What if we all live another decade? or two?

June 1, 2009 by  
Filed under health

Last Sunday night, my family gathered around the television for our customary 7:00pm viewing of “60 Minutes”. The third segment featured a science story on Resveratrol, a drug now in the testing stage that would “slow the genes that control the aging process.” Hmmm….Now that I’m on my way to fifty, my ears and eyes pricked up. There was trusted journalist Morley Safer, telling us that this pill which harnesses the powers of the chemical compounds of red wine, can actually slow down the inevitable aging train. We can “forget dieting, the sweaty business of working out – just pop a pill and you are in guilt-free couch potato paradise.”

Wait a minute. What gives? How can a simple pill take the place of all the years of sweat equity we’ve been building? What about that balanced diet? Those anti-oxidents?

If you were lucky enough to view the whole segment, you would see the scale balanced back to a skeptical tone about Resveratrol. (The drug is now in a trial process. As Morley noted, even though Resveratrol had significant impact on the longevity of an overweight rat, nine times out of ten, conclusive studies on rats do not translate to human clinical trials.) Nevertheless, I phoned one of my partner’s-in crime (www.oomphtv.com Exec Producer David Dowell) and told him about the story. We posted the YouTube version the next day, which you can find under “Science With oomph!” on our site.

Within a day or two, I logged onto CBSnews.com to see gauge the public’s reaction to the story. “Fantastic!” noted one. “This is amazing. Bravo to 60 Minutes!” read another. The YouTube edited piece can be interpreted as an infomercial on Resveratrol. There wasn’t one negative element mentioned in the cut down piece, thus, the debate about the drug and it’s major social implications and consequences is left to us.

How would your life change if you could pop a pill and extend your life for a decade or two? Given the preliminary preventative findings about the drug (with respect to lowering rates of diabetes, Alzheimers, heart disease, and other age-related diseases) would you cancel your gym membership? Go back to white flour? Ignore the saturated fat content listed on that package of Oreos which you haven’t bought for how many years?

Funnily enough, it seems to me that we can already do some of the things that Resveratrol promises by following what the medical community has been prescribing for ages. Nutrition. Exercise. Sleep. Combat stress. Even if Resveratrol came on the market in the next few years (scientists say it will be available within five, to be exact) I would continue the healthful habits that have become routine for me. Sound nutrition makes me feel better. I actually enjoy working out. And who can argue with a wonderful nap?

It’s another thing altogether to really start processing how this drug could impact our world. My seventeen-year-old has already voiced her concerns about the impact of this drug on the environment. My twenty -year- old is critical of the fact that the SSI taxes withheld from her summer internship is going to support those currently collecting social security, which, as we all acknowledge, probably won’t be available to our children. I’ve thought about under what circumstances I would want to stick around for another twenty years. What about lifestyle? (Where are all these centenarians going to live?) What about work? Transportation? Will we all be able to reinvent ourselves at ninety? Support ourselves for years on end? The questions are endless. All I know is that the thought of living another large chunk of time is one to be debated, pondered, and even planned for.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for living a healthy old age. I just think it naive for us to march to the one note drum of longevity without concerning ourselves with the vast implications Resveratrol could bring.

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