8 Essential Nutrients That Support Longevity According to a Doctor
In this article:
- The Quest for Longevity
- Lifestyle Factors That Influence Longevity
- Contributing Conditions to Longevity
- 8 Supplements to Support Longevity
Since the beginning of time, humans have searched for ways to extend their lifespan. The good news is that there are actions that many of us can take to help increase longevity and minimize physical and mental impairments as we age. Make specific goals to achieve this, and lifestyle changes can foster a longer, happier life.
In 1513, explorer Juan Ponce de León and his fellow Spanish conquistadors landed in what is now known as Florida. Legend tells us that he and his crew were searching for the fabled "Fountain of Youth.” Today, technology gurus such as Google co-founder Larry Page, Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel, and many others have invested in anti-aging research. Their goal is to help lengthen the human lifespan routinely to 120 years.
Women statistically live longer than men. The top 10 oldest humans to ever live are women. Jeanne Calment was the oldest living human in the modern world whose age was verified. Born in 1875, she lived to the age of 122 years and 164 days. The oldest man, Jiroemon Kimura of Japan, died in 2013 at 116 years and 54 days. Perhaps in the years to come, hundreds of thousands if not millions will enjoy a lifespan well beyond a century.
A sense of community is crucial to ensuring a healthier longer life and likely plays a role in these regions. A 2010 meta-analysis study evaluated and followed over 308,000 people going back to the early 1900s. Researchers looked at the impact healthy relationships with spouses and family members and friends played in the subjects’ longevity. The researchers found that strong social support increased survival by up to 50 percent.
Diet also plays a role. A 2020 study found that the more fast-food restaurants and the higher the population density in a community, the lower the life expectancy. The takeaway is that consuming a well-balanced diet rich in nutritious foods, which contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, could help individuals live longer. Other factors, like poverty and access to quality healthcare, are part of the equation as well.
Over the last 100 years, the human lifespan has been lengthened significantly due to advances in technology that many of us in developed nations take for granted. Our genetics may also play a role, but many conditions may also help create better overall health outcomes for populations, including:
- Clean Water - Diseases such as typhoid and cholera killed millions of people each year before access to clean drinking water became common.
- Sewage Systems - Fully functional sewer systems have saved millions. Today many places around the world still do not have access to adequate sewage infrastructure. Unfortunately, this results in polluted rivers and lakes. Often, these waterways are the same water source for drinking, bathing, and washing clothes, and dishes. Preventable diseases abound in these places as a result.
- Food Production – The ability to mass-produce foods, such as wheat and corn, along with the ability to transport that food across borders has significantly helped reduce starvation and resulting in premature death. However, much work still needs to be done to reduce hunger around the world.
- Medications – Over the last 100 years, medications have saved millions of lives. While it is true that medications can be dangerous, when used appropriately, they can also be exceptionally beneficial. People must rely on a healthy diet and physical activity first to help prevent and correct disease and symptoms if possible.
- Antibiotics – Before the 1940s, death from infectious diseases such as pneumonia and skin infections was rampant. In addition, infant mortality and maternal childbirth deaths were excessively common due to a lack of adequate ability to control bacterial infections. Antibiotics have saved millions of lives.
- Immunizations- Vaccinations against common diseases such as measles, mumps, smallpox, polio, and many other infectious diseases have prevented millions of needless deaths. They have helped contribute to an increased lifespan for many populations.
- Radiology- The ability to do X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs has assisted doctors in making accurate diagnoses and ensured that appropriate treatment is given to patients.
The following supplements are also taken by many to help reduce the aging process, symptoms of chronic disease, and the physical appearance of aging.
Muscles, bones, skin, and tendons are composed primarily of collagen, the most abundant type of protein in the human body. Collagen accounts for 30 to 35 percent of all the protein in the human body, creating connective tissue, stabilizing our skin, and allowing joint movement and flexibility.
As we age, we produce less collagen. Add on life’s stressors and resultant oxidative damage, resulting in wrinkles. Taking collagen could help.
A 2008 study found that collagen peptide (protein) is beneficial as a dietary supplement to suppress UV-B-induced skin damage and sun-related aging. The researchers concluded, “The oral supplementation with collagen peptides is efficacious to improve hallmarks of skin aging.”
A 2014 study concluded that collagen supplementation enhanced skin hydration and elasticity. That same year, another study had test subjects take a combination of collagen (3 gm/day) and astaxanthin (2mg/day) versus a placebo. Those who took the supplements had improved skin elasticity and barrier protection.
For these reasons, I consider collagen an anti-aging supplement. It is available in capsules, powders, and as a topical serum, which can be applied directly to the skin.
2. Coenzyme Q10
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), also known as ubiquinone, is a naturally occurring antioxidant required for all life. It is required by our cells to generate energy in the form of a molecule called ATP. This energy creation is done in part by mitochondria, cellular power plants that generate all energy in the body.
As we age, our blood and cellular levels of CoQ10 decrease. This is due primarily to reduced production and reduced absorption from foods by our intestinal tract.
Studies have shown reduced levels of CoQ10 in the blood increases the risk for developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. A 2015 study showed that CoQ10 at doses of 100 mg three times per day could help slow cognitive decline in Parkinson’s disease. Other studies show CoQ10 plays an important role in helping to improve function and memory in those with Alzheimer’s disease.
Coenzyme Q10 can prevent common age-related conditions such as macular degeneration of the eyes. Cosmetically, facial wrinkles may be reduced with topical CoQ10 application.
Available in capsule and topical formulations. Suggested oral dose is 100 to 300 mg per day.
3. Essential Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids or PUFAs, play an important role in human health. They are believed to have numerous benefits for the heart, brain, and joints.
A 2014 study in Nutrition Journal showed that most people do not consume enough essential fatty acids in their diet, which may lead to health problems commonly associated with aging. A 2017 study showed that a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids resulted in significant improvement in vascular function and lowering of blood pressure. A study from the same year in Future Science showed that omega-3 fish oils can reduce inflammation and heart disease.
Further, a 2017 study in Atherosclerosis showed that higher levels of omega-3 in the blood could reduce death from heart disease — the leading killer of people worldwide — by 30 percent.
Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in various food sources, including fish (mackerel, cod, and salmon are among the richest), walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, avocado, and natto. In addition to daily diet, these important nutrients can be taken in capsule or liquid formulations.
Suggested dose ranges from 1,000 mg to 4,000 mg per day.
According to some scientists, resveratrol may be a life-preserving compound. Some studies show that it can help prevent age-related cataracts, vascular disease, and brain disorders like dementia. Resveratrol may also help increase lifespan due to its effect on telomeres, according to a 2018 study in Biofactors.
Food sources of resveratrol include:
- Red wine
- Peanuts and pistachios
- Dark chocolate
Scientists have also discovered a few lifestyle behaviors which help preserve the telomeres, the tips of our DNA, from shortening. These include partaking in routine exercise (at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times per week) and reducing food intake by 30 percent, extending lifespan.
Supplemental resveratrol also has a similar effect on our DNA, according to scientific studies. Resveratrol activates the SIRT1 and SIRT2 genes, which make proteins that are responsible for extending the lifespan.
A 2018 study of resveratrol’s effects on mouse kidneys held some promising results and showed that the pathologic effects seen in an aging kidney were diminished when administered.
Resveratrol comes primarily in a capsule formulation.
5. Pine Bark Extract (Pycnogenol)
Pine bark extract, or pycnogenol, is a potent antioxidant originally used by indigenous people of North America and Asia as a medicinal herb. French expeditioner Jacques Cartier, who “claimed” Canada for France, reportedly used pine bark extract in 1535 during his expedition as a treatment for scurvy, a condition caused by insufficient levels of vitamin C intake.
Antioxidants are substances that protect tissue and organs against damaging free radicals, a mechanism of oxidation which results in aging. A study in Ophthalmic Research demonstrated that the antioxidant potency of pine bark extract was more powerful than vitamin C, vitamin E, alpha-lipoic acid, and coenzyme Q10.
Pine bark extract has been shown to help prevent cataracts, optimize heart health, reduce blood pressure, improve memory, and help reduce arthritis-related pain.
Another benefit of pine bark extract is that it appears to help protect skin. Its strong antioxidant power can help shield skin against ultraviolet sunlight damage and can even be applied topically to the face. Its antioxidant properties also help protect collagen and elastic tissue from oxidative damage, the primary cause of skin aging.
Pine bark extract is available in both capsule and topical formulas.
Turmeric, also known as Curcuma longa or Indian saffron, is a rooted plant of the ginger family, often consumed for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and digestive-health properties. Curcumin, the primary molecule found in turmeric, is believed to provide many of its health benefits.
While many people have used turmeric as a spice to enhance their food over the past 4,000 years, the popular spice has also played an important role in anti-aging. Turmeric can help minimize oxidation, believed by many to be the main cause of the aging process, according to a 2016 report in Diseases. A 2017 study in Neural Regeneration Research showed that turmeric helps protect the nerve connections in the brain from inflammation and oxidative damage, both common processes of aging.
A 2017 study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease concluded that turmeric could also play an important role in preventing memory loss. Those who want to keep their brain more youthful should consider adding turmeric to their supplement regimen.
Turmeric is available as capsules, powder, tea, and as a food spice.
7. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid or ascorbate. It has been one of the most researched vitamins over the last 50 years. More than 53,000 studies have been conducted on vitamin C since 1968. The research shows that vitamin C helps promote a healthier body.
Symptoms of vitamin C deficiency:
- Fatigue and depression
- Bleeding gums
- Joint, muscle, and bone pain
According to studies, vitamin C intake may help prevent cataracts, a condition common as we age. It also plays a significant role in collagen production, which helps keep teeth strongly attached to the jaw. This is why tooth loss is common among smokers — smoking tobacco reduces vitamin C blood levels.
Consuming a diet rich in vitamin C helps optimize its antioxidant benefits. It also has many skin and anti-aging benefits. According to a 2018 study, in which vitamin C was taken as a supplement along with a collagen protein supplement, the results showed significant improvement in skin health after only 12 weeks.
8. Anti-Aging Essential Oils
Certain essential oils are also frequently used due to their believed anti-aging, anti-wrinkle and skin-beautifying properties. Most commonly used include frankincense, jojoba, lavender, pomegranate seed oil, and rosehips. They are applied topically to the skin. However, you should apply to non-facial areas first to ensure no local irritation or side effects occur.
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