Turning Back the Clock with Anti-Aging Supplements.


A better tomorrow starts with some of today's latest weapon against aging

Ask any child what he or she would like to grow up to be and you probably won't hear “old.” But with millions of Baby Boomers moving into the middle years, researchers around the world are hard at work developing ways to delay the signs of aging. No one has come up with a magic “Fountain of Youth” pill, but we sure can counteract some of the damage done by Father Time with lifestyle changes and supplements that help build and preserve muscle, burn fat, maintain brain power and keep skin looking young.

For most young people, aging is not a major concern. Living on fast food, a few hours' sleep and very little exercise can take a toll, though. The ill effects of those youthful bad habits are compounded in our middle years, when our bodies don't function as efficiently as they once did.

Clearly, the fight against aging begins with regular, moderate exercise and a healthy diet based on whole foods (fruits, vegetables and whole grains). Fortunately, exercise and diet work synergistically, each enhancing the effects of the other. Without weight-bearing exercise, for instance, bones can be weakened by osteoporosis, even when calcium intake is high. Similarly, exercise and a good diet help keep weight down, which not only lowers the risk of death but also protects against many chronic diseases like diabetes, osteoarthritis and heart disease.

A diet based on whole foods, rather than processed or fast food, can help you maintain your youth, especially if it includes foods that scientists call natural age fighters. Blueberries, blackberries and boysen-berries, for example, are at the top of the list, according to researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. In animal studies, experts have found that these berries, which are rich in substances called anthocyanins, reversed age-related mental decline.

Of course, even the best diets — and intentions — may fall short, since it's difficult to determine the precise vitamin and mineral content of food these days. Experts suggest starting an anti-aging regimen with a multi-vitamin product that includes the B complex family, beta-carotene, vitamins A, C, E and K, and the minerals calcium, chromium, copper, magnesium, manganese and zinc. Keep in mind, though, that as more scientific proof appears supporting the benefits of supplements, experts are raising recommended amounts. The National Academy of Sciences, for example, recently raised the daily safe upper limits for vitamin C to 2,000 mg and vitamin E to 1,500 IU, and now suggests 400 mcg of the trace mineral selenium.

None of us would live very long without oxygen. But ironically, oxygen is also one of the culprits behind aging. According to the widely accepted free radical theory, molecules that have lost an electron become unstable rogues that raid the electrons of healthy molecules, leaving them damaged. The resulting “oxidation” process can affect cells throughout the body, including the genetic directions in our DNA. Unchecked, free radical damage leads to a long list of conditions and diseases, many of them associated with aging.

Some vitamins and other substances work as antioxidants by fighting the oxidation caused by free radicals. The best-known antioxidant team is ACES—vitamins A, C, E and selenium. Of these four substances, the trace mineral selenium is probably the least well known, but recent research shows that it may be one of the most powerful. Earlier studies have shown that cancer patients are frequently deficient in selenium. Now new animal research in France has found that supplemental selenium cuts liver cancer deaths in half and results in “highly significant” improvements in protection provided by antioxidant defense systems. Selenium deficiencies have also been linked to severe cases of flu. Experts stress, however, that taking too much selenium can cause problems, including diarrhea, nausea, fatigue and a metallic taste in the mouth. Do not exceed the recommended daily dose of 400 mcg a day, especially if you frequently eat garlic, Brazil nuts or grains, all of which can be rich sources of selenium. (The amount of selenium in food depends on the amount of the mineral in the soil where it was grown, and that can vary widely.)

Recently, researchers have discovered potent antioxidant abilities in other compounds, such as the flavonoid family known as oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs). OPCs provide dual protection against aging, because they not only fight free radicals but also extend the protective effects of other antioxidants, like vitamins C, E and beta-carotene.

OPCs are found in red wine, chocolate, barley, apples and berries, as well as herbs like horse chestnut and hawthorn. As supplements, OPCs often derived from grape seed, grape skin (or a combination) or from French maritime pine trees. The recommended dosage ranges from 50 to 300 mg, or according to the product directions.

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is another antioxidant that belongs in every Fountain of Youth kit. Like OPGs, ALA boosts the effects of other antioxidants, while warding off inflammation and environmental toxins, raising energy levels and aiding healthy glucose metabolism. But ALA has another advantage; it can help keep skin looking young, whether taken internally or applied topically to the skin. Try a daily dose of 50 to 100 mg, or look for lotions or creams with a minimum of one percent ALA.

Anyone familiar with Ayurvedic medicine knows ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), an essential herb in Indian healing traditions. While ashwagandha may be best known for its ability to soothe stress and anxiety, it also has a reputation as an invigorating tonic that counteracts various types of inflammation, including arthritis. A typical daily dosage is 450 mg of a standardized product containing two to seven mg of the active ingredient, withanolides.

Although the amino acid combination known as creatine is popular among athletes, new research shows that it may be just what the doctor ordered to combat muscle loss associated with aging. Canadian researchers tested the strength of more than 80 individuals with muscle degenerating diseases both before and after giving them creatine supplements for ten days. At the end of the trial, average results showed increases in both muscle strength and lean muscle mass. Beef, fish and dairy products are good food sources of creatine. For supplements, start with five grams four times daily for six days, and then taper off to a maintenance dose of two to five grams daily. Take creatine with plenty of water.

Long a favorite with both Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners, the herb gotu kola (Centella asiatica) is commonly prescribed as a memory and brain function enhancer. But with its combination of abundant vitamin B complex and calming substances known as triterpenoids, gotu kola can also help minimize depression, stress and anxiety, all factors that contribute to aging. In fact, a recent double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that participants who took gotu kola were less anxious when startled by a loud noise than those in the placebo group. Daily doses ranging from 800 to 2,000 mg are considered safe.

A recently released review of research on garlic, that was conducted at the Tufts University School of Medicine, concluded that there is “compelling evidence” to support the beneficial health effects of garlic extract (aged). These include lower risk of age-related diseases, such as stroke, cardiovascular conditions and cancer. If you prefer fresh garlic, wait 15 minutes after chopping or peeling it before cooking, so that the healthful compounds have time to accumulate. As a supplement, 400 mg three times a day is generally recommended. Lowering cholesterol, however, may require as much as 4,000 mg daily. Garlic is considered safe, but it should be avoided by nursing mothers and by anyone taking blood-thinning medication, since garlic has anticoagulant properties.

Human growth hormone (HGH) has been widely touted as a revolutionary new way to restore youth. But the substance can only be administered by a physician via daily injections, a process that can cost $800 a month or more. Now a homeopathic alternative promises to turn back the clock with far less expense and inconvenience. Homeopathic HGH has shown significant results in three double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials. In addition to less body fat and more muscle mass, participants who took homeopathic HGH also reported renewed energy, decrease in joint swelling, improved sleep and better mental attitude. Follow the dosage instructions on the product for best results.

With its stems covered by sharp barbs, stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is not a very friendly looking herb, but when it comes to fighting aging it can be a worthwhile ally. Stinging nettle contains a wealth of phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals that make it ideal for treating arthritis, malabsorption syndrome (a common condition in older adults which prevents the body from effectively using essential nutrients in food and supplements), benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and even prostate cancer. Follow the product's dosage instructions.

Yearning for life and youth, our natural tendency is to resist aging. And it's nice to know that it is possible with the help of moderate workouts, nutritious foods and supplements that minimize the effects of time. Here's to a long, happy and healthy life!


By Brenda Adderly, M.H.A

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