If it’s Tuesday, then the fountain of youth can be found in apples, optimism, red wine and possibly avoirdupois. If it’s Wednesday, you’re better off being crabby and skipping vitamins.
As anyone who follows media knows, science abounds with studies of longevity, because most of us, including scientists, hope to lead a full, rich and, above all, lengthy life. But the science of longevity is rife with controversy and contradictions, in part because it is difficult to study life span in organisms that live for many years, including people. So scientists typically turn to shorter-lived creatures like nematodes, fruit flies, lab mice and yeast.
From studies on these subjects, scientists have learned much, including that people are not yeast. Nutrients and pharmaceuticals that extend life in one creature or lab show few if any effects in another. And perhaps most insidiously, some seeming breakthroughs have turned out to be Faustian: They lengthen lives but don’t slow aging. Animals in that situation live long but not well, beset by frailty, illness, and senescence but not death.
The grail of longevity research remains that elusive drug, food, personality trait or lifestyle change that will prolong robust, healthy life. It’s not here yet. But it’s only Sunday.