Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

 You are in:  Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Friday, 22 February, 2002, 10:16 GMT
Anti-ageing drugs: Would you take them?
Scientists have rejuvenated ageing rats by giving them a cocktail of dietary supplements.

The breakthrough raises hopes that it might one day be possible to develop an anti-ageing drug for humans.

The rats were given two natural chemicals available in health food stores to the animals - which were in the rat equivalent of their seventies.

Lead researcher, Bruce Ames said: "With the two supplements together, these old rats got up and did the Macarena."

The researchers estimate that the effect on the rats was the equivalent of making a 75 to 80-year-old person act middle-aged.

Would you take the drug cocktail to prevent ageing? Is it a scientific breakthrough?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

One of the main active ingredients occurs naturally in broccoli

Matthew, UK
If you do a little research on the actual ingredients they used in their cocktail, it isn't actually anything very exotic. One of the main active ingredients occurs naturally and is found in broccoli, spinach and cereals. Sadly, I'm sure that a lot of people would rather take a "miracle" pill than switch to a healthier lifestyle.
Matthew, UK

I would like to know whether these wonder pills will prevent senility. What good is a young and health body if you have lost your marbles?
Steve, UK

Agreed, immortality has more than its share of drawbacks. The thing that terrifies me, though, is the thought of going senile - Larkin was nastily spot-on about death when he said "Most things may never happen: this one will." But I'd take any number of drugs to avoid "the whole hideous inverted childhood" whilst waiting.
Dan Ruelev, UK

We are all just a blip on the timeline of 12 billion years of universal history. Accept this as a matter of physics and nature. In any case, the Earth's resources are rapidly becoming depleted.
Mervyn, Exeter, Devon, England

What's the matter with staying as you are?

Una, Latvia
Of course I would. Let's face it, people are not afraid of being old because of the age itself but because they are afraid to change. What's the matter with staying as you are?
Una, Latvia

It will probably be those rich "Hollywood" types who have all the spare money to get ridiculous cosmetic surgery done who will be at the front of the queue. With the botox injections, Viagra, Xenical (fat loss) pills, sunlamps, etc, we end up with a lot of old people who look younger in a phoney type of way. No healthy outlook - just loads of pills for this and that as well as the surgeons knife. Meanwhile millions of poor people are having their lives shortened by Aids. What a world!
Tim Watson, Australia

I aim to grow old disgracefully anyway but any help would be gratefully accepted!
Adrian, UK

I take regular exercise, and participate in outside group activities. The fresh air and routine exercise is all I need to stay as young as I feel! No anti-ageing drug will give the same 'feel good' factor as taking part in a football or netball match. I think these type of pills should stay in the realms of comic books and sci-fi.
Katherine Fisher, UK

If I can have eyes that see as they did 20 years ago, ears that hear as they did 20 years ago, joints that move like they did then, plus as much hair and as slim a waistline ... then I might consider it!
p, UK

I only hope I can afford it.

Sophie, UK
I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't want to take them! If it promised immortality, I can understand why one might question doing so, but in an age where people are marrying and having children later, a dietary supplement that enables you to enjoy your children, and be there for them into your old age rather than a dribbling burden, is virtually irresistible! I only hope I can afford it.
Sophie, UK

Is this a good idea? I'd agree with Dylan Thomas: "Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light"
Mike, UK

A lot of people on here say that "population growth" would be a problem, but then if you look at the statistics most people don't die from old age, its disease. Longer life expectancy doesn┐t mean much, you can expect any thing, doesn┐t mean you will get it.
Peter, UK

Well, I'm only 25, so I can afford to wait until they're absolutely proven safe!
Alastair Stevens, UK

There is so much in the world to learn,

Paul Charters, England
If I could stay young, healthy and vigorous for thousands of years I would. There is so much in the world to learn, to understand and to appreciate, and never enough time and energy in life to get to do a tenth of the things we want to. If you want someone to see if it works - pick me!
Paul Charters, England

Interestingly I find taking supplements already significantly enhances my quality of life although doctors say they have no effect. I would certainly take others.... and well before doctors agree which is usually about 20 years after everyone else.... bit like acupuncture
Neil, UK

I would imagine these are the much hyped super-anti-oxidants that everyone is currently chucking down their necks. If they really do manage to extend youth and prolong life, we will have to have a think on matters such as retirement age. Imagine being told that you will retire when you are 90, what a nightmare. But population growth does not appear to be a problem. In countries where life expectancy is high, the birth rates drop almost in line. The only down side, we'll all be old and cynical and we'll still only be young upstarts.
Matt, Amsterdam, Netherlands (ex. UK)

Developments such as this are, if true, likely to lead to in indirect form of social engineering! Most likely only the rich western world will be able to afford the treatment/s. Thus you end up with a further distorted wealth distribution. Its possible that we'll end up with a rich old population in the west and a disenfranchised 'young' population in the rest of the world. Were this to happen it would make the worst sort of science fiction nightmares come true. I for one hope the so-called breakthrough turns out to be a false one. We do not at present have the collective wisdom and humanity to handle the power and responsibilities presented.
Owen Cullum, England

Speak for yourself Richard T. Ketchum of the USA. You may quiver and quake at the thought of death, but I don't. If you think death equals extinction then I can certainly see that you would want to do anything and everything to prolong this life, no matter how miserable it may be, since by your understanding any life is better than no life at all. But when you know what death really is you don't fear it, you welcome it as a natural and proper part of the cycle. And no this is not bravado speaking and nor am I religious.
B Roberts, UK

Not only will I take them, but so will all of those who are now saying they won't. It is easy to refuse a longer life in the abstract, but when you are actually faced with dying it will be different.
Richard T. Ketchum, USA

I doubt that these food supplements would significantly increase our lifespan. What they might do, though, is improve our health and vigour so that we may live more comfortably, actively and fruitfully in our later years. If we are healthy old people, we can be productive old people who are more able to support themselves.
Colin Samson, United Kingdom

I want to be a Party Pensioner!

Mark, UK
This place we call home may just be a sojourn on our journey through eternity, but just in case, I would like to spend my time here as healthy and happy as possible. I have no problem with death, but I do with the effects of old age. I want to be a Party Pensioner!
Mark, UK

It depends if the drugs make you live longer or prolong your youth. Personally I would not want to live any longer than I'm going to, but if the drugs allowed me to live a more active life in old age and continue to do the sporting activities I currently do I'd definitely welcome them.
Roger Robinson, UK

Might I point out to Roger Robinson that the likelihood of his "living longer than he's going to" is, by definition, zero.
A. Pedant, England

On the face of it, this is a brilliant idea as it could relieve the pain and loss of independence that are part and parcel of growing old.
However, we already have a world population problem, and if people stopped dying naturally, surely this would just be compounded. It's a dream come true, but sadly it is also unworkable.
Dan, UK

If it would prolong active life then yes, I would take it. The thing that terrifies me is not dying, but of living for 20 years as a physical and/or mental wreck incapable of independence.
Kate Corwyn, UK

Humans will never live forever. Our life expectancy may be tampered with genetically but we would only get a few more year or a decade extra. If a pill is available to make the later years of my life as active and illness free as it is now when I am in my thirties, yes, I would take it. I don't want to live forever but I do want to keep playing badminton the day before I die.
Satu, UK

Definitely. My Grandmother is 70. She is as fit as a fiddle and still working. I would love her to still be around to see her great great grandchildren.
Jessica, London, England

As long as the drugs on offer do not become exclusive

James, England
As long as the drugs on offer do not become exclusive. Just imagine the waves of friends popping off as your longevity increases and theirs does not. If it could allow my wife and I to tick over for a few more years then sure. Why ever not?
My Granny at 94 years old has more experiences and tales than you could shake a stick at. She is itching to learn more every day but it is finding life a little harder every day now she has fewer friends to call on. Just imagine if she still had her old crowd around. What a laugh they would all have!
James, England

As long as the drugs on offer do not become exclusive.

I would happily take anti-ageing drugs, but not necessarily those to extend life. I don't know that I want to live longer than my friends/peers, but I would want to be healthy and active till I pop off.
A Lee, UK

I have no desire to do the Macarena, either now or in my dotage!
Steve, UK

The idea of growing old gracefully taking drugs like these rats does appeal to me, but I am rather put off by the long whiskers, huge ears and long tail!
Martin, England

Who wants to live to 120 years old? Someone who's 119 of course. Where do I sign up?
Fraser, Scotland

I welcome any developments that may give the elderly a better standard of life. I don't worry about whether I'll die in my nineties or my seventies but rather about how much my quality of life and independence will decrease in my later years.
Rachel, UK

With the dire forecasts for retirement income, the lack of young workers coming through to pay my future State pension, with my current defined benefit scheme under threat, my few stock market investments falling daily, I think I need to start rejuvenating myself now so I will be fit enough to carry on working past current normal retirement age!
Trish Auciello, UK

I can't think of anything worse - I am assuming that the supplements would suddenly become extremely expensive, and so it could be that you could afford them, but other friends and family can't, so you could watch them all die. It could be a very lonely place!
Paula, UK

Would I take anti-aging drugs? Too right!

Tim McNulty, Isle Of Man
Would I take anti-aging drugs? Too right! Who in their right minds wants to die early or spend the last 20-40 years of their lives plagued by the effects of old age?
Tim McNulty, Isle Of Man

Life is miserable enough knowing that a working class person will struggle to succeed. Nepotism, social divisions and disharmony, is ever present. If I live longer I will probably witness the total collapse of society. Not nice.
Vhora, UK

This place is not meant to be permanent - just a sojourn!

M Maguire, UK
Who the hell wants to live to a ripe old age. I can't think of anything more horrific. What on earth are you going to do all those years? Not to mention how are you going to support yourself. And what about the problems of population growth and limited resources that this would massively exacerbate? No, personally I welcome death when it comes as a release from this World. Are you all so terrified of dying that you will do anything to prolong your stay in this vale of tears? This place is not meant to be permanent - just a sojourn!
M Maguire, UK

It's to be welcomed of course. We all want to look and feel as young as we can.
Del, UK

See also:

19 Feb 02 | Health
Hopes grow for anti-ageing drug
18 Feb 02 | Boston 2002
Hunting 'longevity genes'
01 May 01 | Health
Anti-ageing breakthrough
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Talking Point stories