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Can a new supplement boost immunity, slow aging?


3 Star

Can a new supplement boost immunity, slow aging?

Our Review Summary

The story attempts to provide readers with a summary of the results of an early study of how a "natural" product (TA-65) might alter a the truly natural course of aging. Despite some comments from outside experts, overall the story fails to answer many questions and ultimately presents an overly enthusiastic picture of the product.


Why This Matters

A product that could stem the aging process would have mass appeal. The telomere story began in the late 1970s, and research has shown that telomere shortening limits the number of times cells can divide and has been shown to be associated with aging in at least animal models.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?


The story does provide information on the cost of TA-65. "’I look at it as a cellular protectant and boosting immunity,’ says Vagnini, who says a drawback is that it can carry up to an $8,000 annual price tag, depending on daily dose." It does not however provide a complete listing of costs associated with the Patton Protocol used as the basis for the study. According to the manufacturer, a six month segment in the Patton Protocol can cost as much as $16,000 per year. The manufacturer suggests at least two years worth of treatment. Still, with a price tag as high as $8,000, even that information is helpful for readers in deciding whether it is a worthy investment.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story does tick off a few numbers from the study. "’Those data showed TA-65 activates telomerase roughly 2- to 3-fold,’ Harley says. He says the percentage of immune cells with short telomeres declined about 10% to 50% in most of the individuals tested, and there was a decrease in the number of aged immune cells of roughly 10% to 20%." If you are confused by these numbers, so are we. What are these numbers being compared to? What are these numbers in absolute terms? None of these questions are answered, leaving readers with the mistaken impression that there was, at best, a 50% improvement over people who did not take this supplement.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story quotes the primary author saying no side effects were noted, but there is no attempt to quantify the harms nor discuss the unknowns of putting people . Since we are not told exactly what TA-65 and the Patton Protocol contain, understanding the potential side effects is impossible. Allowing the primary author to simply state there were no adverse effects without any additional moderating comments about the potential for side effects especially in the context of unfettered dose adjustments is surprising.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

The writer provides a minimal amount of information on the study design, just enough to suggest validity. However, many details of the study are not discussed. The study participants ages are not described or are the eligibility requirements. The study appears to have been an open label study without a control population and, as a result, no comparisons can be made as to the effect of the Patton Protocol as compared to non-participation. The dose of TA-65 does not appear to have been standardized, at least based on the first author’s comments about doses as high as 50 mg being used by study participants. The writer does provide several caveats from experts in the field in an effort provide some balance to the story. However, the omissions far outweigh this attempt.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


The lack of disease-mongering is one of the significant upsides of this story.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


The first two paragraphs of the story clearly set up reader expectations for an anti-aging cure. By the third paragraph, though, it says, "But some aging and telomere experts are skeptical. The study raises more questions than answers, says Janko Nikolich-{Zcaron}ugich, chairman of the Department of Immunobiology and co-director of the Arizona Center on Aging at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. ‘This study may be the basis for a fully controlled clinical trial,’ he says. But he says the study shouldn’t be used to promote the supplement because it was not designed to test the body’s immune response to it." The study identifies the primary author of the study as an employee of the company funding the research.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

There should have at least been some mention of the role diet, exercise, moderation in alcohol use and abstinence from tobacco play in the aging process.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story impliies that the product is widely available by providing several anecdotes from enthusiastic users. What the story should have said is that the use of TA-65 as part of a very expensive program called the Patton Protocol. Based on the information provided by the manufacturer of TA-65, the product can only be used within the confines of the protocol and presumably only by a subset of physicians

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story does not explicitly note that the treatment is indeed novel. But, it makes it apparent that the approach is not widely used.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


The story does not rely on a news release.

Total Score: 5 of 10 Satisfactory


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