What Happened to Wellness? by Anne Kreamer

This month more than 4,000 people, primarily health care professionals, will attend the 15th Annual International Congress on Anti-aging Medicine and Regenerative Biomedical Technologies - at which more than 400 exhibitors will be trying to sell them devices and drugs and therapies. When the organization held its first meeting in 1993, 12 physicians participated. The motto of the group is "Adding quantity is not enough: learn to enhance the quality of your patients' lives."

As the organization states on its Web site, "in 1990 it was nearly unthinkable for a respected scientist to suggest that physiologic aging metabolism could be manipulated, slowed, or reversed with drug or biomedical interventions.

"Today anti-aging biosciences are the rage, with great advances in nanotechnology, genomic research, bio-identical HRT, gene therapy, stem cells, cloning, biomarker testing of aging, and human augmentation."

I think we are at a particularly pivotal and exciting point in anti-aging medicine. With two Type I diabetics in my extended family, I emphatically support leading-edge research that explores ways to eliminate debilitating and life-threatening disease.

A hundred years ago those members of my family would be dead; I pray that a cure might be discovered to eliminate the risk to my children. Medical innovation is a thing of wonder to a layperson like me. I am in awe of the potential of science to repair cataracts, or replace hips and hearts. So many people's lives are so profoundly improved or saved.

But on the consumer level, with products increasingly targeting non-chronically-ill people, I think the exploding anti-aging market also has a troubling side - our desire for quick fixes.

Last week at my local bookstore I counted 36 different books with Anti-Aging in their title. And another 21 with Stay Young in theirs. Many of the books used the word secret in their titles.  Many of the titles suggest 24-hour turn-arounds or quick, simple-step fixes for the health issues that plague our country.

In the quest for health it feels like the balance has shifted uncomfortably to anti-age as apposed to pro-health. Doing the proven things that are good for your long-term physical well-being - the duh things like maintaining a regular exercise program and limiting refined carbohydrates - require effort and time.

Wellness in its most inclusive form must embrace both technological innovation as well as personal involvement.