Mix the latest and most rigorous scientific research, irrepressible old-fashioned entrepreneurship, and the ancient human desire to live forever (or at least a lot longer) and the result is today’s exploding multibillion-dollar antiaging industry. Its achievements are so far mostly marginal, but its promises flow with all the allure of a twenty-first-century fountain of youth. In Eternity Soup, acclaimed science writer Greg Critser takes us to every outpost of the antiaging landscape, home to zealots and skeptics, charlatans, and ingenious clinicians and academics.
We visit a conference of the Caloric Restriction Society, whose members—inspired by certain laboratory findings involving mice—live their lives in a state just above starvation. (“It’s only the first five years that are uncomfortable,” says one.) We meet the new wave of pharmacists who are reviving the erstwhile art of “compounding”—using mortar and pestle to mix extravagantly profitable potions for aging boomers seeking to recapture flagging sexual vitality. Here, too, are the theorists and researchers who are seeking to understand the cellular-level causes of senescence and aging and others who say, Why bother with that? Instead, we should just learn how to repair and replace organs and tissue that break down, like a vintage automobile collector who keeps a century-old Model T shining and running like new.
Eternity Soup is a simmering brew of testosterone patches, human growth hormone (so promising and so potentially dangerous), theories that view aging as a curable disease, laboratory-grown replacement organs (“I want to build a kidney,” says one proponent. “It is such a stup-eed organ!”), and bountiful other troubling, hilarious, and invigorating ingredients. Critser finds plenty of chicanery and credulousness in the antiaging realm but also a surprising degree of optimism, even among some formerly sober skeptics, that we may indeed be on the cusp of something big. And that elicits its own new set of concerns: How will our society cope with a projected new cohort of a million healthy centenarian Americans? How will they liberate themselves from the age segregation that shunts them off to “God’s Waiting Rooms” in the sunbelt? Where will they find joy and meaning to match the inevitable loss that comes with longevity? Eternity Soup is an illuminating, wry, and provocative consideration of a long-dreamed-about world that may now be becoming a reality.
GREG CRITSER is the author of Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World and Generation Rx: How Prescription Drugs Are Altering American Lives, Minds, and Bodies. His work has appeared in many magazines and newspapers, and he is a well-known commentator on medicine, health, and food, with regular appearances on public radio and television. His blog can be found at scientificblogging.com.
“A lively look at the world of gerontology from the veteran medical reporter who lives in Pasadena.”
—Los Angeles Magazine
“Critser shoots straight from the hip about the antiaging industry with a grounded knowledge of the current science, informed insight and a soupcon of sharp-edged humor.”
“Yes, the subject is of personal interest. Yes, the information is presented by someone with a lot of common sense and a healthy sense of humor. Yes, there are unforgettable characters in the book and yes, the author has made it a delight to read. Long live Greg Critser -- provided he keeps writing. Otherwise, an average lifespan should suffice.”
—Mark Salzman, author of Iron and Silk, The Soloist, and True Notebooks
"Whenever Greg Critser tackles a topic, he writes the definitive book on the subject. He's done it again with aging. This is his most profound and entertaining book yet."
—Michael Balter, senior writer, Science Magazine
“Greg Critser has a unique understanding of biogerontology in the social, political, and business climate of today’s science. Besides insightfully covering the frontiers of longevity with due diligence to scientific details, the Soup is spiced by anecdotes with the leading researchers. I also admired the clear discussion of the complexities of human aging in the real world outside of the ivory tower of laboratory animal models.”
—Caleb E. Finch, Ph.D., ARCO-Kieschnick Professor of Gerontology, Adj. Professor of Anthropology, Molecular Biology, Neurobiology, and Psychology, Percy Andrus Gerontology Center
“Greg Critser's Eternity Soup takes the reader on a fantastic journey through the world of anti-aging medicine and science. The scientists and physicians he vividly portrays are trying to enable us to live longer, in good shape, and stave off cancer and other diseases associated with aging. His explanations of what they are doing and thinking are lively and as good as you can get.”
—Robert H. Binstock, Professor of Aging, Health, and Society, School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, and former President of the Gerontological Society of America