Book Review

The scientific quest to combat aging -- two books take sides

By Susan Okie
Sunday, August 29, 2010

LONG FOR THIS WORLD

The Strange Science of Immortality

By Jonathan Weiner

Ecco. 310 pp. $27.99

THE YOUTH PILL

Scientists at the Brink of an

Anti-Aging Revolution

By David Stipp

Current. 308 pp. $26.95

It's striking that two new books on the same subject -- science's current efforts to slow aging and lengthen the human lifespan -- view a single body of research through such different lenses.

In "Long for This World," Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer Jonathan Weiner surveys the field as if from a mountaintop: He's intrigued, yet detached and skeptical, frequently digressing from science to discuss how religions and cultures have dealt with the problem of mortality and to ponder whether humans' lust for ever-longer lives is a good thing.

In "The Youth Pill," science and business journalist David Stipp hunkers down in the trenches with researchers as they test compounds, such as resveratrol, rapamycin and their chemical cousins, that offer the hope (based mainly on animal studies) of warding off many of the ills that afflict aging bodies. Although no drug has been shown to extend the human lifespan, Stipp argues that such remedies are potentially just around the corner -- and that the federal government should fund clinical trials to speed their arrival on pharmacy shelves. Meanwhile, resveratrol, found in small amounts in red wine, is being marketed as a dietary supplement, even though no studies have established whether taking large doses over long periods is safe and effective.


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