Nutrients that fight aging
How to age well is becoming more important than ever. Here are some science-backed supplements that can help.
As people worldwide are living longer, how to age well is more important than ever.
Aging occurs mainly because our cells and tissues accumulate unrepaired damage over time, as well as become less able to regenerative themselves. Sources of this damage include free radical production and chronic inflammation. These age-related changes can cause more than just wrinkles and gray hair; they can also contribute to serious conditions such as heart disease, cancer and dementia.
But there’s a lot we can do to toward looking and feeling more youthful longer. Dietary and lifestyle choices, stress management and environmental exposure control can all help, as can certain nutritional supplements. Some of these science-backed supplements are highlighted below.
This fat-soluble vitamin is the most important antioxidant for the lipid membranes of cells. Vitamin E protects these lipid structures by acting as a powerful free radical scavenger. As such, vitamin E helps maintain healthy nerves, heart, arteries, retinas and skin and deter neurodegenerative conditions, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and age-related macular degeneration.
Vitamin E is found in wheat germ oil, almonds, sunflower seeds and crude palm oil. The ideal supplement contains all forms of vitamin E, including both tocopherols and tocotrienols.
Omega-3 fatty acids
The long-chain polyunsaturated omega-3 fats DHA and EPA have anti-inflammatory and other vital functions in the body. In fact, they’re a key part of the structure of cell membranes. DHA and EPA can lower the risk of inflammation-related conditions such as heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and metabolic syndrome. They can also enhance mood and promote healthy eyes, skin, joints.
DHA and EPA-are found in salmon, mackerel and sardines. Fish oil and krill oil are the most common supplement types, but vegan-friendly, algae-derived EPA and DHA are also available.
Fight free radicals, aging and stress with this popular vitamin. Vitamin C acts as a water-soluble antioxidant and is required for making collagen, making it essential for the health of the cardiovascular system, cartilage, bones, skin and eyes. Vitamin C can also boost the immune system and limit the release of cortisol, thus helping to reduce damage from physical and mental stress.
Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetable, including oranges, kiwifruit, bell peppers and broccoli. Ascorbic acid is the simplest supplement form, but buffered, nonacidic vitamin C such as mineral ascorbates may be easier on sensitive digestive systems.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
The mitochondria are where energy—and abundant free radicals—are produced in the cell. CoQ10 functions not only in energy production in the mitochondria, but also as a fat-soluble free-radical scavenger against oxidative damage. This makes CoQ10 a useful anti-aging addition for the protection of the heart, brain and muscles.
CoQ10 is mostly found in organ meats and muscle meats such as beef and chicken. As a supplement, the ubiquinol form is preferred over ubiquinone for absorption and activity reasons.
Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ)
Being cells’ powerhouses, mitochondria deserve extra support in the fight against aging. PQQ can stimulate the formation of new mitochondria as well as enhance their efficiency. Recent evidence has revealed PQQ’s potential benefits for inflammation, energy production and cognitive function.
PQQ is present in fermented soybeans, kiwifruit, green peppers and parsley. As a supplement, PQQ is commonly taken together with CoQ10 for an amplified effect.
The aging body needs more vitamin K2 for good reasons. First, K2 activates a protein involved in depositing calcium into bone and building bone density. Second, K2 inhibits the accumulation of calcium in the walls of blood vessels. That’s why this fat-soluble vitamin can help prevent osteoporosis and artery stiffening at the same time.
Vitamin K2 is found in fermented soybeans (natto) and in eggs yolks and dairy products from pasture-raised animals. The main supplement forms of K2 are menaquinone-4 (MK-4) and menaquinone-7 (MK-7).
These yellowish to reddish pigments are fat-soluble antioxidants with protective effects on eye and skin health. Lutein and zeaxanthin are the most important carotenoids for the eyes. They filter out harmful blue light in the retina to help maintain sharp central vision, which is damaged in macular degeneration.
Among other anti-aging carotenoids, lycopene can reduce the risk of certain cancers, whereas astaxanthin has been shown to improve eye strain. Both can also reduce skin damage by blocking UV radiation and neutralizing free radicals.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are mainly found in leafy green vegetables, whereas lycopene is most abundant in tomato products. Astaxanthin is present in salmon, krill and algae. The ideal supplement would provide all of these carotenoids.
The flavonoid group of plant antioxidants, with the power to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, is known to have an array of anti-aging benefits. Flavonoids can promote heart health and blood vessel function, lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, improve fat and sugar metabolism, protect against age-related cognitive decline and help maintain more youthful skin.
Flavonoids are found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, and many supplement choices are available. Examples include green tea extract containing EGCG, grape seed extract rich in oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs), cocoa flavanols, apple polyphenols, blueberry extract, pine bark extract and quercetin.
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By making healthful choices, it’s possible to slow the pace of aging, help your cells and tissues resist damage and thrive, and vastly improve your chances of enjoying a long, vibrant life.