True Tales of Finding the Fountain of Youth

For thousands of years, man has pursued the “fountain of youth.” People as well known as Alexander the Great and Ponce de Leon have wandered to every corner of the world looking for this magic fountain. Even today people continue the search.

Today we don’t expect to find it in the forest. Today we look to the vitamin store, the gym or the local plastic surgeon. I share this pursuit and have had a unique vantage point as a physician to find those who seem to have found the fountain. These are people in their 20s, 30s or 40s – people who seem to defy time. I have had the fortunate opportunity to discuss their “secret” with a number of these people by asking them their personal theory as to why they weren’t aging. Their answers are curious.

The first of these people, I met was while I was growing up. I saw him for 20 years and he remained stubbornly at age 37. He probably still looks 37. I asked him what the cause of such good fortune was. He had a theory which he was happy to share. He said, “Don’t mix up your digestion.” He had observed that people take a bit of this and a bit of that during meals. This mixes up your digestion. The proper way is to eat all of your greens at once, your potatoes by themselves, and, of course, your meat all together. I asked if the order was important, and he assured me it was not. You just had to eat each thing by itself, so as not to mix up the digestion.

Fairly early in my medial career, I met another man whose date of birth put him at 57, when he could easily pass for 30. I was still expecting he would claim a lifetime of exercise, not smoking and drinking red wine. No such luck. When I asked him what his secret of eternal youth was, he said, “Beer.” Wanting to give his theory a chance, I asked if he soaked in it, gave himself an enema with it or what. He looked at me strangely, and said, “I drink it.” I thought of my food order guru and asked if it needed to be any particular kind of beer (organic?). He answered, “Budweisers.” I asked the proper amount and he said, “About a case a day.” It seemed to work for him.

As I continued to question the genetically blessed, I found people were attributing good heath and youthful looks to almost anything other than the expected. I have met people who were convinced that eating bacon kept them in their prime. Therein lies the rub. As a society, we value youthful vigor and good looks. These qualities are widely and quite unevenly distributed. They are probably largely genetic. I think of the 90 year old who tells me it’s smoking that’s keeping him going. Sometimes someone’s gifts are even resistant to their own best efforts at ruining their heath. So we listen to the seemingly more gifted members of the human race for their advice. We buy into their theories, we buy their butt blasters, their go-upside-down contraptions and all the other “stuff” that will keep us looking young.

I am doubtful that beer or not mixing up the digestion is the real secret to eternal youth. But hearing the theories and thinking about them never fails to bring me some amusement. The real “secret” to the fountain of youth? Pick our parents more carefully!

— Dr. B

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