American Aging Association
2129 Providence Avenue
Chester, PA 19013
Membership dues to the American Aging Association are $35 per year; members
receive AGE NEWS four times per year. Subscription to the journal is $35
per year for non-members and $25 per year for members.
Passwater: The American Aging Association has done a great job so
far, and if you receive the funds, I know you will do more. Have you accomplished
what you set out to do in 1970?
Harman: I was a member of a small group that started the American
Aging Association. The organizers started the American Aging Association
because they felt that more effort should be devoted to basic biomedical
aging. I can't emphasize enough the need to do basic aging research and
the benefits that it will bring. The American Aging Association has promoted
this area of research and has continued to grow until now it is the largest
group involved in this research area.
Our annual meeting serves to bring together scientists involved in biomedical
aging research and provides an opportunity for the media, and in turn, the
general public, to be informed of progress in this area. Several awards
are presented at the meeting. These include the Distinguished Achievement
Award, the Research Award, and the Excellence in Journalism Award.
The American Aging Association sponsored formation of the American College
of Clinical Gerontology in 1986 in order to more effectively apply the growing
knowledge of aging to the problem of increasing the functional life span.
Formation of the International Association of Biomedical Gerontology was
sponsored in 1985 to help bring together scientists around the world involved
in basic biomedical research. The Sixth Congress of the International Association
of Biomedical Gerontology will be held in August 1995 in Tokyo.
Passwater: There is no point in doing research if you can't bring
the findings to the public and the physicians who need to incorporate these
findings into the care of their patients.
You were to be the father of this theory, you nourished it, brought it to
people's attention, beat people over the head with it to get them to expand
the research, you help form the American Aging Association, and now you
are raising funds to support more research. I hope people appreciate all
of your efforts.
Harman: I hope they continue to support increased funding for basic
biomedical aging research. I have testified before Congressional committees
in support of more money for this research field. It is very difficult
to get individuals to understand that cancer or a heart attack is caused
by the aging process and that if we slow this process the disorders that
kill us will be put off in time so that we will have longer functional life
spans. Funding is increasing slowly -- it is now about 25 million dollars
per year, very little in comparison to the billions spent on the obvious
Passwater: In 1970 or 1971 you estimated that based on your research
and what was happening that antioxidants might add as much 15 years to the
typical lifespan. Today would you still say proper antioxidant nurture could
add 15 years to the typical lifespan?
Harman: I am not sure because the average life expectancy has improved
during that time. In the early 1970s, we were working with mice and it seemed
reasonable that it might be possible to increase the average life expectancy
of man by around 15 years with the antioxidants. Average life expectancy
in the United States has now reached about 75 years. Since the maximum value
for the average life expectancy at birth is about 85 years, it is now likely
that antioxidants may increase life expectancy an additional five to seven
It would also help to increase life expectancy if people would decrease
their caloric intake somewhat.
Passwater: Well, 50 million Americans are taking antioxidant supplements
and that's largely why our average life span is increasing. Many people
have already put research into practice. The heart disease death rate has
also decreased -- there are many factors involved, but an important factor
is that so many Americans have started taking antioxidant supplements over
the last thirty years.
Your point is well taken that the average life span has increased. But,
still, 30 years ago when you made that statement there was a shorter average
lifespan so you might have been correct saying 10 to 15 years.
Harman: Yes, at that time it might have been true. Today, though,
it is more likely to be around five to seven years. I am very hopeful that
the increase will be a great deal greater. The field of biomedical aging
research is expanding rapidly, particularly since the discovery of superoxide
dismutase by Drs. McCord and Fridovich in 1969, and may lead to practical
measures to slow the biological clock
Passwater: Well now we are zeroing in on getting antioxidants more
efficiently into the mitochondria to control free-radical reactions in what
appears to be a prime factor in our biological clocks. We can also reduce
the amount of free radicals generated in the mitochondria by reducing the
oxygen consumption needed to metabolize all the extra calories of food that
we eat. The problem is to get people to eat fewer calories. That is a big
Harman: That is education. People need to realize that there are
foods which provide adequate nutrients but with fewer calories. The food
industry is actively involved in this area. For example, they are making
Passwater: Also, we can reduce the formation of AGEs by reducing
food consumption and being optimally nourished with chromium. The on-going
research is leading us to new and better antioxidants, as well as new basic
discoveries. If people support the American Aging Association, we will speed
the discovery process and better the lives of more people.
Dr. Harman, what supplements do you take?
Harman: I take 200 milligrams of vitamin E per day; ten milligrams
of coenzyme Q-10 with each meal; one yeast tablet containing 50 micrograms
of selenium twice a day, and I also take one multivitamin tablet.
There are other things involved in living a long life. These include keeping
your weight down at a level compatible with a sense of well-being, getting
a moderate amount of exercise, little or no smoking, and minimal alcohol.
There is nothing new about these suggestions; they have come down to us
from our ancestors.
Passwater: A lot of times, mother was right. Dr. Harman, your research
has taken us for quite a journey into understanding our own biochemistry.
You must feel good when you look back on it.
Harman: I am delighted to see the rapid progress being made in our
understanding of the role of free-radical reactions in biological systems.
From this research are coming measures that will increase our span of healthy
productive life. I appreciate your efforts to keep the general public informed
of these studies.
Passwater: Dr. Harman, thanks again for sharing your journey along
your fascinating research that has already helped millions of people.
All rights, including electronic and print media, to this article are copyrighted
to © Richard A. Passwater, Ph.D. and Whole Foods magazine (WFC Inc.).