People have pursued the Fountain of Youth for thousands of years. It is often depicted as a spring with a fountain that will restore youthfulness if you drink from it. Today, however, the metaphor is used to describe anything that can make you look young again. Is modern science bringing the Fountain of Youth closer to a reality than ever before?
In some respects, it is already happening. After all, people live healthier and longer lives now than they did 50 or 100 years ago. This is largely due to advances in medicine and science. So we now face the real prospect that the Fountain of Youth will not only be found but that it will be found in a lab rather than a mythical spring.
A Short History of the Fountain of Youth
• In the fifth century BC the Greek historian Herodotus described a fountain that gave people who lived near it longer lifespans.
• Alexander the Great is believed to have searched for the Fountain of Youth in the third century AD.
• There have been stories in Japan for centuries about hot springs that restore youthfulness.
• In the 15th and 16th centuries, explorers, particularly the Spanish, spent time searching for the Fountain of Youth in the new worlds they were discovering, including the U.S.
• One of the most avid Fountain of Youth explorers of the 15th and 16th centuries was Juan Ponce de León.
• Today some believe there is a secret society of people who have drank from the Fountain of Youth but have sworn themselves to secrecy regarding its location.
People in the modern world no longer travel to faraway lands in search of a physical spring that will give them eternal youth, but this doesn’t stop people from pursuing longer life with as much dedication as explorers and kings have done in past centuries. Today, however, they replace expeditions with drastic diets and science.
For example, there are thought to be tens of thousands of people in the world who live on a reduced calorie diet. These people base their beliefs on research from the 1930s and consume 40 percent fewer calories than the recommended daily amount for healthy men and women.
This isn’t the only extreme diet that some people eat in their quest to stay young. Another example is the primal diet, where you only eat raw meat that is nearly off. The people who follow this diet believe it improves their digestive system.
Another example of going to extreme measures to defeat the aging process is championed by the appropriately named Dr. Jeffry Life. Pictures of his muscular, slim frame are famous around the world because of his age. Dr. Life is in his late 70s.
He says he has achieved his youthful look and healthy body through a strict diet and exercise plan as well as by taking human growth hormones and testosterone. The morality of the latter is questioned by many, but there are plenty more who attend his clinic, buy his books, and pay for tickets to events he speaks at.
While Dr. Life uses his own appearance and healthy body to demonstrate the validity of his claims, there are many others who can only be described as snake oil salesmen peddling cures that have no grounding in fact. This only demonstrates society’s general desire to look young, regardless of how genuine the cure being offered is.
The Advance of Science
In addition to the extreme diets and other measures that people take to slow the aging process and enable them to live longer, science is exploring solutions too. Much of this science takes place at a cellular level, looking for ways to keep cells healthy, stop them from aging, and, if possible, reverse the aging process in the cells.
There are some people in the field that believe it is scientifically possible for people to live to 500 and beyond. That is beyond the imagination of most people and will probably not become a reality until after our lifetimes, if it ever does. Also, such a change in people’s age will transform society in ways never seen before.
Breakthroughs on a much smaller level in relation to stopping the aging process are currently happening however. They may lead to a general increase in life expectancy, help with the treatment of disease, or both.
One of the latest breakthroughs in relation to stopping and potentially reversing the aging process comes from researchers at the Houston Methodist Research Institute. They say their research is a step forward in the field as they were able to reverse the aging process in human cells, albeit under very specific conditions. The research is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The study by the Houston-based researchers used cells from children with progeria. This is a rare condition that accelerates the aging process. It is a genetic condition and leads to early death, often by natural causes, much like an older person who simply dies from old age.
The researchers managed to stimulate the production of a protein in cells. This protein encourages the growth in a particular element of a cell called the telomeres. The telomeres get shorter as you get older, so the theory is if you can lengthen it, you can improve the lifespan of the cell.
The researchers managed to do this by stimulating the production of protein in the cells. This also made the cells start to multiply as if they were younger. As a result, there was a reduction in the signs of aging. One that was specifically highlighted by the research team was that inflammatory proteins were released.
Of course, this was an experiment in a laboratory using a small number of a cells with a specific medical condition. Scaling this up so the same effect happens on the multitude of cells that are in a human body will require a lot more research and work. The researchers hope this paves the way, however, for future therapies that can realistically reverse the aging process.
A Modern Approach
There are many medical and health reasons for researchers to work on studies like the one above. How much of a priority should it be to find a solution to aging simply for appearance purposes? Will it ever happen, and should we care?
Turning back the body’s aging process seems like something out of a movie. With new technologies and advances in science, however, it is also something that appears to be getting closer. Those aggressively pursuing the goal of living to 100 and beyond believe the upper age limits that we know today will be completely different in just 50 years. In other words, many of the people reading this article will live considerably longer than they expect to if the predictions prove to be true. In the meantime, what options do you have to keep yourself looking as young and healthy as you are?
Before answering that, there is another question that many are now asking—is trying to reverse the signs of aging the wrong approach to take? Instead of trying to look younger than we really are, should we instead be trying to look the best version of our current selves? Is this not a more self-confident and self-fulfilling approach to take?
The context that people ask this question in is important. After all, women, particularly younger women, have never been under more pressure than now to look a certain way. With social media, people judge others in a matter of seconds based solely on their appearance. That opinion on appearance is often derived from a single photograph. This leads to women of a healthy weight being called fat, beautiful women being told they look too old, and more. It is not surprising that there is a backlash against this superficial, impractical, and ridiculous pursuit of someone else’s appearance ideals.
This doesn’t mean, however, that we let age run rampant by not looking after ourselves. Instead, it is about looking your best as you are today. In other words, minimizing wrinkles and making your skin look healthy, vibrant, and glowing but not trying to reverse the age of your skin to a younger version of you. When you do the former, you will feel happier, more confident, and content.
So there is a modern twist on the Fountain of Youth: using advances in cosmetic products and science to look your best today. Many believe this is better than spending all your time wishing you could look like you did 10 or 20 years ago.
This leads us back to the question asked earlier about how to keep yourself looking as good as possible. In general, this involves moisturizing with high-quality moisturizing products, following a regular exfoliating routine, and religiously applying sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.
Following these tips and using high-quality cosmetics will not make you super young, but they will considerably help your appearance and self-confidence. This has additional benefits too as people who look young and healthy on the outside age slower on the inside than people who look older than their years. Therein lies a version of the Fountain of Youth—looking your best on the outside to stay young, fit, and healthy on the inside.