“What are the best nutritional supplements for aging men and women alike?” This is a common yet loaded question. One has to first realize that supplements are not meal replacements and that a multivitamin and a shot of Starbucks espresso is not breakfast. True to the definition of the word, “supplements” are augmentative in nature. They fill in the nutritional gaps and fine-tune our biochemistry, providing those critical elements that allow us to stave off age-related disease. After all, the disease of aging is thought to be 75 percent environmental, a function of accumulated damage within a milieu of self-induced suboptimal biochemistry. Poor food choices, lack of exercise, hormonal imbalance, and degraded sleep hygiene are the major culprits of age-related disease. In addition to righting these wrongs, you can further stack the proverbial deck in your favor by choosing the right nutritional supplements.
Properly selected supplements address those processes that underpin aging and age-related disease, or more simply stated, those things that are likely to kill you. The following supplements inhibit the effects of damaging free radicals and squelch bodily inflammation, potentially adding quantity and quality to your life.
Please consult with your doctor prior to the start of any supplement regimen, as there may be a contraindication. That being said, all of these supplements are typically well tolerated.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
If you could choose one anti-aging supplement, this would be it. It’s by far the best supplement for all-around health. There are literally volumes of data demonstrating the beneficial effects of omega-3s. An integral part of your cell membranes, omega-3 fatty acids (FA) are vital to your health and particularly beneficial to your heart and brain.
All fish oil is not created equal, however. Do not buy the first fish oil supplement you come across. Instead, purchase purified omega-3 FA capsules. Pay particular attention to the quantity of omega-3 per capsule, and dose accordingly. In the event you are unable to find purified preparations, try to find those capsules that have the most omega-3 FA per capsule and the least omega-6.
Daily Dosage: In order to optimize that critical omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, take this supplement liberally. I recommend a minimum of 3 grams (3,000 milligrams) daily in divided doses.
Caution: Omega-3 fatty acids may interfere with blood clotting, particularly at high dosages (over 3,000 milligrams daily). Please discuss usage with your doctor, especially if you are taking blood thinners such as warfarin or medications that interfere with platelet function (aspirin, for example). Accordingly, alert your surgeon if you have a procedure scheduled.
Resveratrol is one of the compounds found in wine thought to confer protection against coronary events in people consuming a high-fat diet. There are numerous animal studies demonstrating its life-extending effects. And the biochemistry has, to a great degree, been elucidated. In addition to providing robust anti-inflammatory effects, resveratrol influences several gene expressions that impact your metabolism.
Daily Dosage: 20 milligrams daily. For the record, a 20-milligram resveratrol supplement provides approximately 220 times the amount of resveratrol found in one fluid ounce of red wine. Is it really better to consume more? Are similar benefits derived from a smaller dose? We simply do not know yet.
You may not realize it, but vitamin D is actually a hormone. Thought to be solely important for bone health, vitamin D has a multitude of additional functions. It likely gives protection against a variety of cancers, is integral to our immune response, has anti-inflammatory properties, influences skeletal muscle growth, and maintains vascular health. Do not assume for a second that you get adequate sun exposure. You don’t. Society is spending more time indoors, as Wii Tennis replaces outings to the clay court. Sunscreen, too, while reducing skin-cancer risk, can interfere with vitamin D production in the skin. Make sure to buy vitamin D3, which is the most bioabsorbable form.
Daily Dosage: 1,000 to 10,000 IU daily. It is inexpensive and accessible. Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D level with a simple blood test. Tailor your daily dosage to attain a level of 80 to 100 ng/mL.
It’s suspected that the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in India is approximately 50 percent lower than that in the U.S. because of the high quantities of turmeric consumed, a main ingredient of curry powder. Curcumin is a turmeric derivative that has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, both of which thwart the formation of amyloid plaque, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin has also been utilized to treat osteoarthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. Researchers are now pursuing its potential anti-cancer effects.
Curcumin is also used by strength athletes to help quell post-training inflammation and soreness, and protect against the wear and tear that comes with years of lifting weights.
Daily Dosage: 1 to 2 grams daily. Looks for a product that contains piperine, which increases the bioavailability of the antioxidant. Be aware that curcumin may interfere with platelet function and therefore blood clotting.
These days, you always hear about B-complex vitamins in the context of energy drinks. The data do not support their use, however. B-complex vitamins are important for what is termed “methylation,” a cellular process that occurs a billion times per second. It is critical to the regulation of protein function and gene expression, without which, well, we’d all be goners. Faulty methylation is associated with elevated homocysteine levels in the blood (itself a risk factor for disease). This often can be remedied by supplementing with B vitamins (“complexed” to include the eight chemically distinct forms). We typically stick with the preparations that offer the most folic acid per serving (400 micrograms).
Daily Dosage: 1 tablet daily. And when, not if, your urine turns bright yellow and quite frankly “stinks,” do not equate this to inefficacy or malabsorption of the product. The former is an effect of riboflavin (the Latin word “flavus” means yellow or golden), and the latter, pyridoxine in the preparation.
Multiple Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling alerted us to the vast and vital role that vitamin C plays in the human body. It is integral to numerous biological processes, such as tissue repair, the quenching of free radicals, and the formation and maintenance of skin, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. With regard to the latter, Pauling asserted that chronically low levels of vitamin C is a cause of atherosclerosis. In the same vein, it has been postulated that a bear’s ability to thwart atherosclerotic disease, despite elevated inflammatory markers and high cholesterol levels during prolonged periods of hibernation, is causally related to their high circulating levels of vitamin C (which they are able to synthesize, unlike humans).
Daily Dosage: 2 to 5 grams. Smokers should err on the high end of that range. Better yet, quit being an idiot and scrap the cigarettes right now.
While water is not considered a supplement, it should be a top priority. The majority of people are dehydrated, plain and simple. Do you drink 10 to 12 cups of water daily? Not coffee, soda, or energy drinks, but actual pure water? Doubtful. Did you know that optimal hydration is associated with a reduced incidence of fatal coronary artery disease, stroke, hypertension, and diabetes-related complications? It is absolutely essential to life, and water intake should not to be neglected, although it often is.
Water is also important for skin health and appearance, the number one factor in how old we look. And water plays an important role in lipolysis, the breakdown of fat stored in cells.
Daily Dosage: One gallon per day, bodyweight aside. Your urine should be clear and odorless. That is unless you took your B vitamins.
By Brett Osborn, DO, FAANS, CSCS, & Jay Campbell