Aging In The 21st Century

<b>Steve Kroft</b> Reports On The New Field Of Anti-Aging Medicine

This story originally aired on April 23, 2006.

Jack Benny, the late, great comedian who perpetually gave his age as 39, once said that growing old is a case of mind over matter. "If you don't mind, it doesn't matter," he said.

The problem is, most of us do mind — and the graying of 78 million baby boomers is creating a vast marketing opportunity for doctors and pharmacists who claim they can slow down that process.

This new field is called anti-aging medicine, or age-management medicine. As correspondent Steve Kroft reported earlier this year, the treatment usually includes doses of the same performance-enhancing drugs now banned by most professional sports: things such as testosterone, DHEA, and human growth hormone. Needless to say, this is all highly controversial, and may be even illegal.

But that's not stopping thousands of doctors from taking up the practice — or patients from seeking them out.

The "temple" of anti-aging medicine is the Cenegenics Medical Institute in Las Vegas. It was founded in 1998 by its chief prophet, Dr. Alan Mintz, who claims to have 12,000 patients around the world, offering hope to anyone who is feeling tired, getting flabby and losing interest in sex.

"People are looking to feel better," says Dr. Mintz. "They're tired of the answers. 'Go home. We can't do anything for you. You're really OK.' They're tired of hearing, 'I'm gettin' old. There's nothing you can do. Just live with it.'"

Mintz says age-management medicine is not about chasing the fountain of youth.

"This is not about staying forever young," he says. "It's about staying in charge of my life and being productive."

Mintz, 68, is a long-time bodybuilder and fitness freak, who prescribes a regimen of regular exercise, good nutrition, along with vitamins and supplements to manage the effects of aging.

Here comes the controversial part: Every day, Mintz and many of his patients inject themselves with steroids and hormones that would get ballplayers banned and are considered by many to be downright dangerous.

Mintz says he has been on human growth hormone for about 10 or 11 years, but maintains that he has not experienced any adverse effects because he takes "very small doses."

What benefits has he felt?

"Well, energy. More energy," he says. "Better body composition. My brain is working, my brain function, we test it, is actually quicker than it was five to six years ago."

Mintz says substances such as testosterone and human growth hormone are produced and stored by the human body, but as we get older, these natural levels taper off, creating what he claims are hormone deficiencies that may be responsible for some of the symptoms attributed to old age.

"We start to lose a lot of different hormones starting at 30," Mintz explains. "Two to three percent a year. By the time you're 40, you begin to recognize some changes. And we take it as we're just getting older."

Mintz says he's trying to replenish those lost hormones. "But always within the limit of what's considered normal," he says.

Mintz says that testosterone and human growth hormone help build muscle mass, reduce body fat, and strengthen bones against osteoporosis. His patients say they can feel the difference.

60 Minutes talked to a group of six of them, ranging in age from 34 to 74 — a businessman, a cocktail waitress, a retired school teacher, a car dealership manager, a real estate broker, and a human resources consultant. They're all injecting themselves with human growth hormone. Some also take testosterone, DHEA and estrogen.

"The real benefit of it more than anything else is the energy level. I mean, there's a difference between being 25 and 45. And I feel like I'm 25 again," one of the men told Kroft.

Asked if he feels younger, the an older male patient said, "Well, I'm 74, and I worked out two hours last night. And I recovered. I can stay up till midnight. And I have the energy and vitality."

"Big-time libido," another man remarked. "Yeah, like when you are a kid again."

One of the female patients said the hormone treatments improved her sex life.

All of them said they were exercising more and eating better.

"It is a whole way of life," one of the male patients said. "But the hormones and stuff is like cheating. It makes it so much easier to do it, and it gives you the results so much quicker."

"I mean, these are steroids, right?" Kroft asked.

"Well, we're making ourselves better athletes. That's my answer," the 74-year-old patient replied.