Efforts to increase healthspan by means of supplements and pharmaceuticals targeting aging-related pathologies are presently in spotlight of a new branch in geriatric medicine, geroscience, postulating that aging could be manipulated in such a way that will in parallel allow delay the onset of all age-associated chronic disorders.
~ “Implementation of longevity-promoting supplements and medications in public health practice: achievements, challenges and future perspectives” – Journal of Translational Medicine (2017)Yes, what they say is true. Aging is better than the alternative. But does your aging process haunt you? Are you concerned about doing all you can to age in a way that will ensure greater quality of life and longevity? Part 1 of this healthy aging primer addressed three leading scientific theories of aging (telomere, free radical, and glycosylation) and seven recommended healthy habits, including a plant-based diet and critical caloric restriction. Although a comprehensive list is beyond the scope of this article, below are some suggestions of some of the dietary supplements that can start you down the path toward your healthy aging goal.
Ample scientific evidence supports supplementing with certain nutrients to suppress the inflammation and free radical damage that are linked to underlying aging processes. While the most active, best-absorbed forms of the nutrients discussed below (in alphabetical order) will provide the greatest protection, many of the nutrients’ standard, more affordable versions also promote healthy aging.
Detoxifying Amino Acids
Aging decreases sulfur-containing cysteine and methionine, which are important for body detoxification. Their levels also dictate to a great degree how much the body produces cellular glutathione, dubbed the “master antioxidant.” Scientific research in animals has established that cysteine (as N-acetyl cysteine/NAC) supplementation greatly extends life span. Dietary sources of these amino acids include whey protein (ideally grass fed, organic, micro-filtered isolate), ingestion of which mimics longevity-promoting calorie restriction.
The levels of antioxidants and antioxidant enzymes (e.g., superoxide dismutase/SOD, glutathione peroxidase) in the body determine mammalian lifespan because they are critical to detoxification and protecting cells from oxidative damage. An antioxidant-rich diet can thus reduce the risk of multiple major chronic diseases linked to premature death, including heart disease and cancer.
Carotenoids– Over 400 naturally occurring plant pigments, called carotenoids, function as potent antioxidants. Researchers have found that tissue carotenoid content appears to be the most significant factor in determining a mammal’s lifespan. Carotenoids also slow the natural shrinking of the thymus gland that accompanies aging. Among the carotenoids available as supplements are: (1) beta-carotene – pro-vitamin A; 10% converts to vitamin A according to body need; (2) astaxanthin – a free-radical fighter that is 40 times stronger than beta-carotene, 550 times stronger than vitamin E, and 6,000 times stronger than vitamin C; animal and limited human studies indicate it supports immunity, vision, skin, athletic endurance, male fertility, and brain and cardiovascular health; (3) lutein/zeaxanthin – according to studies, this combination, with other nutrients, reduces the risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) and cataracts; and (4) lycopene – the most potent carotenoid against oxidative stress from highly reactive singlet oxygen; considered supportive of male infertility, and protective against prostate and other cancers, ARMD, and cataracts.
Curcumin (as Theracurmin®/Meriva®/BCM95®) – Recent studies have demonstrated that curcumin from turmeric, and its metabolite tetrahydrocurcumin (THC), increase mean lifespan of at least three organisms (the nematode roundworm, fruit fly Drosophila, and mouse). Their positive effects are thought likely to arise from the beneficial regulation of oxidative stress responses and age-related genes. These studies provide a solid basis for both future human clinical trials and nutritional intervention in aging and age-associated human disorders.
Flavonoids– This class of polyphenols/antioxidants is principally responsible for the colors of fruits and flowers, and protects plants against environmental stress. Flavonoids enable the human body to combat inflammation, allergens, viruses, and carcinogens.
The best supplements options include those high in oligomeric proanthocyanadins (OPCs), such as grapeseed extract, pycnogenol, green tea extract, trans-resveratrol (from Japanese knotweed or red wine), and ginkgo biloba extract (GBE-24% standardized).
Scientific studies have demonstrated that GBE, a generally safe herb (it is contraindicated in hypertensive individuals), increases cerebral blood and oxygen supplies, inadequacy of which are common in aging individuals. While results are dose-, age-, and quality-dependent, holistic practitioners often prescribe GBE to address mild cognitive impairment, dementia, dizziness, tinnitus, hearing loss, and depression. In one 2002 U.S. study of nematode roundworms, the researchers concluded that that the EGb761 version of GBE appears to counteract oxidative stress, a major determinant of life span.
Selenium (as L-Selenomethionine) – This essential trace mineral affects all elements of immunity, including the development and expression of all white blood cells. Its availability in the body regulates the activity of glutathione peroxidase. Studies have proven its ability to increase thymus gland function, the activity of natural killer cells, and destruction of tumor cells.
Vitamin C (Lyposomal/EsterC): Studies have established vitamin C as critical to the suppression of oxidative stress that protects proteins and fats from free radical damage. This process increases the life span of immune cells, reduces infection-related cellular damage, and may also help prevent the onset of infections. Maintaining adequate plasma levels of vitamin C is also associated with weight loss and healthy weight maintenance, well-established as supportive of longer health and life spans.
PQQ (Pyrroloquinoline quinine) – Although studied to a limited degree, this nutrient has been shown to: (1) activate genes that promote formation of new mitochondria (cellular powerhouses); (2) increase cellular energy; and (3) interact with genes that directly impact mitochondrial health. These genes support healthy body weight, normal fat and sugar metabolism, and youthful cellular proliferation. A small human study in 2013 confirmed that, as in animals, PQQ increases antioxidant potential, positively impacts inflammatory markers, and influences energy-related metabolism and neurologic functions.
CoQ10 (as Ubiquinol) – This antioxidant, which Stephen Sinatra, MD, FACC, calls “the spark of life,” is critical to the generation of cellular energy (ATP) and enables oxygen utilization. It is highly concentrated in organs with higher energy requirements (especially those that manufacture it, the heart, liver, kidneys, and pancreas), but is also found in every cell of the body. In his book entitled The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease, Dr. Sinatra recommends at least 100mg twice per day, especially for every patient taking a statin drug. Ideally, ubiquinol (the active, reduced form that is absorbed up to eight times better than regular CoQ10) should be taken with a fat, only in the morning and afternoon.
R-Lipoic Acid – This potent form of water-and-fat-soluble alpha lipoic acid: (1) is critical to mitochondrial function because it is essential to the extraction of energy from food; (2) counteracts mitochondrial and other cellular free radicals that cause oxidative stress (thus protecting especially brain, liver, and heart cells); and (3) recycles other antioxidants like glutathione and vitamins C and E. There also is evidence that it can reduce age-promoting protein glycation damage.
L-Taurine- This amino acidregulates the enzymes that harvest energy from food. It is highly concentrated within mitochondria, particularly in those of the heart, muscles, brain, and retina. The energy crisis that results from its depletion in mammals causes accelerated aging. Taurine supplementation can reduce oxidative stress, maintain/restore mitochondrial function in aging cells, and even help preserve cognition and memory.
Other Aging-Optimization Nutrients
Vitamin D – (1)inhibits inflammatory response; (2) deficiency is linked to cognitive impairment; (3) reduces mortality risk by 30% in patients with cardiovascular disease who have a normal intake (heart-protective blood values should be 42-100 nmol/l); (3) higher serum concentrations are associated with longer telomere length of white blood cells.
Fish Oil (Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids) – As discussed in Part 1 of this article, telomere length is tied to longevity. Telomeres progressively shorten as part of the aging process, causing organs to atrophy and brain cells to die. In 2011, JAMA reported a cardiac study that demonstrated “a potentially new link between Omega-3 fatty acids and the aging process.” Researchers found that patients with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their white blood cells experienced significantly less shortening of telomeres over five years, as compared with patients with lower omega-3 levels.
Nicotinamide Riboside (NR) – This cell-regenerating nutrient is a form of vitamin B3 that efficiently increases NAD+ (present in every human cell; contributes to regulating cell aging, DNA repair, and the transfer of energy from fatty acids and glucose to the mitochondria). As a dietary supplement, NR has the potential to improve metabolic and age-related disorders (including high-fat-diet-induced obesity), and tissue damage, characterized by mitochondrial dysfunction.
Benfotiamine (Fat-Soluble B1)– According to lab studies, this B vitamin functions as an antioxidant and can prevent glycation. Human studies have proven that it can help prevent the damage resulting from glycation, especially in diabetics.
Pyridoxal 5’-phosphate (P5P/Coenzyme B6) – This active form of B6 inhibits the glycation of fats and proteins.
While scientists have studied probiotics (“good” bacteria similar to those in the human gut) extensively, much about their function and benefits remains unknown, and their effectiveness varies among strains and products (particularly because not all successfully adhere to gut cells to populate the intestines). Studies have proven, however, that taking probiotics can improve gut function and other aspects of human health, including immunity. In a unique, high-quality 2017 study of 4,556 infants, Indian researchers determined that the synbiotic combination of a strain of Lactobacillus plantarum (a probiotic) and FOS (a prebiotic that feeds probiotics) can prevent sepsis and death. Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection that develops when infection-fighting chemicals that are released into the bloodstream trigger body-wide inflammatory responses.
While inclusion of all of the above nutrients in a supplements regimen would be excessive,
including some, along with diet modification to reduce inflammation and free radicals, and other lifestyle changes, certainly makes sense for anyone seeking to live healthier and longer.
Published in Natural Nutmeg Magazine 2018. The statements in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, are for educational purposes only, and are not intended to take the place of a physician’s advice. Submitted by J. Erika Dworkin, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition®, Nutrition Consultant and owner of the Manchester Parkade Health Shoppe (860.646.8178), 378 Middle Turnpike West, Manchester, CT, www.cthealthshop.com), nutrition specialists trusted since 1956. Erika is available to speak to groups. All statements in this article are research-based and references are available upon request.