on humans. Saying:
“We wanted to take the fastest route to test the compounds. And determine whether they would improve human health. We intend to really make this company be based on rigorous science.”
So, perhaps in a few years Elysium will have an effective anti-aging treatment on their hands. But for now it is important that we all use this as a case study in the impact of marketing.
We encourage you not to be taken in by cleverly worded claims, or by credible names. Always do the research before you invest in a product.