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Does RealAge Live up to the Hype?


Updated December 09, 2006

Question: Does RealAge Live up to the Hype?
The RealAge products present a comprehensive technique for increasing longevity, improving health, and looking younger. RealAge is based on life expectancy research and has been an extremely popular program.

Answer: Overview

The basic concept of RealAge is that your true biological age is not the same as your chronological age. In other words, you may be 35 years old but your body may work like a 25-year-old or a 50-year-old depending on a number of factors. The RealAge books and website dive into those factors and examine how lifestyle choices and other things impact your "RealAge".

The RealAge Test

The heart of RealAge is a test that asks 132 questions about family history and lifestyle to determine your RealAge. This test can be taken online, or from the RealAge books. The test adjusts your current age based on how you answer the questions. In the RealAge test, for example, smoking increases your age by 8 years, but taking an aspirin every day will make you 2.2-2.9 years younger. The test is really a lot of fun and points out the benefits and dangers of various health behaviors. If you do not want e-mails from RealAge, be very careful as you click through the test to uncheck all the newsletter and other boxes.

Is RealAge Real?

Longevity science is challenging. Researchers cannot do studies to prove that John Doe would have lived 8 years longer if he quit smoking. Either he quit or he didn't. We don't have two John Does to compare. Researchers must rely on statistics like averages to determine the impact of lifestyle behaviors, which gets very complicated.

Can We Know Our RealAge?

In short, we can't really know the impact of all the lifestyle factors in the level of detail presented in RealAge. Each lifestyle factor interacts with other factors in a complex way. RealAge does try to address this, adjusting some of the factors for age (for example aspirin reduces age by 2.2 years at 55 and 2.9 years at 70). The bottom line is that we cannot know our 'RealAge' with the precision suggested by the test. BUT, the RealAge test will give the best guess available to you.

Does It Matter?

The RealAge system is very impressive. Reading the book and receiving the e-mails can give lots of suggestions that you can use to become healthier and live longer. By linking behaviors to increasing or decreasing your age, the approach lets you compare different lifestyle factors and prioritize your effort. If you adopt just 3 or 4 of the suggestions in this book, you will be healthier and better off.

What is it Based On?

Michael Roizen (the author) claims that he has "pored over more than 33,000 medical studies". I find that claim hard to believe. If he spent one hour per medical study for 8 hours a day, it would take him over 11 years to finish. He does say that the calculations are based on more than 1200 of those studies along with a 'proprietary database'. This is probably the largest such database and will give the 'best guess' to the impact of all these lifestyle factors on your life expectancy.

Does it Work?

Over ten million people have taken the RealAge test. The books are bestsellers. The RealAge company will present countless testimonials and statistics on the success of the program.

DRAWBACK: Lots of Advertising

There is a lot of advertising on the RealAge website. Newsletters are often sponsored by pharmaceutical companies. The books can, at times, read like an infomercial. It is unfortunate that a reader has to weed through all of that to get to the valuable information in the RealAge system.

Supplement WARNING

The RealAge program will talk about supplements and recommend various vitamins, minerals and herbs. Please, before taking anything, check with your doctor and a nutritionist. The data may say one thing, but your individual situation is different and unique. Taking supplement advice from a book is dangerous. Read the book to learn about the supplements and frame your questions, but do talk to someone before taking all sorts of pills.

Bottom Line

If you are interested in living long and increasing your health, the RealAge books provide lots of great information. Read them and take away the things that will work from you. Just watch out for advertising, especially on the website and in the newsletters.

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