Friday, January 15, 2010

Shooting Up to Slow Aging -

NEARLY EVERY SUNDAY morning — Easter and Mother's Day included — John Bellizzi says goodbye to his wife, Francesca, grabs an equipment bag and slides into the front seat of his black BMW. He drives to a high-school soccer field about 10 miles from his home in the New York City suburb of Rye.

Bellizzi, who is 51, is a member of the Old Timers Soccer Club, a band of stubborn, aging athletes who refuse to fall under the spell of golf. Technically, these are just pickup games, but they have been happening weekly since the early 1980s. The players go to the trouble of hiring a referee and battle full tilt (think slide tackles and heels-over-head bicycle kicks) for an hour and a half. Many of them were high-school and collegiate stars, decades ago. "One guy had a hip replacement," Bellizzi, a former soccer captain at Queens College, says. "He was out for a year, then he came back."

Advil, hot tubs and surgery keep most of the Old Timers going, but Bellizzi has ventured further. Two summers ago he became a patient of Dr. Florence Comite, a Manhattan endocrinologist affiliated with Cenegenics Medical Institute. Cenegenics, a privately held company based in Las Vegas, claims to have 10,000 patients and annual revenue of $50 million, making it the country's foremost purveyor of so-called age-management medicine.

Comite's relationship to Bellizzi is like that of an ace mechanic to a classic car. Her job is to keep him finely tuned despite worn parts. "I consider what I do aggressive prevention, the basis of which is metabolism modulation," Comite says. "Twenty years from now, this will be the standard of care."

Bellizzi is a vice president of business development at Thomson Reuters. Every three months a Cenegenics contractor comes to his office in Stamford, Conn., and draws 10 vials of blood. Comite receives a lab report that isolates scores of variables on those samples, among them glucose and cortisol, a stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands. The readings, in part, tell her if any metabolism tweaking is in order.

Under Comite's guidance — and at an annual cost of about $10,000, most of it not covered by insurance — Bellizzi has gobbled vitamins and prescription-strength Omega-3 fatty acids. He follows a low-glycemic diet, lifts weights and jogs, all of which is familiar-enough health-and-fitness fare. Comite asserts, however, that "lifestyle alone isn't enough" to counter the corrosive effects of aging. Therefore, twice a week Bellizzi grabs a pinch of abdominal skin and injects himself with human chorionic gondatropin, or H.C.G., a hormone distilled from the urine of pregnant women.

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