My goal is to help you choose a sensible and effective anti-aging supplement program by helping you sort through the dizzying maze of vitamins, minerals, herbs and phytonutrients out there in the market place.
Why is this important?
Because contrary to popular belief, science teaches us that you cannot get everything you need to be healthy from your diet alone.
That being said, it is much better to get whatever antioxidants you can from fresh fruits and vegetables, rather than from anti-aging supplements.
The reason f0r this is simple: the best and brightest scientists in the world cannot compete with Mother Nature.
What do I mean by that?
We (doctors, scientists and nutritionists) learned an important lesson over the last 15 to 20 years.
With the promising research findings on antioxidants in the 1990’s, we had hoped that we had finally found a “natural” way to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and many diseases of modern day living.
The problem is that supplementing vitamins, minerals and nutrients in mega-doses simply doesn’t work.
Trial after trial, the scientific studies fail to show any significant long term benefit from being on high doses of supplements. In fact, in some cases, they are actually harmful and increase the risk of disease.
I like to say that the “myth of supplementation” is over. How could this be? So much has been written and so much is known about the individual benefits of so many vitamins and nutrients, that how is it possible we cannot prove the benefit?
This is strongly debated and somewhat complicated, but I’ll keep it simple. In some cases, when we give high doses of some vitamins, it inhibits the absorption of other nutrients from the body and that may cause a problem. In some cases, we may be using the wrong form of vitamin.
For example, Vitamin E is a complex and potent anti-aging supplement that really has eight different forms to it. Almost uniformly, science has investigated the form called d-alpha-tocopherol. Recent evidence suggests that the forms of Vitamin E known as the “tocotrienols” are really the most important molecules in terms of antioxidant benefits. The third reason has to do with the immense potency of phytonutrients that are found in fruits, vegetables and herbs.
There are over 5000 identified phytonutrients and it is estimated that there are over 100,000 waiting to be identified.
These phytonutrients often act synergistically to boost the power of certain antioxidants found in foods and many of them have powerful antioxidant properties of their own.
Additionally, some phytonutrients are actually inactive when ingested, but when a different phytonutrient gets metabolized, that molecule will activate the previously inactive compound. It is so complex that it is very likely that we will never be able to sort out a small quantity of phytonutrients to take in some kind of supplement form. Many vitamin producers are deceiving you by adding a blend of phytonutrients to their vitamins, leading you to believe that that’s all you need. The truth is, a single fruit has over 1000 phytonutrients alone, most of which have not been characterized yet. So how are a few phytonutrients supposed to do the job?
The truth is that man can never package into anti-aging supplement the incredible power of the hundreds and thousands of phytonutrients found in a whole fruit or vegetable. That being said, there are many reasons to be on a sensible anti-aging supplement program, but these should be just that, a “supplement” to a healthy diet, not a “substitute” for a healthy diet.
What Is a sensible anti-Aging supplement program?
When it comes to choosing an anti-aging supplement program, the word “sensible” becomes a critical word.
You could literally be swallowing hundreds of pills a day and still be missing some of the so-called “important” supplements out there.
So let me summarize what I mean by sensible.
Focus first on eating a healthy diet, rich in fresh fruits and vegetables.
Aim for 9 to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. I know this seems almost impossible, but the closer you can come to this number, the better. For a really convenient and simple way to get the antioxidant and phytonutrient equivalent of 13 servings of common fruits and vegetables a day, in 4 ounces of premium juice, click here.
Eat at least 3 servings of cold-water fish a week, with a serving being 4 to 8 ounces and/or take a high quality fish oil supplement.
Additionally, cut back on red meat and stick with fish and chicken for high quality protein. If you cannot give up red meat, try to eat grass fed beef, which is high in omega-3 fatty acids, a powerful anti-aging supplement.
Cold-water fish includes wild salmon (avoid eating farmed salmon – it has virtually no omega-3 fatty acids in it), tuna, tilapia, red snapper and the like.
Take a high quality, highly absorbable multivitamin/mineral tablet daily.
In 2001, The Journal of the American Medical Association reversed their long term stance on multivitamins and minerals. For decades, they claimed that you could get everything you need to live healthy from food alone.
While healthy anti-aging foods are still the number one place to start, it is clear that due to many factors (including soil depletion, transportation issues in harvesting fruits and vegies, picking fruits before they’re ripe, etc.) it is important to supplement your diet with a good multivitamin tablet.
After getting your fruits and vegetables, high quality protein from fish or chicken, and your multivitamin tablet, consider some of the anti-aging supplement ideas mentioned in the section below.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, in terms of an anti-aging perspective, eat low glycemic foods (i.e. foods that keep your blood sugar from spiking too high).
Low glycemic foods include: proteins (fish, chicken and beef), fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil, avocados, nuts and whole grains.
Minimize or avoid completely high glycemic foods (i.e. foods that elevate your blood sugar rapidly and cause it to spike) like fried foods, sugars, white flour, white bread, white rice, white pasta and prepared cookies, crackers and pies. These processed foods are all potent free radical generators.
Though not exactly a “supplement,” you must consider that food is the most important anti-aging supplement you can take. In other words you must begin to see food as Hippocrates said 2000 years ago, “Let thy food be thy medicine, and they medicine be thy food.”
Need I mention smoking? One puff on a cigarette creates more free radicals than virtually any other thing you could do.
What Is Cellular Rejuvenation?
Do you remember the very first sentence of my home page on anti-aging? If not, that’s okay! Here it is again: “Anti-aging is really about the miracle of cellular rejuvenation.”
In order to better understand how an anti-aging supplement works in the body, you must first understand some basic concepts: The fundamental building block of our physical body is the cell. Cells combine to form bone and tissues. Tissues combine to form organs. Organs combine to form systems. Systems combine to form our functioning body.
What systems make up the body? The cardiovascular system. The nervous system. The respiratory system. The gastrointestinal system. The immune system. The endocrine system. The skeletal system. And more.
Makes you a bit queasy doesn’t it? Kind of like 9th grade biology all over again. But forget about all that.
Just remember that the single, humble cell is the building block for all life. When the cell functions well, the tissues, organs and systems those cells make up function well. So the key to all anti-aging efforts is to nourish and nurture the cell. This process is called “cellular rejuvenation.”
As famed medical doctor, researcher and scientist, Nicholas Perricone, M.D. says, “. . . science is on the brink of learning how to trigger the cellular self-repair mechanisms that appear to be a driving force in life extension.”
There are foods, herbs and nutritional supplements that help restore and rejuvenate the cells that make up our body.
This whole process of initiating cellular rejuvenation begins by understanding one of the most important parts of every cell, the mitochondria.
What Are Mitochondria?
Mitochondria are the “power plant” of the cell. They create the energy that allows all cell processes to work.
What happens in your house when the electricity goes out? Right. Nothing gets done, cleaned, repaired or cooked. Activity comes to a halt.
The same thing happens when the mitochondria of the cell stops working. It’s like the lights go out and there’s no energy to do any of the clean-up, rebuilding or repair of cell functions.
Do you see why the mitochondria are so critical to cellular rejuvenation. If the energy is low, nothing gets cleaned up around the house and it’s a mess inside.
Do you want to get to work fixing things around the house when you arrive home at 8 PM after a long day at the office, completely out of energy?
I know I don’t.
Your cells in your body are like your house. When the mitochondria are out of energy, nothing gets repaired and the house is a mess. When the house is a mess, nothing functions very well.
The same is true of your cells. You could say that aging is a sign of a messy, unkempt house.
These mitochondrial power plants take oxygen and nutrients and convert them into ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is basically the fuel that your cells run on.
When there’s plenty of energy around, the house (cell) gets cleaned up and functions optimally.
So the most important goal in all your anti-aging efforts is this: to trigger cellular rejuvenation by supplying the mitochondria with everything they need to produce enough energy so the cell can stay healthy and clean.
Why Do Mitochondria Stop Functioning Well? The number one threat to mitochondrial function is free radicals.
Though all portions of the cell are susceptible to free radical damage, the mitochondria are particularly susceptible.
The reason for this is because when the mitochondria produce ATP, a byproduct of ATP production is free radical formation.
So free radicals are really a form of mitochondrial exhaust.
Additionally, mitochondria have their own DNA above and beyond the DNA that is found in the nucleus of the cell. This mitochondrial DNA is at very high risk for damage from free radicals, because of the constant production of free radicals by the mitochondria during ATP production.
Though the cell produces certain anti-oxidants and enzymes to protect itself against this constant barrage of free radicals, that protection depends on a constant supply of dietary antioxidants and dietary nutrients.
In other words, the battle against premature aging is really a tug of war between free radicals and antioxidants.
Lester Packer, Ph.D. and author of The Antioxidant Miracle, has spent over 50 years studying the importance of antioxidants and is singularly responsible for much of the scientific knowledge base essential to anti-aging research.
Dr. Packer says that we must try to achieve an “antioxidant advantage.” This means that it is critical to have enough antioxidants to protect our body against free radicals.
When we have that advantage, the body stays healthy. When free radicals have the advantage, the body ages.
I want to say an important word on behalf of free radicals. They are not all bad.
In fact, free radicals perform a vital and essential role for our body by helping white blood cells and other immune cells to fight off and destroy invading viruses, bacteria, fungi and other potentially harmful elements.
Without free radicals, our body could not effectively destroy those outside forces that seek to harm us.
The key to a healthy, anti-aging program is to have enough antioxidants on board to effectively control excess free radical activity.
This is called “the antioxidant advantage.”
It’s very similar to the way oxygen operates in the human body. Not enough and we can’t survive. Too much and we die from toxicity. We need just the right amount. The same is true of free radicals.
As long as there are plenty of antioxidants in the blood, cell membranes, mitochondria, nucleus and cytosol, we will suffer no harm from free radicals.
It’s only when there are too many free radicals around with not enough antioxidants on board to quiet them that we get into trouble.
This makes it critical to understand where free radicals come from.
What Else Causes Free Radicals?
In addition, those free radicals produced from mitochondrial exhaust, free radicals are also created by many external factors, including:
-sunlight (i.e. ultraviolet radiation)
-high altitude (like airline travel)
-pro-inflammatory foods (i.e. fried foods, foods high in saturated fats, processed foods)
-environmental toxins and pollution
-stress (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual)
This list should make it clear to you that diet, lifestyle and stress all need to be adequately controlled in order to protect our body against free radical damage.
Some Essential Anti-Aging Supplements You Need to Know About
There are several very powerful antioxidants, anti-inflammatory supplements that can provide the mitochondria with great protection from free-radical damage. They include: Alpha Lipoic Acid: This powerful antioxidant and anti-aging supplement is both fat soluble (which means it can protect the outer cell membrane and the mitochondrial membrane) and water soluble (which means it can protect the structures inside the cell membrane, an area called the “cytosol.”)Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALC): This anti-aging supplement is responsible for moving fatty acids into the mitochondria in order to improve energy production, which is the hallmark of vital, young and healthy cells.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine is readily absorbed into the body, enters cells, crosses the blood-brain barrier and also passes into the mitochondrial membrane to act as a natural anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant. Coenzyme Q10 (Co-Q10): This antioxidant is found in the mitochondrial portion of the cell and it helps transport electrons for energy production as well as protect the mitochondria from free radical damage. It is also fat soluble, which enables it to protect the outer membrane of the cell and the outer membrane of the mitochondria. Pycnogenol: This anti-aging supplement has a fascinating history and is really a complex mixture of flavonoids (a group of compounds that have anti-aging, antioxidant activity and are found in plants, mostly the pigments of leaves, barks, rinds, seeds and flowers).
Pycnogenol is really one of many anti-aging herbs that can dramatically boost the power of other antioxidants in the body. From an anti-aging standpoint, in Dr. Lester Packer’s lab, Pycnogenol was able to slow down or prevent the death of brain cells exposed to high levels of glutamate, which normally trigger cell death (apoptosis).
That’s a pretty profound benefit, don’t you think. Hanging on to one’s brain cells is a key goal in every anti-aging supplement program. Resveratrol: This anti-aging supplement is derived from the skin of red grapes and packs an unusually powerful antioxidant punch. It makes platelets less sticky, improves blood flow and in lab animals, helps turn on a gene that produces a protein called SIRT, that is associated with a longer life.
Resveratrol also improves endurance in the laboratory and it helps improve insulin sensitivity, preventing the damaging and aging effects of high blood sugar.