Challenges when vetting supplements
Although longevity medicine and associated fields are currently experiencing an enormous boom, there is still a lack of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) - also regarding supplements. RCTs on humans are very complex, expensive, and take a long time. Many interesting compounds occur naturally in foods and plants and cannot be patented in their original form - which often makes research uninteresting for the industry. Further, public funds flow into this research area only sparingly, as they favor research into therapies for already established diseases. So more public money flows into the research of “disease management” instead of “health care”.
Because of the lack of RCTs, many recommendations in the longevity field are still based on expert opinions of researchers or physicians whose work has found entry into popular science and culture. Some of the better-known, sometimes colorful protagonists are David Sinclair, Nir Barzilai, Aubrey de Grey, Matt Kaeberlein, Peter Attia, Mark Hyman, and Andrew Huberman. Since their opinions are sometimes clearly different and incoherent, as well as subject to various conflicts of interest, they should always be critically scrutinized.
And finally, regulatory challenges represent a considerable hurdle. For many interesting compounds, it remains unclear even to the regulator how they should best be classified, even though they often occur naturally in food. Questions arise, such as: Should the compound be treated as regular food? Should it be classified as a so-called “novel food”? Or is the compound a remedy due to its pharmacological effects and thus has to be classified as a drug? These and other questions are in constant flux and are interpreted and answered differently depending on the country and authority. As a result, some promising substances do not find access in all countries, and we cannot include all the compounds whose potential we believe in, in our protocols.