320 pages | Buy this book
Reading this book won’t make you any younger, but you will learn a lot about getting old. The race to find today’s fountain of youth—which is a story of scientists, investors, pharmaceutical companies, and lab rats—is getting close to real results. For example, drugs that mimic caloric restriction have shown an increase of up to 50 percent in longevity. Stipp leaves you where the research is, “at the brink,” and wondering when an FDA-approved youth pill will finally arrive.
Who doesn’t want to live a longer, happier life? In 2006, when Stipp first broke the news that resveratrol—a chemical with antioxidant properties found in red wine—resulted in anti-aging effects in mice, wine drinkers (and vineyards) rejoiced. Red wine has only grown in popularity since; antioxidant supplements are now a $3 billion-a-year industry. But there’s far more to living longer than just good booze: a youth pill might some day help us rein in our medical spending and help us deal with rising obesity rates.
With coverage in Fortune, Nature, The Washington Post, Popular Science, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, and dozens of other publications, The Youth Pill is a hot topic.
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Journalist David Stipp has written about science, medicine, the environment, and biotech for Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, and Science.
“Gerontologists sense that their field is finally in a position to develop medicines that truly slow aging. This book is the story of how it all happened” (page 5).
1. This is serious stuff. Maybe the idea of a youth pill sounds strange, but consider that old folks seeking a “miracle elixir” in the late 19th century were injected with testicular grafts from apes, dogs, goats, and guinea pigs (page 9).
2. The race is on. The science can be confusing, but the bottom line is that several contenders are vying to produce the next anti-aging drug. Antioxidants, the most well-known (like vitamins C and E), combat free radicals that damage cells. Some labs are still testing resveratrol. Other calorie-restriction mimetics (like the drug rapamycin) may be the more promising option.
3. It’s about more than living forever. Anti-aging drugs will do more than help you live a longer and healthier life. In mammals, the drugs have shown to slow down the onset of tumors and may help deal with many diseases at once—especially those associated with obesity. And if present trends continue, 86 percent of U.S. adults will be obese by 2030, so there will be more need than ever (page 258).
The strongest parts of his book come when Stipp offers his opinion about the crazy things going on at these labs. His profiles of centenarians and in-depth looks at naked mole rats break up the sometimes drab reporting on the race for a youth pill.
The back-cover quotes include Nobel laureate Dr. Phillip Sharp and founding directors, presidents, and CEOs of national aging-research centers. Two of them were his interview subjects from his reporting at Fortune magazine.
Prose: Stipp does a great job of explaining the scientific research and why it’s important with humorous qualifiers like “mom-wowing gerontogene discovery” (page 87).
Jargon: There are a number of acronyms and terms that could have made it very difficult for the reader to get lost. Fortunately, there are notes and an index. As a bonus, you get a refresher course in molecular biology.
Bottom Line: At 320 pages, it runs a bit long but does a good job of providing a thorough history of aging research.