Now and then questions come up in the Facebook Anti-Aging and Life Extension group about a product called TA-65, a nutritional supplement which makes some extraordinary claims about health and longevity benefits for those using it. TA-65 is an expensive supplement, though it has come down in price a little over the past few years.
TA65’s active ingredient is a highly concentrated astragalus extract. Astragalus is an herb that’s been used in Chinese medicine for centuries, and is associated (anecdotally) with optimal health and longevity. It’s been shown to have some medicinal effects, including repairing damage to our telomeres, and other well-established health benefits. So (in my opinion) it could make sense for some people to take it to take it. Most interestingly, perhaps, from an anti-aging perspective, it supports the health of our telomeres.
Telomeres are the little “end caps” on the ends of our DNA. They get shorter as we age, in a way that’s correlated with the aging process. Astragalus increases the body’s production of an enzyme called telomerase, which lengthens telomeres. But it’s not so clear whether telomere shortening is a cause of aging, or perhaps a metric we might use to measure it, or just a random by-product of aging. (Our hair goes grey as we age, but that doesn’t mean that grey hair causes aging, or that dying it dark again will make us younger.)
So taking products to lengthen telomeres does make sense to me. But I’ve been dubious about TA-65 because of its marketing, which to me seemed to be suggesting that telomere shortening “causes” aging, which we don’t really know if this is the case. And the notion that TA-65 is a better source of astragalus than companies that sell much less expensive extracts is one I haven’t seen solid proof of. Most astragalus extracts are highly concentrated, but most of them cost much less.
I’ve been taking a product called Gaia Herbs’ Astragalus Supreme off and on for about ten years. I don’t use TA65. But I might if it were about 1/4th the price. It can also be taken in other ways. Some people buy dried astragalus root (a very inexpensive product) and to make their own tea. (Here in Seattle, the root is sold in some health food stores and co-ops.)
Whether you decide to buy TA-65 or take some other, more affordable products, I would not recommend taking astragalus during a prolonged fast. The astragalus “heals” the telomeres of senescent cells without healing the senescence. But the damaged telomeres are how the body knows the cells are senescent, so it can get rid of them. So healing them masks their senescence and prevents the body from cannibalizing them during long fasts…. not what I’m looking for.