A personal mission to turn back time

Maclean's Books: On frantic vanities at middle age

Counterclockwise: My Year Of Hypnosis, Hormones, Dark Chocolate, And Other Adventures In The World Of Anti-Aging

By Lauren Kessler

This just in: regular exercise and a healthy diet are good for you. Kessler’s book offers these hot tips, and more, presented as confirmed findings throughout her personal mission for a more youthful existence. But before anyone can dismiss the book as the 230-page diary entry of a neurotic boomer, Kessler delivers an engaging romp through the medical and aesthetic temptations facing anyone concerned with how and when they will wizen.

Kessler begins by assuring us, and herself, that we can control about 70 per cent of how we age. Genes, she learns from reading studies, determine only 30 per cent of the outcome (although some gerontologists think we have a self-destruct program pre-set in our DNA). The hope of controlling that 70 per cent is what fuels the $88-billion anti-aging industry, including the controversial American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.

Kessler attends medical conferences to learn about bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, hyaluronic acid, CoQ10 and other trends. She discovers how biomarkers determine the body’s “real” age. She is introduced to telomeres to protect DNA (possibly) and she gets a muscle biopsy to test her mitochondrion. She also does a 14-day detox, then tries superfoods, including raw diets and calorie restriction. Those last two make her crabby.

Kessler’s likability and talent for self-disclosure won’t prevent critics from going at her methodology, which is scattershot at best.

To be fair, Kessler is the first to admit her random approach to health claims, which eventually starts to undermine her credibility. When reporting the benefits of the hip açai berry, for example, she makes no mention of The New Yorker’s famous exposé on those health claims. And where are the footnotes? Her favourite studies are often 20 years old. A regular reader of the New York Times health section won’t find anything new in this book, but they might find a girlfriend with a sense of humour about our frantic vanities at middle age.

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