This is a story about two over-the-counter products being sold to help counteract age-related changes because of their reputed capacity to affect telomere length. The story presented a generally cautious view of the value of these products but failed to question the very premise that doing something about telomere length is an assured means of slowing the aging process. We wish the column had been stronger in questioning the validity of information not backed up with data.
There is historical precedence for searching for magical elixirs of youth and agents said to affect telomere length are the current sweethearts. It is telling that at the bottom of the TA Sciences website it states: “This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.” Yet aging is often framed as just that – a disease that could and should be treated.
The costs for the treatments mentioned were discussed.
The story did an adequate job raising questions about the evidence for alleged benefits. The independent sources interviewed helped in this regard.
It’s not very strong evidence to allow a statement from a company founder that, to his knowledge, no one has developed cancer while taking TA-65. The point could have been made earlier and more clearly that since neither TA-65 nor Reneuve are considered to be drugs by the FDA, there is no standard of safety or efficacy that they are held to. (Hinted at only in final sentence.) Jump ball call. Could have done better.
The column did detail the extremely limited quantity and quality of the evidence that the products mentioned are effective.
However some important details or context about some of the research were missing.
A study in the journal Rejuvenation Research was cited – “TA-65 boosted the activity of telomerase in 114 people who took the supplement for a year.” This was, appropriately, followed by an expert questioning the significance of this report. Such a direct challenge could have been made for each claim made in the piece.
Aging is not a disease. But this column opened with a catchy disease mongering riff engaging readers to consider ‘wrinkled skin, gray hair, a growing need to turn up the volume on ‘Jeopardy’,” and to consider the “dream” and “glimmer of hope” that the process of aging could be slowed.
The first statement is a list of examples of age-related changes which often have contributing factors other than chronology.
Even though the overall tone of the piece was in keeping with the “Healthy Skeptic” series title, we feel it went a bit too far on this criterion.
We don’t know why so much space was given to comments by company officials. But the independent expertise of Drs. Cawthon and Hornsby were important in countering conflicted claims.
There was no comparison of the compounds discussed with the impact of maintaining healthy body weight, engaging in exercise or other interventions which have a more measurable track record of ameliorating age-related changes.
One simple additional sentence could have satisfied this criterion.
The story provided readers with insight about how to obtain the products discussed.
The story did not provide any sort of historical context about telomerase research. Its first mention dates back more than 20 years and in 2009, the Nobel prize in medicine went to the scientists that discovered it. Many readers may have walked away with the impression that this field of research is far newer than it reallly is.
It’s clear that the story did not rely on a news release given the strong input from independent experts.