Jan Moir: How the rich live longer

In the world of health and beauty, it is the science of anti-ageing that has become the real big business. Photo / Getty
In the world of health and beauty, it is the science of anti-ageing that has become the real big business. Photo / Getty

Dr Sepp Fegerl makes his living telling the rich and famous where they've gone wrong in their lives. Today, though, it's my turn to be subjected to his analysis. He has his hands around my liver and doesn't like what he's found.

"I should only be able to get two fingers under it, but I can get three," he says.

Is that bad?

"It's not wunderbar," he mutters, squeezing away like someone trying to make sausages under water.

A few days ago, I was just another cheerful passenger touching down at Salzburg airport, bound for the Vivamayr Clinic on the shores of Lake Altaussee in Austria. Back then, the winter sun made the snow sparkle like diamonds and the pleasurable shock of the fresh Alpine air made your lungs sing.

Now, I'm a woman with a zinc and magnesium deficiency, irritated intestines, a low level of alkaline in my blood and a leaky gut. I also have a lactose intolerance and a problem absorbing fructose as well as cows' milk, tomatoes, egg yolk and about a million other things, including soya and wheat.

What? Me?

In his all-white, space-age surgery - the kind of place into which you imagine James Bond would abseil to have his bullet wounds dressed - Dr Fegerl moves back behind his desk and shuffles through my case notes.

Like his surroundings, the 36-year-old medical director of the clinic is dressed in white, right down to his immaculate shoes and socks. He is also handsome and kind; a devoted priest tending to his wayward flock.

"Now," he says, clasping his hands together. "Frequent bathroom visits?" I nod.

"Excellent! Exactly what we want," he cries, and scribbles out another prescription to add to the half-dozen medicaments - a baffling array of powders, liquid drops and tablets - which he has already stipulated.

After this, I shuffle off in dressing gown and slippers to the clinic's elegant dining room to breakfast on an elf-sized portion of millet porridge with millet milk. Lunch is usually a small bowl of smooth vegetable soup, perhaps basil or yellow beetroot, followed by a thimble of pumpkin mousse.

Dinner at 6pm is always a soup kettle filled with clear broth, with three corn crackers on the side.

Throughout the day, I must undergo more tests and assorted wacky treatments to sluice the toxins out of my ruinous body, while simultaneously refuelling with at least three litres of water.

To achieve what, you may ask? Nothing less than the Holy Grail of the wellness industry: I am here to turn back the Jan clock. To shed the years like yesterday's tights; to become a younger version of myself.

In the world of health and beauty, it is the science of anti-ageing that has become the real big business - a development fuelled by the pampered baby boomers cruising into their senior years and being horrified at what awaits.

Depleted hormone levels, no energy, thickening waists, wrinkles, stoops and maladies? This is not happening to me, they cry.

Their self-interest has propelled a global anti-ageing market worth more than $320 billion and likely to hit $470 billion by 2018. The ambition is simple, but profound: to make people live much healthier lives for much longer.

In the U.S, Google is building a research facility on the West Coast to study diseases which affect the elderly, such as neurodegeneration and cancer. Surgeons in Brazil and elsewhere are pushing back age frontiers with rejuvenation biotechnologies, tissue engineering, stem cell facelifts and cellular restoration.

Across Europe, the new buzz in beauty is all about youth-inducing copper peptides, while women, and men, of a certain age are clamouring to have the latest must-have procedure, the non-surgical, eight-point facelift.

The rush to turn the clock back has never been more fevered, although here at Vivamayr they have been practising life-extending therapies since the 1950s. Their aim is to help prevent what they call the "civilisation" diseases, including gout, high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, diabetes and cancers.
Some of these conditions cannot be attributed to lifestyle, but in many cases they can.
Dr Fegerl and his team believe that one ten-day stay can add ten years to a lifespan, while adopting their clean living principles could give you another 20 years and beyond.

Staff here follow the doctrines of Austrian physician Dr F. X. Mayr, who started practising more than 100 years ago. He believed humans unknowingly self-harm by storing up toxins in their intestines. To this end, he developed the Mayr Cure, a combination of fasting, sweating, sleeping, sensible living and chewing. Lots of chewing.

Patients here are even given chewing lessons; shown how to masticate each mouthful of stale spelt bread 40 times. It's utterly ghastly, but a fellow inmate called Ingrid, an attractive 52-year-old Swedish divorcee who lives in Surrey, looks on the bright side.

"Just think, if we chew like this all the time, we will never get the jowly face!" she says. We munch on, as diligent as rabbits.

The Vivamayr clinics - this new one opened last year, while the mothership on the other side of Austria has been going strong for more than ten years - are where the rich come to do an extreme detox and sort out their digestive systems with a total gut cleanse via a combination of naturopathic and medical procedures.

Devotees include captains of industry, trophy wives, government ministers, Sarah Ferguson, Russian oligarchs and assorted supermodels, including Karlie Kloss. During my stay, the pop star Natalie Imbruglia, 41, and her friend Caroline Stanbury, the 40-year-old socialite, check in.

The latter, who is married to Turkish financier Cem Habib, had already publicised her plan.
In the days leading up to their detox, Caroline - who once dated Prince Andrew and Hugh Grant - had posted a glamorous photograph of herself on social media. "Wishful thinking," she wrote. "This pic was two years ago. Hoping to turn the clock back."

You and me both, sister.

My Mayr day starts with a glass of emetic salts and ends with me clinging on to a hot water bottle, whimpering with exhaustion.

Somewhere in the middle there might be a colonic irrigation, just to get the party started. Then lymphatic massage, nasal therapy (cotton buds soaked in herb oils are jammed up your nostrils to clear your sinuses), electrolysis footbaths and stomach manipulation.

One day, a bag of hot hay is placed on my liver to 'flush out' toxins. Another day brings a full-body mud pack and being hooked up to vitamin infusions, and always, always the never-ending trips to the loo.

Twice a day - vital! - I take a spoonful of Mayr Base powder dissolved in water. This nutrient and anti-alkaline supplement also creates carbon dioxide in the stomach, which makes you feel fuller longer. During my six-day stay I never feel hungry, not once.

Sugar, coffee and alcohol are all verboten, as is any raw food after 4pm. Can you eat your way to living for ever? Vivamayr believe so, and results elsewhere from calorie restriction on rats show that if kept on a semi-starvation diet, they will live up to 40 per cent longer.

This is good news for me, because recently I've begun to feel every single one of my 57 years. Previously, I'd always felt much younger than my age, but last October I went to my doctor complaining of flat-lining energy levels, general exhaustion and weight issues.
Blood tests showed nothing more than a Vitamin D deficiency, but throughout winter I felt congested and out-of-sorts. There was nothing wrong with me, but there was nothing right, either.

I needed to somehow kick-start my sluggish system - and I have certainly come to the right place.

Vivamayr gives my metabolism the fright of its life - and even if the first four days are gruelling, there is a sense of camaraderie among the clientele.

Masters of the universe, who run FTSE companies in the real world, pad around in slippers behind their younger wives. The kind of patrician, cashmere-clad woman who makes a loud fuss about everything as a way of establishing status and control is present and correct, along with the lithe and the beautiful, too.

Dr Fegerl believes there is little point in painting the exterior of the building if the plumbing is shot to hell inside - and surely there is merit in that?

Every night in the dining room, we're offered a selection of breads, including a terrifying and dense buckwheat baguette which Ingrid calls "the chewing stick".

For Saturday lunch, we gum down on avocado mousse with some postage-stamp slivers of smoked salmon.

But it has to be worth it. A recent report from the UK Office for National Statistics stated that rich people live longer than poor people, and one of the reasons why is that they come to places such as this.

The average difference in lifespan is nine years, which is shocking enough. Yet when it comes to measuring healthy life expectancy - being illness-free in old age - the gap widens to 20 years.

I cannot lie: it's awful at first. Yet as the week progresses, I slowly revive and begin to feel like Popeye after a spinach infusion.

One day I even have a Collagen Rejuvenation treatment, which beautician Elisabetta thinks might knock "five years" off my skin age, which she estimates is "about 35" - heh heh. It involves a skin peel and collagen mask, followed by blobs of soothing cream. I can't see much difference, but a week later my skin looks amazing.

All too soon, it is time to say farewell to this world where vegetables are steamed, chicken is poached, your liver is coddled and your intestines sluiced.

At the end, I do feel wonderful -but how much is that to do with being in a wonderful location?

By day, I would hike eight kilometres around the lake or go on a heart-gladdening sleigh ride in the snow. At night, I open the window and let the intoxicating Alpine air pour in, like invisible smoke. A tonic in itself.

The weird thing is, I do feel about ten years younger than when I arrived - and losing a few pounds along the way is a happy by-product of that.

No wonder The Cure has become a cult among the well-upholstered of Europe and beyond. After all, it's a beautiful place, full of kind people who want to look after you all day. Just no more kettles of broth, please.

* Seven nights at VIVAMAYR Altaussee (vivamayr.com) start at $4,230 with basic medical detox programme including medical treatments, consultations and use of spa and pool facilities.

- Daily Mail

- Daily Mail

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