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As we explore both the real and bogus claims about healthy aging in our documentary

Who Wants to Live Forever, the Wisdom of Aging, I wanted to share the results of this pilot study conducted by UCSF. In short it suggests that using a specific sort of moisturizer with three types of beneficial lipids (cholesterol, free fatty acids and ceramides), increases cytokine levels in the body, which lessen greatly with aging.

I ran this information by noted San Francisco Dermatologist, Dr. Peter Panagotacos. While the company that produced the moisturizer for this trial came from a South Korean Company, he suggests an inexpensive, highly effective brand made in the USA, CeraVe, He writes:

I don’t know who came up with the first use of ceremides but it was CereVe which first began marketing a moisturizing cream which had ceremides. The idea behind it was the typical fats = oils used to moisturize skin applied the oil to the surface which occluded the moisture in the body preventing it from migrating up through the various layers and then evaporating off . That is still an excellent way to moisturize. The addition of smaller oil molecules and free fatty acids which could seep in between the cells allowed for deeper penetration and prevention of water moving out.

As you can see by reviewing the article above, the clinicians found the participants of the study had cytokine levels “to be nearly equivalent with people in their 30’s, suggesting that rejuvenating the skin can reverse ‘inflamm-aging.’”

Next up, a more long-term study. In the meantime, it can’t hurt to use lipid-rich moisturizer often, and wherever you can.

Ken Dychtwald speaks out on “If I Ran AARP for One Day, Here’s What I’d do

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Back in 2004, at the annual national conference of the American Society on Aging, I gave a somewhat edgy speech entitled, “If I Ran AARP for One Day: Here’s What I’d Do to Redefine Aging, Fix Health Care, Balance Generational Equity, Eliminate Ageism in the Popular Culture, and Create a New Social Role and Purpose for Elders.” The session was moderated by Joanne Handy, the past Chairman of ASA.

For decades, I have had deep respect for AARP and its high-minded leadership. However, as AARP had grown to become a nearly monopolistic intellectual, policy and marketing force pertaining to the aging of America, I felt a need to publicly point out where, based on my own study, research, experience and reflection, I felt they could do better – much better – with the focus of their programs and policy recommendations.

One of my key mentors was Gray Panthers Founder Maggie Kuhn. Maggie was famous for saying that as we age, we must become the “watch dogs” of our society’s leaders and organizations. Maggie also strongly felt that many of the institutions that were designed to improve the well-being of older adults needed the most watchdogging! She always challenged me to have the nerve to speak truth to power.

The recording of this session (audio only) from fifteen years ago was lost but recently re-discovered and people have asked that I make it publicly available. I hope that this session stimulates your own ideas and challenges you to take action to make the future of aging healthier, more financially secure and more purposeful. I’d love to hear any ideas you might have on this seismic subject.

Note: at the end of that talk, I offered to fly to Washington and brief the leadership of AARP – for no fee – about ways they could better contribute to the future health, well-being, financial security and purpose of our aging nation. After all, the friction between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson made them both better athletes. To this day, my offer has never been responded to…..

All the best,



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Illustration by Olivia Wise  


I received a mailer today from a doctor (who apparently has a Doctor of Philosophy degree and is not a Medical Doctor), touting a supplement he calls Elysium. I presume the name is derived from the 2013 movie with this descriptor:

In the year 2159, humanity is sharply divided between two classes of people: The ultrarich live aboard a luxurious space station called Elysium, and the rest live a hardscrabble existence in Earth’s ruins.

The mailer continues with this headline: “Thanks to science, now you can change how you age.” And, it offers me the chance to try this singular supplement I need for $50 a month (or a variety of other special deals if you commit to a longer subscription).

Having produced a film about healthy aging a short time ago, Who Wants to LiveForever, the Wisdom of Aging,the information contained within still being current, I continue to struggle with these sorts of claims.

Now don’t get me wrong, this man is a noted scholar and has an advisory board with Nobel Prize-winning scientists in the mix, but I need to consult with a doctor in the trenches of a real practice to get another opinion. So, I contact Dr. Peter Panagotacos, a San Francisco-based dermatologist and hair transplant specialist, author and noted lecturer often on the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil, which he produces on his estate in Sparta, Greece.

Of the potential benefits of Elysium he writes:I’m not convinced it would do anything. We all want to live longer healthier lives and there is a lot of demand for new elixirs. The problem with these claims is that there is a bit of science which proves antioxidants can help prolong life, but no matter how much olive oil and other antioxidants you consume you still age.

It seems to me that aging well is the best revenge, as well as making medically and fiscally sound decisions on what to ingest. I’d take a fresh salad with a beneficial and tasty dressing any day over a pricey pill.

What do you think?

Copyright August 2018

Christine Scioli, Partner, Zan Media

All Rights Reserved


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A fifty-eight-year-old best-selling science fiction writer has a large internet following. In his current newsletter, he included a video of himself talking about the recent death of his father from melanoma after only three months. He suggests that if Dad had taken a special formulation, a concentrated fruit based extract as he does, he’d probably still be alive. He then tells the viewer he has Parkinson’s Disease and how this formula has helped him so very much.

He closes this segment by suggesting if you contact him, he’ll send you over the info on the product and arrange a phone hook-up with the doctor who created it.

He emails back in a New York minute and includes a detailed chart and a terribly produced “testimonial” video, which includes three very ill-looking cancer “survivors” who are defeating all the odds by taking the potion, and their tumors have shrunk. In between their sad stories there are many religious pictures and biblical quotations about conquering death and such. The chart looks at aging and cancer with many, many details I don’t understand.

Questioned as to the cost and if insurance covers it he again writes back in a flash and I quote:

“It is not covered by insurance. It runs about $7,000 a month. Most human trial Hail Mary’s run ten times that figure. This one actually works.”

Now I smell a scam. If he’s been taking the potion for years why wouldn’t he give it to dear Dad when he was first diagnosed?

So, I send the information to our fantastic scientific experts who helped my company create our documentary film on healthy aging, Who Wants to Live Forever, the Wisdom of Aging for their review. Am I too skeptical, missing something that we might want to include in our upcoming sequel?

And here are their comments:

Reviewed.  No, nothing worth considering.  It is a hodgepodge of concepts about apoptosis and P53 and a trial of peaches and nectarines in mice. The sad story is that heavily promoted nutritional supplements (as opposed to good food) have been largely ineffective for preventing disease but have had toxicities in large well-done trials:  vitamin D in promoted doses increases the risk of falls and fractures, folate – prostate cancer, and Vitamin A – lung cancer.


Ugh. If only I had $1.00 for every graph I have seen showing a compound that kills tumors or bad cells I could retire. Pretty much any chemical can be shown to shrink tumors, etc. (hair conditioner, Guinness, Chanel No. 5) but this does not mean that these will actually cure disease and help people. Elysium Basis is a good example of this. They have a good scientific rationale for their compound but have not shown that it does anything to improve health in people. 

 There is very interesting research on Vitamin D where there are lots of individual, sometimes small studies showing improvements for specific diseases. When you look at all the results combined there is no effect of vitamin D on any health outcome (except for neonatal health during pregnancy) and too much could be really bad. Yet if you ask most people why they are taking vitamin D they say their doctor told them to take it.

 In general, there is lots of general medical “wisdom” that is not supported by data…

Now everyone has a right to make a buck and everyone has differing opinions on everything under the sun, but isn’t this author making enough as a writer without resorting to an aging/cancer/Parkinson’s and whatever else that ails you scam? At $84,000 a year, this duo could be raking in some big bucks with his literary fans.

Be cautious. Find the science behind the hype, please.

DNA editing, not if but when

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by Gregory Tranah, PhD

In August 2017, researchers at Oregon Health Sciences University published study results showing that they had successfully edited the DNA of viable human embryos ( The goal of the project was to repair a pathogenic DNA mutation in the MYBPC3 gene which leads to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (thickening of the heart muscle) which is the leading cause of sudden death in young athletes. However, within one month a team of prominent stem-cell scientists and geneticists questioned whether the mutation was actually fixed citing that no plausible biological mechanism explains the results and the original finding was based on poor genetic techniques.

Whether or not the work done by researchers at Oregon Health Sciences University was successful in fixing the disease-causing mutation, the day when we will be able to edit germline DNA is quickly approaching. While the goal of the research was to correct a single mutation that causes a devastating inherited disease, some critics are concerned that such experiments will open the floodgates to a brave new world of “designer babies” engineered with numerous genetic enhancements.

Given that DNA editing will become a reality, we need to not only discuss when it will be appropriate to use this technology but also what limits and risks are likely to emerge as we move down this path.

So, when do you think it be appropriate to use genetic engineering?

Would you use gene editing to fix known mutations that cause deadly, single gene disorders (e.g. Cystic Fibrosis)? Many people may not take issue with this corrective action since carriers definitely acquire the disease and we know the specific mutations responsible for the disease in order to target DNA editing.

Would you use gene editing to fix mutations in genes that greatly increase familial disorders (e.g. PINK, PARKIN, LRRK2 gene mutations in familial Parkinson’s Disease)? We know the specific mutations that increase risk of developing disease for these rare forms of familial disease. However, not every carrier of one of these mutations develops disease so it is not clear what other factors are involved in these devastating diseases.

Would you use gene editing to fix mutations in genes that increase risk of chronic or age-related disease (e.g. Alzheimer’s)? In general, genetic variation is responsible for a only a portion of disease burden for most chronic conditions (~10-50%), but there are environmental effects that cannot be accounted for in genetic  engineering. Also, individual mutations account for a very small risk related to disease (<1%), so how much DNA would you be willing to change in order to impact a very small risk of developing disease? Especially when there may be unintended consequences of the DNA editing.

Would you change DNA to impact other traits (height, eye, color, etc.)? As with chronic disease, there are many DNA mutations that contribute very small effects to a trait. Indeed, there are >700 known DNA variants that contribute a tiny amount to height and there are a huge amount of genetic and environmental factors that are still being identified. Would you be willing to risk unintended consequences related to these mutations (e.g. height is associated with higher cancer risk, green eyes are associated with increased melanoma risk, etc.).

What about the three parent babies that are engineered when mothers carry very deleterious mutations in their mitochondrial DNA? This procedure creates babies with a paternal genome, the mother’s nuclear genome, and a donor’s mitochondrial genome. This procedure produces genetic combinations that would never occur naturally. Three parent babies are approved in the UK but not in the US (yet). Before rejecting this procedure in the US, the FDA had proposed that only male offspring could be produced using this procedure as males do not pass on their mitochondrial DNA, thus these three genome combinations will never be intercalated into the population.

What do you think?

It’s not a matter of if but when… when will it happen and when will it be used.



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by Gregory Tranah, PhD

As scientists, it is our obligation to present the results of our research to the general public in a way that is understandable and actionable. This is especially true for those of us working in fields where misinformation and pseudoscience are directly causing harm to us and our planet. Whether the topic is climate change, vaccines, alternative medicine, or creationism; it is up to us to use scientific evidence and our voices to battle the charlatans who are trying to sell a product or advance a political viewpoint for the purposes of personal gain.

While the popular media often gives equal time to all sides without the burden of equal evidence under the guise of being “fair and balanced”, this gives the misperception that all sides have data to back up their positions. Beyond the topics listed above for which there is overwhelming evidence showing that climate change is real, vaccines prevent disease and don’t cause autism, alternative medicines do not lead to better outcomes, and that evolution is fact and creationism bogus – the majority of us have dedicated our careers to studying very complex scientific questions for which there are no simple solutions.

In a world where 140 characters can change the outcome of an election or start a political revolution, we are hard pressed to describe the nuances of highly complex research programs in brief sound bites. Admittedly, our scientific training has instilled in us an open mindedness to examine new explanations for phenomena as novel evidence is generated through the scientific process. Indeed, this is the nature of science – continually re-testing hypotheses as cutting-edge technologies allow us to gather new data, allowing us to update our knowledge in all areas of science. Nevertheless, the long-term nature of scientific process does not often lead to exciting headlines or reality show controversies.

While no scientific topic is immune to the influences of pseudoscience, politically driven misinformation, and the influence of charlatans selling snake-oil; aging is ripe for exploitation. Your documentary, Who Want to Live Forever, the Wisdom of Aging points this out beautifully by exposing the frauds while highlighting what the latest, honest research actually shows. By interviewing scientists across multiple fields of aging research (from cells to worms to humans) you have not only shown how complex the topic of aging really is, but demonstrated the struggles we scientists are facing in not only carrying out complex research programs but keeping these programs funded and moving forward as technology advances.

Clearly, aging is a complex biological process involving environmental, behavioral, and genetic factors. By featuring the research of many scientists across multiple research programs you have shown that there is not a single “cure” for aging but that aging is a personal process that we all experience differently. Yet, as your documentary highlights, we have advanced our understanding of the aging process to the point that there are many interventions we can recommend to increase our years of health and happiness with the hope of many more to be discovered. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to contribute to your documentary and look forward to being in the sequel!

Keep walking fast!

Gregory J Tranah, PhD
Senior Scientist, CPMC Research Institute Adjunct Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, UCSF University of California at San Francisco 
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
 Mission Hall: Global Health & Clinical Sciences Building 
550 16th Street, 2nd floor, Box #0560
 San Francisco, CA 94143


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by Christine Scioli

Have you noticed that we premise much of our conversations these days on letting folks know whether we are telling the truth or lying? We say, “truth be told” or “I’m not going to lie to you” or “honestly” before we state what we are about to say – by way of caveat, I guess.

Does that seem odd to you?

Then again, with all the false news and alternative facts and endless clickbait internet scams to peruse, and Christie Brinkley and Dr. Oz schlepping their anti-aging lotions and potions, it might be a necessary 2017 adjunct to vet what we say before we say it. That meaning: “What I am about to say is pure baloney.” Or, “What I am about to say is actually true.”

As the Producer of the documentary film, Who Wants to Live Forever, the Wisdom of Aging, my task was to interview scores of scientists, doctors and other professionals earnestly involved in the field of aging. Dr. Steve Cummings and Dr. Greg Tranah at the Research Institute at CA Pacific Medical Center/Sutter Health and a cadre of noted scientists at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging had not a scintilla of fear in stating the truth about anti-aging claims that are false.

I can’t help but wonder why high impact organizations like AARP embrace Oprah-Winfrey-approved celebrity doctors like Oz and Dr. Phil rather than walk the false rhetoric off the stage. Is it the money, so much money (according to their website, there are 38 million members with an annual base fee of $16.00) that is more important than the truth? For example, as part of AARP’s myriad of deals and offerings you can get some free methodology tips regarding aging from Dr. Phil – and truth be told, if you pay $19.95 per month, you’ll get some one-on-one time with him according to the hype.

Here’s the link to our documentary that is free to watch on Amazon Prime and airs on PBS networks, I can honestly say this film is filled with real information and tips on healthy aging.

Dr. Oz Gets Drilled at Senate Hearing for “Miracle” Weight Loss Scams

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(reposted from Highya Team June 18, 2014)

Ah, the infamous Dr. Mehmet Oz. This physician-cum-popular daytime TV personality might just be the best thing that has ever happened to the nutritional supplements industry, with his multiple shows dedicated to weight loss “miracles” such as Garcinia Cambogia, Raspberry Ketones, Green Coffee Bean Extract, and probiotics. This is because, after a supplement is featured on his show, something known as the “Oz effect” kicks into high gear—more specifically, sales of these supplements go through the roof. In fact, according to NBC News, Americans spent more than $2.4 billion on weight loss supplements last year, a huge part of which was undoubtedly driven by the claims made by Dr. Oz.

However, as we’ve outlined many times here on HighYa, the truth is that the clinical evidence supporting the efficacy of these supplements is flimsy at best, and often non-existent for humans (e.g. tests were performed on mice, rats, or in petri dishes). As such, when we researched many of these supplements and found that Dr. Oz wholeheartedly endorsed their use, we couldn’t help but wonder why a physician would make these claims based on massively insufficient evidence, and why no one in a position of authority had called him out on it.

Well, it appears that Dr. Oz’s time has finally come, which we’ll talk about next. But more than this, we’ll also explore a bit about Dr. Oz’s background, why the nutritional supplements industry behaves as it does, and what we can all ultimately learn from this experience.

Dr. Oz Gets Called Out on His Nutritional Supplements Endorsements

As we mentioned in our article about Fake Celebrity Endorsements, Dr. Oz recently became livid about having his name used to hawk a variety of supplements from different manufacturers, even going so far as to fly to San Diego in order to directly confront the CEO of Tarr about the use of his images and videos in order to promote their supplements.

As such, he attended a Senate subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance yesterday, where he was scheduled to testify about false and deceptive advertising, specifically relating to many of the problems he’s faced with manufacturers using his likeness without his permission. However, chairwoman Claire McCaskill quickly turned the tables on Dr. Oz and pointedly questioned him about many of the claims he makes on his show. In fact, according to this CNN article, Mrs. McCaskill specifically asked why Dr. Oz makes these claims when “the scientific community is almost monolithic against [him] in terms of the efficacy of the three products [he] called ‘miracles.’”

In response to this questioning, Dr. Oz stated that he “passionately studies” the supplements featured on his show, but that he uses “flowery language” in order to give his audience “hope.” Afterword though, he admitted that many of the claims he makes “wouldn’t withstand scrutiny from the Food and Drug Administration.”

But the unfortunate truth is that neither Dr. Oz nor nutritional supplements manufacturers are beholden to the FDA for the claims they make, which we’ll get to in a moment. For now though, ask yourself: “Is it right for anyone, especially a medical professional, to give someone false hope?” This then begs the question; is Dr. Oz really a doctor at all? Let’s take a closer look.

What are Dr. Oz’s Medical Credentials, and What’s His Reputation within the Medical Community?

Before becoming America’s “most-loved TV doctor,” Dr. Oz graduated from Harvard University in 1982 before receiving dual medical and MBA degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in 1986. From there, he became a cardiothoracic surgeon and teaching professor at Columbia University, where he continues to perform surgeries every Thursday. On top of this, Dr. Oz established Columbia’s Cardiovascular Institute and Integrative Medicine Program in 1994, and even holds a patent for a muscle tissue preservation solution. As such, if you ever thought that Dr. Oz wasn’t a physician, or at the very least that he wasn’t a reputable member of the community, it’s safe to say that this assumption can be permanently placed aside.

With this said, many members of the medical community often wonder (as do many concerned consumer groups like HighYa) whether he’s doing more harm than good by making outlandish claims on his show. This is because many of these claims are based on very little, inconclusive, or non-human-based clinical research, which is the antithesis of what modern medicine is all about.

So, why is it that Dr. Oz makes many of these statements? Well, according to this 2013 Forbe’s article, “The big question, to me, is whether that man, the surgeon who, after years of cracking people’s chests, gives it to the audience straight and gross and gory and scares them with the reality of their biological selves, whether that guy could have succeeded on TV without all the appeals to energy fields and homeopathy and a new “miracle” supplement every week.”

This is an important question that we’ll answer in the Bottom Line section, but first, let’s briefly discuss why both Dr. Oz, as well as consumers looking for a “weight loss miracle,” are in the position we’re in.

Nutritional Supplements: The Wild West of Consumerism

As we detailed in our Nutritional Supplements Buyer’s Guide a few months ago, the nutritional supplements industry is almost completely unregulated. In fact, other than being required by the FDA to expressly state that the “FDA has not evaluated the claim. The disclaimer must also state that the dietary supplement product is not intended to “diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease,” because only a drug can legally make such a claim,” supplements manufacturers can make essentially any claim they want about their product, without having to back them up with a shred of evidence. In fact, the FDA doesn’t become involved at all until enough consumers have expressed their frustration at being scammed, or in a worst-case scenario, experienced harm as a result.


A pile of nutritional supplements​

On the other hand, the FTC does actively monitor “deceptive advertising of fraudulent cure-all claims for dietary supplements and weight loss products,” but the reality is that their enforcement lacks any meaningful bite. As an example of this, we mentioned the case of Jesse Willms in our recent Affiliate Marketing article, who essentially stole more than $100 million of consumers’ hard-earned money by making false claims about his nutritional supplements. However, after the FTC finally got involved, Mr. Willms was forced to pay a hefty fine, but walked away without so much as a single criminal charge being filed against him.

As you can see, with billions of dollars at stake, and without sufficient law enforcement available, nutritional supplements manufacturers have a huge incentive to mislead—and often outright lie to—consumers. For a complete rundown of what you can do in order to avoid many of these less-than-scrupulous manufacturers, be sure to read through HighYa’s Nutritional Supplements Buyer’s Guide. But specifically in reference to Dr. Oz, what can we take away from this whole ordeal?

Bottom Line: What Can We Learn About Dr. Oz’s Senate Subcommittee Appearance?

While this is admittedly an extreme example, imagine the following: During a routine visit to your doctor, you find out that you have diabetes. As soon as you’re informed of this, your physician then claims that a new miracle supplement has been recently made available to the public, which can magically balance your insulin levels without and kind of side effects. Because of this, you immediately rush out, spend an exorbitant amount of money to buy it, and then take the supplement for 8 weeks as directed by the manufacturer. Unfortunately, after this is all said and done, you don’t experience any relief for your diabetes.

As such, you return to your doctor and inform him that the supplement did not cure your diabetes, that it was extraordinarily expensive, and that after doing some research, you found only the flimsiest of clinical evidence showing that it works. To this, your doctor simply responds that he wanted to use “flowery language” in order to excite you and give you hope. Would this seem like a satisfactory response from a medical professional? Almost certainly not.

We use this example to outline the basic premise of Dr. Oz’s TV show, which is that he’s a physician with your best interest in mind, and as such, the advice he gives could be construed as coming from a medical professional who has thoroughly reviewed the subject matter. However, this simply isn’t the case. As evidenced by Dr. Oz’s statement before the Senate subcommittee that he uses “flowery language” to excite his audience, the truth is that he’s a TV personality first, and a physician only as a distant second. In short, he appears to be more focused on ratings than on providing sound medical advice.

Because of this, it’s up to you to do your due diligence when researching any nutritional supplement you’re thinking about taking. But the good news is that you’re not alone, because HighYa’s always on your side to help you separate fact from fiction, and hype from hope.

The HighYa team is passionate about helping you avoid scams and make better purchasing decisions about everything the internet has to offer.

Why Organic Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

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By Christine Scioli

My hubbie’s roots are in Abruzzo via Philly, and he was raised with Italian olive oil at the table. I on the other hand, of Irish and French descent long ensconced in the USA suburbs, might have seen a bottle of Wesson oil used in the course of a year when I was growing up.

In a ‘diss to his paesano, these days he’ll only use Lykovouno Greek Organic, Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Why? Too much of the so-called Italian variety is mass produced and blended with poor quality oil, often from other countries.

He’s also a terrific cook and looks for the most taste with the least amount of fluff. “Use less, taste more” is his motto for great cuisine.

Lykovouno’s Koroneiki olives are single varietal and grown on the slopes of the founder’s ancestral village, noted San Francisco dermatologist Peter Panagotacos. The entire family is involved and dedicated to producing the finest quality, hand picked, cold pressed olive oil sold in the United States today. Their commitment to organic farming is of particular note as well.

In similar fashion, I use this exceptional oil for a pared down skincare regiment that actually works. I use it to take off my eye makeup and moisturize my face and body. You just don’t need all that other stuff cluttering your bathroom vanity! Dr. “P” knows all the skim scams well. A little Retin-A and sunscreen, good diet and lifestyle, mixed with some Lykovouno on and in the body is a simple and effective anti-aging RX!

Lykovouno products are available at numerous retail chains such as Whole Foods in Southern CA and Mollie Stones in the San Francisco Bay Area, and direct to consumer on the company website,