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As we age, we may not feel older in spirit, but we slowly begin to feel and notice the physical toll age has on our bodies.
It is unavoidably natural for things to slow down; our bodies do not function as they used to, and in some cases, chronic disease becomes more likely.
Overall, the population is growing older and with this increase in age comes an increased desire to prevent aging, keep skin youthful & healthy, and enhance longevity.
However, some of the factors that affect aging are unavoidable.
- and mutations that occur as a part of normal cellular processing
. . . all of which are (unfortunately) out of our control.
Luckily, there are some aging factors that are within our control, like:
- our exposure to the sun and pollutants,
- alcohol consumption,
- and nutrition.
The advancement of modern medicine has helped a lot with our quest to live longer and prevent chronic disease.
For some, however, the idea of a lifetime of pills does not sound as appealing as a natural remedy.
How Can Supplements Fight Aging?
Supplementation of essential and non-essential nutrients to prevent the aging process has become a large area of research and even larger industry.
A review on anti-aging supplements published in the journal Clinical Applications for Aging stated: “The process of aging leads to biochemical and physiological changes that can be slowed down and sometimes reversed through the appropriate use of dietary supplements.”
In short: While we cannot stop the aging process in its tracks, the ability to slow it down with these supplements seems quite possible.
So, what supplements can we take to help slow the aging process and help us look and feel our best?
Ahead we’ll review the seven popular anti-aging supplements, the current scientific research on them, recommended dosage, and their efficacy.
7 Natural Anti-Aging Supplements
Vitamin C is an essential water-soluble found in fruits and vegetables, such as:
- red and green bell peppers,
- and broccoli; among others.
Adult men need 90 mg of vitamin C per day and adult women 75 mg per day to maintain normal bodily processes. Because it is found in so many common foods, most adults are able to meet this RDA (1).
Often times when we think about aging, we think about the way we look. Such as what will happen to our once youthful skin when we get older; things like age spots, wrinkles, and sun damage.
Sun damage actually contributes to much of the physical signs of aging we see and is referred to as photoaging.
Damage from the sun is responsible for a great deal of oxidative stress in our bodies. This is when things called reactive oxygen species, or ROS, are too plentiful in the body.
When we have too many of these, oxidative stress occurs and this has a negative impact on our bodily functions.
How does vitamin C fight aging?
Antioxidants, such as vitamin C, are useful in scavenging these ROS and removing them from our bodies. This process is what is thought to give vitamin C so many of its great anti-aging effects.
When used topically, vitamin C can have a range of positive effects against skin damage and aging. It works not only to protect against the aforementioned photoaging, but also to help reverse visible signs of aging.
Vitamin C works closely with collagen, a protein that is important for providing our skin with structure, to increase its production, stabilize its fibers and also to decrease its degradation.
Additionally, it decreases melanin, which can decrease the look of pigmentation; or age spots caused by the sun.
Vitamin C also works synergistically with another antioxidant, vitamin E. These two antioxidants work together to protect against oxidative damage (2).
Vitamin E is an essential, fat-soluble, vitamin we need to consume through food sources to keep our bodies functioning properly.
It is naturally found in foods such as:
- sunflower seeds,
- and almonds; among others.
Adults need roughly 15 mg per day to stay healthy.
How does vitamin E fight aging?
As is the case with vitamin C, vitamin E is also an antioxidant, which can help protect against oxidative stress.
Akin to vitamin C, it has shown efficacy in treating photoaged skin and reversing skin damage.
One of the most biologically active forms of vitamin E is alpha-tocopherol. Concentrations of this in the skin are reduced when we are exposed to UV light, which can ultimately lead to skin damage.
However, we now know that when taken orally, or applied topically, humans can replenish this vitamin E and protect our skin against depletion via UV light and the subsequent signs of aging (1).
In addition to aesthetic signs of aging, vitamin E has also shown to have a neuroprotective effect in mice models, preventing premature aging (3).
While this has not been well studied in humans, it is a promising finding which may point to the use of vitamin E in protecting against age-related neurodegenerative disorders in the future. Naturally, more human studies are needed to be certain.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Another antioxidant that is super useful in the aging process is coenzyme q10 (coq10). While not an essential one, like vitamin C and vitamin E, its quantities in the body do deplete over time.
This is of concern because of its important role in energy production for the body, and its role in the aging process.
How does coq10 fight aging?
Recent research has shown that coenzyme q10 may play a role in many age-related chronic diseases. This includes not only the prevention of cardiovascular disease but also its ability to protect the brain against degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (4). Therefore, as we begin to lose CoQ10 with age, all else being equal, we are likely becoming more prone to these chronic diseases.
Researchers are working to determine if supplementing with coenzyme q10 to replenish our depleted stores can actually be of significant value in preventing the onset of these diseases.
Because coenzyme q10 can be produced by the body, there is no current established RDA or amount we need to consume each day. However, when taken as a supplement for overall health, the typical dosage is about 100 mg per day.
Studies relating to chronic disease have utilized it in doses of up to 1200 mg (4).
Quercetin is a bioflavonoid that is well known for its:
. . . due to its ability to act as an antioxidant and scavenge free radicals.
It is found in many fruits and vegetables, such as:
- and broccoli.
. . . and is being studied in its supplement form its anti-aging effects.
How does quercetin fight aging?
A study conducted in 2016 sought to show the effects of topically applied rutin, a quercetin glycoside, with many of the same features, as an anti-aging nutraceutical.
Results from this study showed its ability to increase dermal thickness, improve the appearance of wrinkles on the face and under the eyes, and improve the elasticity of the skin (5).
In addition to its topical application for skin health, quercetin has also been found effective for the prevention and treatment of various neurodegenerative disorders.
While the exact mechanism is unknown, it is thought that its antioxidant properties may play a role; as it is thought to be 6 times more effective as an antioxidant than vitamin C (6).
Finally, it has also been shown to lengthen the lifespan in various animal models (7).
While the mechanism of action is still being elucidated for these anti-aging processes, quercetin is a promising supplement for both aesthetic and physical health as we age.
Epicatechin is a flavanol found in various food sources. While green tea, apples, berries, and grapes are a good source, cocoa beans contain the highest amount.
How does epicatechin fight aging?
Epicatechins were first studied for their longevity effects because, residents on an island outside of Panama, where cocoa beans are widely consumed, were far less affected by chronic disease and showed a longer lifespan than those living in Panama.
Since then, chocolate and cocoa beans have been studied in an attempt to explain their anti-aging effects.
While the exact mechanism is not known, researchers have shown that it has the ability to:
“improve blood vessel function,
- insulin sensitivity,
- blood pressure,
- and inflammation
. . . all of which could be associated with the aging process;” they predict that Epicatechins may play a role (7).
Who doesn’t love to end the day with a glass of red wine?
Well recently, it has been all over the news that one glass of red wine has a myriad of health benefits, like decreasing the risk for coronary heart disease.
To those who responsibly drink red wine, you just got a substantial justification.
How does resveratrol fight aging?
The reason for these health claims seems to be the fact that red wine contains a polyphenolic molecule called resveratrol.
While many successful animal trials have shown resveratrol’s ability to extend the lifespan and prevent chronic disease, human studies are still on their way.
Some short-term studies with small sample sizes have shown efficacy, but more research and better-designed studies are necessary.
Because more human studies are needed, a dosage for use of resveratrol for human longevity and anti-aging is not currently known (7).
Zinc is an essential nutrient that we must get from food sources. It is so important that it’s required for 300 different enzymatic processes, and over 2,000 transcription factors in gene regulation rely on zinc to work!
When we are deficient in zinc, our bodies experience:
- growth retardation,
- immune dysfunction,
- oxidative stress,
- and can even develop Wilson’s disease (8).
Zinc is often used in medicines that work to prevent or shorten the duration of a cold and have also been used to prevent diarrhea in infants, and for the treatment of eye-related diseases (8).
How does zinc fight aging?
Much like many of the supplements noted above, zinc is an antioxidant. For this reason, it is being used to help decrease chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases.
All of these are associated with the aging process, making zinc yet another antioxidant that may work to help improve the aging process in adults (8).
Also like many of the supplements listed above, more clinical trials with humans are necessary to determine how well zinc works as an anti-aging supplement (if at all) and at which dosage it is effective.
The Bottom Line
With an aging population, the demand for natural remedies that help achieve longevity, health and aesthetics sustainability, is on the rise. While not all aging processes can be reversed, there are a lot of extrinsic factors that advance the aging process, which you can prevent or treat starting right now.
We mentioned them at the beginning, and they’re so important we’ll say it again.
These factors include:
- excessive sun exposure,
- alcohol consumption,
- and nutrition.
Ideally, we would consume all of the best anti-aging nutrients through our diet; but this is not always an option. Thus, supplements can work alongside a proper whole foods diet and provide extra nutrients in a concentrated manner.
The majority of the supplements found to be useful in the anti-aging process are antioxidants. They work to scavenge free radicals and reduce oxidative stress in the body.
The study of supplements in humans is naturally an important step in determining whether they are efficacious for use in humans. Positive findings from animal studies do not necessarily translate to these supplements having a positive effect on humans, but they do open the door for well-designed human trials to be conducted.
That said, many of the nutrients mentioned above have been well researched in animal models and some are even in the process of being studied in human models. Researchers and the public alike are eagerly awaiting these results, as we continue to age and look for natural fixes.
In the meantime, with fruits, vegetables, red wine and chocolate all showing preliminary efficacy- the anti-aging process may be tastier than we thought. As always, however, all things in moderation.
*It is advised that you chat with your doctor before beginning any new supplement regime. Some of these supplements may interact with other medications you may be taking and some have side effects not listed in this review.
Keep Reading: 9 Natural Supplements that Fight Stress
ⓘ Any specific supplement products & brands featured on this website are not necessarily endorsed by Allison.
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About the Author
I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and hold my M.Sc. in Human Nutrition. I received my Bachelor of Science in Dietetics in 2015 from The Ohio State University. After that, I went on to complete my Master of Science in Human Nutrition where my thesis focus was on obesity prevention in underprivileged children. I now work as a research associate and a freelance health and wellness writer. Email Allison.