Every day there is some news about a vitamin or supplement that is supposed to be good for you. But the ordinary person does not really know what will have an effect on anti-aging and what will not.
In the following I will review the key vitamins and supplements that have published anti-aging effects. With this I mean that there has been a consensus of anti-aging experts that several studies have shown a positive clinical effect of vitamins and supplements. Not all claims in the media are proven.
Vitamins and supplements needed for heart attack and stroke prevention
- Vitamin K2 has emerged in several studies as an important vitamin that removes calcium from the vascular compartment and transports it into the bones where it is stored. Osteoporosis prevention is closely linked to heart attack and stroke prevention, which in my opinion is not widely known. Another study from 2013 was using a much larger patient base of 36,282 postmenopausal women of the Women’s Health initiative in the US who were followed up for 7 years. Initially there was some confusion as to how compliant the patients were in taking the required 1000 mg of calcium carbonate and 400 IU of vitamin D3. The supplement compliant group when compared 7 years into the trial had 35% to 38% less fractures of the hip than the placebo group. This supplementation did not cause kidney stones in the study group, as is often cited by some physicians as the reason why they do not want to recommend supplementing with vitamin D3 and calcium. In other words all of these kidney stone concerns you have so often read in the media are not true.
- The second vitamin needed is vitamin D3 in doses of 4000 IU to 5000 IU per day. This helps to absorb calcium in the gut, but also helps to transport it into the bones away from the arteries. Apart from these vitamins and supplements regular exercise is needed to condition heart and lungs. The overall effect is that osteoporosis, heart attacks and strokes are prevented. Keep in mind that sugar needs to be avoided as well to prevent oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
- PQQ and Co-Q-10 are also needed for heart attack and stroke prevention (see below). These two supplements strengthen the mitochondria, the tiny power packages within the heart muscle cells and the brain cells. The better the support, the more resilient the heart and the brain are to the changes with aging. The heart and the brain are particularly rich in mitochondria.
- Vitamin D3, alpha-lipoic acid and resveratrol are also needed for prevention of heart attacks and strokes, because of the anti-inflammatory action (see below).
- Magnesium and green leaf tea extract have been proven to be beneficial in terms of preventing heart attacks
- Hawthorn is an herb that has been found useful for prevention of heart disease and treatment of mild heart failure (in Germany known as “Crataegutt”).
Mitochondrial function needs to be improved
If we want to have energy when we age, we need to take care of our mitochondria. This is where the biochemical processes take place that produce energy for us.
As I have summarized in this blog, there are several steps and supplements that will help us preserve mitochondria:
- Mitochondrial aging is slowed down by ubiquinol (=Co-Q-10). Co-Q-10 repairs DNA damage to your mitochondria.
- Another supplement, PQQ (=Pyrroloquinoline quinone) stimulates your healthy mitochondria to multiply. Between the two supplements you will have more energy as optimal mitochondrial function is ensured.
- There are simple lifestyle changes you can make: eat less calories as this will stimulate the genes, which in turn stimulates your cell metabolism including the mitochondria.
- Resveratrol, the supplement from red grape skin can also stimulate your mitochondria metabolism. Exercise more and regularly as this will also stimulate your mitochondria to multiply similar to the effects of PQQ.
- Alpha-lipoic acid is an anti-oxidant that counters the slow-down of mitochondrial metabolism.
Anti-inflammatory vitamins and supplements
Since the mid 1990’s it is known by the medical profession that inflammation plays an important role in the development of heart attacks, strokes, inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes mellitus, arthritis (both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis), multiple sclerosis, just to name a few. Here is a list of vitamins and supplements that counter inflammation:
- Vitamin D3: Vitamin D3 is an anti-inflammatory helping to prevent heart disease and cancer.
- Alpha-lipoic acid: This anti-inflammatory is both water and oil soluble. It is an antioxidant protecting from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and may reduce the size of a stroke.
- Bioflavonoids: Bioflavonoids are found in fruit and vegetables. One of the most potent ones is resveratrol. Resveratrol prevents oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which prevents heart attacks. It also prevents Alzheimer’s disease and helps prevent insulin resistance.
- Garlic: This herb has anti-inflammatory effects, stimulates the immune system and lowers blood pressure moderately. It is used as an adjunct in treating high blood pressure, prevents heart disease and various cancers. It helps to reduce inflammation with osteoarthritis.
- Ginger root extract: Ginger root is an anti-inflammatory, but also has anti-nausea effects and is useful for seasickness, morning sickness and side-effects from chemotherapy. Arthritis is also helped by it.
- Ginseng: Ginseng is a popular herbal medicine; it has anti-inflammatory effects and improves immune function. Often people take it during the cold and flu season.
- Green tea extract: Green tea extract is anti-inflammatory and has anti-oxidant effects. It is used for cancer prevention, stomach upsets, and diarrhea. It also helps in patients with Crohn’s disease and helps prevent heart disease.
- Melatonin: Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in the pineal gland. It is a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. It also helps you to sleep. In higher doses it is used as anti-cancer medicine as it stimulates the immune system.
- Rutin: Rutin is a bioflavonoid that is used to strengthen blood vessels, helps in stroke prevention and helps with osteoarthritis.
- Selenium: Selenium is a trace element and an important anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. It stimulates the immune system, helps in prevention of cancer, and converts T4 thyroid hormone into the more active T3 thyroid hormone.
- Cod liver oil (omega-3) and krill oil are both omega-3 fatty acids. Krill oil contains more DHA, while fish oil derived omega-3 fatty acids contains more omega-3. Both krill oil and fish oil are needed as supplements to prevent arthritis, strokes, heart attacks, osteoporosis, diabetes, dementia, Alzheimer’s and inflammation.
- Coenzyme Q10 has antioxidant properties, but also anti-inflammatory properties and helps to prevent cancer and heart disease.
- Flax seed: Ground flax seed has anti-inflammatory omega-3 in it, cancer-protective lignans, blood pressure lowering properties and mild blood thinning activity. Flax seed has a rather tough shell. With a cheap coffee grinder you can easily grind your flax seed. In a few seconds it is ground. It is important to wipe out the grinder after use with a damp cloth to prevent future rancidity of leftover ground flax seed.
Methylation defects and vitamin supplementation
Some people are born with enzymatic defects in the methylation pathways. They are more prone to diverse diseases like autism, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, adrenal dysfunction, addiction, cancer, allergies, immune weakness, diabetes etc.
Here is a list of the methylation pathway vitamins and trace elements important for those who are born into families where mental illness or diabetes is frequent, as they are the ones who often have methylation defects, many of which can be corrected (Ref.1).
- Vitamin B2/riboflavin: Riboflavin is used for neonatal jaundice as part of phototherapy. Some adult patients experience relief from migraines.
- Vitamin B6/pyridoxine: Pyridoxal phosphate is a co-factor of many enzymatic reactions in amino acid, glucose and lipid metabolism.
- Vitamin B12/methylcobalamin: Vitamin B12 is essential for your nerve function, bone marrow function (or severe anemia follows). It gives you energy and keeps you normal, but it is not a cure all. Sometimes in older patients absorption is a problem, but B12 injections every couple of months can easily overcome this.
- Folate (from food or folic acid): Research about neural tube defects (spina bifida) in the baby of a folate deficient mother led to the discovery of folic acid. Heavy smokers and drinkers can get folate deficient. Folate is needed in DNA synthesis.
- Magnesium: Magnesium is involved in more than 300 biochemical reactions within the body. It helps with asthma, bone health, muscle pain and prevents heart attacks. It also cures psychiatric disease like anxiety and agitation. Magnesium is a co-factor for many enzymes reactions.
- Zinc: Because zinc is an essential trace element, it is involved in many organ systems and zinc is used for many health problems. People may have heard that zinc is an important supplement in male infertility and erectile dysfunction. But it is also needed as a supplement in diabetes, high blood pressure, psoriasis, macular degeneration and night blindness. Zinc is a natural opponent of copper meaning that when zinc is low, copper levels in the blood are often high. This constellation can cause insomnia.
What makes a vitamin or supplement an anti-aging product?
If a vitamin or supplement fits into one of these following classes, it helps slow down aging and thus would be considered an anti-aging product:
- Antioxidants (fight oxidant stress): a typical representative would be vitamin C, which prevents oxidative damage of our DNA. Others are B vitamins (B1, B3, B6, B12 and folate), acetyl-L-carnitine, alpha-lipoic acid, bioflavonoid, garlic, ginger root extract, Gingko biloba, ginseng, green tea extract, L-glutathione, magnesium, manganese, melatonin, N-acetyl cysteine, potassium, rutin, selenium, vitamin E, and coenzyme Q10. We have discussed them above.
- Anti-inflammatory action (fighting inflammation): vitamin D3 comes to mind, which suppresses inflammation in nerves (MS) or in blood vessels preventing heart disease. Others are alpha-lipoic acid, bioflavonoid, garlic, ginger root extract, ginseng, green tea extract, melatonin, rutin, selenium, cod liver oil (omega-3), coenzyme Q10, and ground flax seed.
- Preserving mitochondrial function: B-vitamins and coenzyme Q10 are examples that do this. Mitochondria are important to provide energy in the body. Others are acetyl-L-carnitine, alpha-lipoic acid, ginger root extract, ginseng and selenium.
- There are vitamins and supplements that will prevent insulin resistance. This is pretty important as diabetes, where insulin resistance is present will shorten life expectancy. Ginseng, green tea extract, magnesium are examples of supplements that prolong life through countering insulin resistance. Others that do this are B vitamins (B1, B3, B6, B12 and folate), vitamin D, alpha-lipoic acid, beta-carotene, chromium picolinate, garlic, ginger root extract, manganese, potassium, and selenium.
- Other supplements are prolonging life by providing membrane integrity: beta-carotene, garlic and selenium belong into this group. Others are ginger root extract, ginseng, cod liver oil (omega-3), and ground flax seed.
- Partial methylation defects can be cured with B vitamins explained earlier and this has been shown to help improve some mental disorders significantly, improve life quality, prevent suicides and prolong life.
Many vitamins and supplements have not only an action in one of those categories, but in two or more (Ref. 2). B1, B3, B6, B12 and folate belong into category 1, 3, 4 and 6, so there is a huge overlap and this is what anti-aging physicians consider an advantage. Often conventional physicians shake their heads and say that the overlapping actions would prove that they are worthless. However, as time went on conventional physicians have started to adopt more and more the anti-aging concept, because science is proving in large trials from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, from various Chinese universities, from American universities like Loyola University and Harvard Medical School, Salk Institute and others that the overlapping concept is valid.
Because of the overlapping effect of vitamins and supplements you may not need to take all of these listed here as long as you have a good overlap. I have listed dosages of vitamins and supplements in this link (scroll half-way down to the table entitled: Vitamins and supplements, your basic “life insurance”).
Although the topic seems to be complex, the basic idea is simple. We need to get away from processed food and return to eating whole foods, preferably organic foods. A good diet is the Mediterranean diet with an emphasis on vegetables, fruit and lean meat. Cook with coconut oil, but also use olive oil in salads. With this basic approach most of the vitamins and supplements I mentioned above are included. If you want to get more sophisticated, you may want to add some of the key vitamins and supplements I mentioned. It is also useful to use lab tests to establish, whether there are vitamin deficiencies, and it is equally important that vitamin levels-such as vitamin D3- are not too high and not too low. Supplementation without verifying the need for it or exceeding the dosage needed is not contributing to health (Ref.3). Many of the issues discussed in this blog are covered in more depth in my anti-aging book (Ref.4).
Ref.1: William J. Walsh, PhD: “Nutrient Power. Heal your biochemistry and heal your brain”. Skyhorse Publishing, 2014.
Ref.2: Life Extension: Disease Prevention and Treatment, Fifth edition. 130 Evidence-Based Protocols to Combat the Diseases of Aging. © 2013
Ref. 3: Ronald Klatz, MD, DO and Robert Goldman, MD, PhD, DO, FAASP, Executive Editors: “Encyclopedia of Clinical Anti-Aging Medicine & Regenerative Biomedical Technologies”. American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, Chicago, IL, USA, 2012.
Ref. 4: Dr. Schilling’s book, March 2014, Amazon.com:“A Survivor’s Guide To Successful Aging: With recipes for 1 week provided by Christina Schilling”