If you’re alive, you’re getting older. But take heart: The big picture isn’t so black-and-white. Eating healthy foods and exercising regularly can markedly slow your aging rate and reduce your risk for age-related diseases.
A handful of supplements can also stack the odds in your favor. Studies abound showing antioxidants such as vitamins C and E to prevent cell damage from destructive free radical molecules, a theory conceived by Denham Harman, MD, who is still kicking at age 96. More recently, studies have linked antiaging effects with the six nutrients described here, in order of effectiveness for most people.
Resveratrol. Found in grape skin, blueberries, red wine, peanuts, and Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum), resveratrol activates the Sirt1 gene, a key antiaging gene in humans and other species. Resveratrol has also been shown to improve blood sugar and insulin levels in people with type 2 diabetes, a disease that accelerates the aging process. Dose: 100–300 mg daily
Pterostilbene. Closely related to resveratrol and found in the same foods, pterostilbene (tair-o-still-bean) is relatively new to supplement shelves. The compound appears to deliver antioxidant benefits similar to those of resveratrol; one gene analysis found that it activated more than 1,000 different genes. Another plus: The body appears to absorb pterostilbene more readily than resveratrol. Dose: 50 mg once or twice daily
Coenzyme Q10. The malfunctioning of mitochondria, cellular furnaces that burn food for energy, plays a central role in the aging process. CoQ10 helps control the flow of energy-carrying electrons within mitochondria, preventing those electrons from becoming cell-damaging free radicals. For heart health, the vitaminlike substance has a remarkable pedigree: Research on coQ10 for energy was the basis of the 1978 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. CoQ10 supplements can also boost energy levels, which typically decline with age. Dose: 50–200 mg daily. Ubiquinol, the natural, active antioxidant form, may be more bioavailable, especially for older adults.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine. Eminent cell biologist Bruce N. Ames’ research team has found that this protein constituent helps maintain the body’s normal enzyme activity, reversing some aspects of the aging process and improving both physical vigor and brain function. In one study, people with failing memories improved after taking acetyl-L-carnitine in combination with alpha-lipoic acid. Dose: 1–2 grams of acetyl-L-carnitine and 200–400 mg of alpha-lipoic acid
Vitamin D. Study after study has revealed that if people don’t get enough vitamin D, they’re more likely to succumb to a wide variety of diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, infection, cancer, and depression—all of which could lead to a shorter life for the three out of four Americans estimated to be either deficient or marginally deficient in vitamin D. Dose: 2,000 IU is a safe daily dose for adults, but it’s a good idea to have your physician test your blood levels to determine a supplementation plan. A recent study found that doses less than 5,000 IU daily were insufficient for boosting blood levels into the normal range, so a higher dose may be warranted for a few weeks or months. Unless you’re a vegan, opt for D3, which is generally sourced from lanolin in sheep’s wool and is more effective than D2.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). This particular omega-3 fat is essential for brain development when you’re young—and for keeping you sharp as you get older. A new study from the University of California, Los Angeles, found that seniors with low DHA levels were more likely to have smaller brains, more blood vessel damage in the brain, and poorer thinking processes. Dose: 180–400 mg daily, sourced from either fish or algae. Check labels for the specific amount of DHA, not just fish oil.