The fountain of youth

Ever since humans have been alive they have wanted to extend their time on earth. The elusive fountain of youth has been promised through the ages, but few, if any, potions or treatments have been able to deliver on the promise to slow the process of ageing - until now.

Diet, exercise, appropriate rest and relaxation can help you steer clear of aging faster than you would prefer! journalist Mercedes Macguire chased-up specialists at an anti-aging Conference in Melbourne..............

A new anti-ageing branch of the medical industry has gained momentum in Australia over the past few years. It provides a way of detecting ageing diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's, heart disease and other major illnesses before they take hold of your body. At the forefront of medical technology is a system that maps how a person's genes work and determines the estimated risk of developing these life-threatening illnesses.

It may sound a bit like crystal ball-gazing. But medical practitioners and scientists here in Australia are confident anti-ageing medicine will follow in the popular footsteps of our American counterparts where the industry is worth an estimated $55 billion.

Dr Michael Zacharia, president of the Australasia Academy of Anti-Ageing Medicine says around 90 per cent of all adult illness is due to the degenerative process of ageing.

"Anti-ageing medicine is preventative and aimed at slowing pathological ageing so people will live longer without disease," Dr Zacharia says. "It's not just about living longer, it's about the opportunity to live a full, happy and healthy life.

"It is about much more than just medication that can prevent ageing. In anti-ageing medicine there are five key areas: diet, exercise, relaxation, supplements and medication, like hormones. Anti-ageing medicine incorporates the latest medical advances to deter the ageing process, which is largely influenced by lifestyle, and cure degenerative diseases at its root, resulting in longer life expectancy."

"With the biochip we can tell a person's true biological age, the impact their lifestyle is having on their life and the rate at which they are ageing,"

Australian doctor Fernando Cortizo from Korean-based company Goodgene says a new patented biochip can identify the potential risk of ageing illnesses in a person with a 95 per cent accuracy.

"With the biochip we can tell a person's true biological age, the impact their lifestyle is having on their life and the rate at which they are ageing," Dr Cortizo says. "We can even look at a person's skin elesticity, for example, and give proper recommendations for improvements.

"(the biochip) has a tremendous impact on, for example, cancer detection and prevention. With our biochip we can tell exactly how a person's genes operate, what is the estimated risk of developing cancer, where the cancer would be located, how big it is and so on. This information can then be used to help prevent the disease before it's too late."

But Dr Zacharia says anti-ageing medicine is not a panacea for all illness because about 30 per cent of it is determined by your genes. Anti-ageing medicine works on the 70 per cent that can be influenced.

Dr Tania Ash, Melbourne nutrition expert, says adopting our ancestors diet is one way to help halt the ageing process, particularly in relation to illnesses such as onesity, diabetes and heart disease. She says our genes haven't adapted to the changes in our diet over the centuries and recommends a return to "traditional" foods such as those high in protein, organic agriculture and less dairy, grains and carbohydrates than society currently consumes.

"If we look back to the diets of the hunter-gatherer and the Asian and Middle Eastern diets you will find they were high in protein and not filled with the grains, dairy and refined carbs we eat in western culture," Dr Ash says. "We need to get back to basics with a diet high in fish and lean meat and more organically-grown fruit and vegetables.

"The wrong type of food can age us, absolutely. If you are eating a diet high in Omega-6 (found in meat and dairy), non-organic produce and food that is nutritionally compromised then your body is not getting what it needs to repair itself."

Dr Zacharia says cosmetic surgery also plays a role in the anti-ageing industry, because as people feel better they want to reflect this in the way they look on the outside.

Dr Zacharia says anti-ageing medicine is still in its infancy in Australia with the first anti-ageing conference held in Melbourne in October. Hundreds of people from within the healcare industry attended the inaugural conference, a sign that the industry is taking hold in Australia.