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Forget the fountain of youth, it’s the elixir of life’s turn to hog the headlines. Well, yes, of course they amount to the same thing really. But the race is on to see who can bring a life-preserving potion to market first. Will it be Professor Skulachev’s super-strength antioxidant formula (see ‘Miracle antioxidant that could help you live twice as long‘) or the latest innovation, a cocktail of amino acids from Italian scientists?

The amino-acid contender is, of course, the latest in a line of longevity-boosting attempts. And again, tests on mice suggest there may be something in it (well at least the poor laboratory mice get something out of this particular experiment). Writing in the journal Cell Metabolism, Dr Enzo Nisoli describes how he and his team from the University of Milan gave healthy, middle-aged male mice a solution of water with three added amino acids – namely leucine, isoleucine and valine (amino acids, as we all know, are the building blocks of protein and these are just three of 20).

The mice who received the amino-acid water, says Dr Nisoli, lived 12 percent longer (that works out at an extra nine years if you take 75 as the average lifespan, though I dare say it’s higher than that depending on where in the country you live). Not just that, but their fitness and co-ordination improved too. Well that’s hardly surprising, especially the fitness increase, since amino acids are routinely used by body builders to increase muscle mass.

I really don’t know if you can buy leucine, isoleucine and valine as separate supplements, but you can buy general amino acid supplements from a variety of outlets, including health shops and the internet. If this story makes the nationals, expect a stampede for them – or, since human trials haven’t been carried out yet, you could always apply to volunteer…