(Investigator 176, 2017 September)


There are two things certain in life — death and taxes. Taxes to a certain extent we can control — death is inevitable.

Throughout history however, there have been many who believed otherwise. Cleopatra commissioned philosophers to search for the elixir vitae believed to be the Divine Water which governs the perennial plants. Paracelsus theorised that by bringing the various elements of the human body into harmony with the elements of nature — earth, fire, wind and water, etc., — old age and death might be indefinitely postponed. His experiment in the extraction of its essential spirit from the poppy resulted in the production of laudanum, which he prescribed freely in the form of "three black pills."

The notion that natural spring water possessed eternal qualities motivated Ponce de Leon's legendary search for the Fountain of Youth.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s the idea of life extension received a boost with the publication of Life Extension: A Practical Scientific Approach by life extension guru Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw. Omnitrition International Inc., of Carrollton, Texas, markets supplements based on formulations by Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw, one of which is called WOW!, a nutritional alternative to coffee. It contains 80 mg of caffeine and various amounts of vitamins, minerals and amino acids. 


That there is some substance, yet to be determined or discovered, that will rejuvenate or prolong one's lifespan. In ancient times, the search centred mainly around the philosophers' stone. Today it revolves around the use of various drugs, therapies, vitamin and mineral supplements and health fads.


The ingesting of various pharmaceutical products.


The knowledge that we are not immortal is not pleasant for some to contemplate. Any theory, product, diet, exercise or suggestion that aging can be retarded or life extended is sure to have appeal leaving us vulnerable to quackery.

Life extension therapy lends itself admirably to multilevel marketing in which independent distributors sell products in their customers' homes. Those customers become recruits, who in turn, not only buy the products themselves but sell to others. The therapeutic claims made on behalf of the products are typically vague in order to avoid government enforcement action. Some companies however, run the risk hoping that government agencies will not catch up with them until their customer base is well established. Multilevel products are usually overpriced and have questionable nutritional value. They are best avoided unless specifically recommended by a medical doctor.

The success of these ventures lies in the enthusiasm of its participants and the erroneous correlation between cause and effect. Unsubstantiated testimonials also play a large part in promoting the products.

In the long run, provided one follows a few simple rules such as a sensible diet and avoiding harmful activities — smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and generally adopting a healthy lifestyle, old age and the inevitable should hold no fear.


Barrett, S. 1993. The Health Robbers. Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY.

Butler, K.A. 1992. A Consumer's Guide to "Alternative Medicine". Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY.

Jarvis, W. 1983. Quackery and You. Review & Herald.

Pearson, Durk & Shaw, Sandy. 1982. Life Extension: A Practical Scientific Approach. Warner Books, NY.
_________________________1984. The Life Extension Companion. Warner Books, NY. New York.

From: Edwards, H. 1999 Alternative, Complementary, Holistic & Spiritual Healing, Australian Skeptics Inc