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As we age, we may not feel older in spirit, but it is likely we begin to feel and see the physical toll it has on our bodies. It is unavoidable that things slow down; our bodies do not function as they used to, and in some cases, and chronic disease becomes more likely.
Overall, the population is growing older and with this increase in age comes an increased desire to prevent aging and enhance longevity.
Some of the factors that affect aging are unavoidable. These include time, genetics, and mutations that occur as a part of normal cellular processing and these ones are unfortunately out of our control.
Luckily, there are some factors that affect aging that are within our control like our exposure to the sun and pollutants, alcohol consumption, smoking, and nutrition.
The advancement of modern medicine has helped a lot with the quest to live longer and prevent chronic disease. However, for some, 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 an even larger industry.
In fact, 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.”
So what supplements can we take to help slow this aging process to help us look and feel our best?
This article will review popular anti-aging supplements, the scientific research on them, dosage, and efficacy. While we cannot stop the aging process in its tracks, the ability to slow it down with these supplements seems quite possible.
7 Natural Anti-Aging Supplements
Vitamin c is an essential water-soluble vitamin found in fruits and vegetables such as oranges, grapefruit, red and green bell peppers, and broccoli.
Adult men need 90mg of vitamin C per day and adult women 75mg per day to maintain our 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 happens to our skin when we get older, like age spots, wrinkles, and sun damage.
Sun damage actually contributes too much of the physical signs of aging we see and this is known as photoaging. Damage from the sun is responsible for a great deal of oxidative stress in our bodies. This is when what is known as 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 body. This process is what is thought to give vitamin C so many of its great anti-aging effects.
When used topically, vitamin C has a range of positive effects against skin damage and aging. It works not only to protect against this photoaging, but also to reverse 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.
In addition, 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, as they should. It is naturally found in foods such as walnuts, sunflower seeds, peanuts and almonds and adults need roughly 15mg per day to stay healthy.
Despite its presence in many commonly consumed foods, research shows that many adults fail to meet this RDA of 15mg per day.
How does vitamin E fight aging?
As mentioned above, like vitamin C, vitamin E is also an antioxidant, which can help protect against the oxidative stress mentioned above. Also like vitamin C, It has shown efficacy in treating photo aged skin and reversing skin damage.
One of the most biologically active forms of vitamin E is alpha tocopherol. Concentrations of this in the skin our reduced when we are exposed to UV light which can lead to damage.
However, we now know that when taken orally, or applied topically, we can replenish this vitamin E and protect our skin against these 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 may point to the use of vitamin E in protecting against age related neurodegenerative disorders in the future.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Another antioxidant useful in the aging process is coenzyme q10 (coq10). While not essential 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 protect the brain against degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (4).
Therefore, as we begin to lose it with age, we likely are becoming more prone to these chronic diseases. Researchers are working to find if supplementing with coenzyme q10 to replenish our depleted stores can actually work to prevent 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, typical dosage is about 100mg 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 antiallergenic, anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic effects due to its ability to act as an antioxidant and scavenge free radicals.
It is found in many fruits and vegetables such as grapes, blueberries, cherries, onions, 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 to 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 activity as an antioxidant 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 effected 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 aging process,” and 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.
How does resveratrol fight aging?
The reason for these health claims are because red wine contains a polyphenolic molecule called resveratrol. Resveratrol has since been shown to be effective in the prevention of diabetes, certain cancers, and Alzheimer’s disease all of which are associated with the aging process (7).
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 necessary, 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 important and is required for 300 different enzymatic processes and over 2000 transcription factors important 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 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 and thus zinc is considered to be yet another antioxidant that may work to help 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 and at which dose it is effective.
The Bottom Line
With an aging population, the need and demand for natural remedies to live longer and look better while doing so is on the rise.
While not all aging processes can be reversed, there are a great deal of extrinsic factors that advance the aging process that we can prevent or treat. These include sun exposure, pollution, alcohol consumption, smoking, and nutrition.
While ideally, we would consume all of the best nutrients for anti-aging through our diet; this is not always an option. Therefore, supplements can work to, well, supplement the diet and provide such nutrients for us in a concentrated manner.
The majority of the supplements we find that are useful in the anti-aging process are antioxidants. They are working 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 in humans, but they do open the door for well-designed human trials to be conducted.
Many of the nutrients mentioned above have been well researched in animal models and 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.
*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.