In cages at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario sit a group of mice who don't act their age. Unbelievably, they don't seem to be aging at all. For several years, the Canadian mice have been drinking a cocktail of 30 dietary supplements and vitamins. The concoction seems to be keeping the rodents young [source: Food & Fitness Advisor].
Scientists say the mice that were given the anti-aging cocktail had an unusual spring in their step. They had no loss of physical activity compared to a group of mice who didn't imbibe. In fact, those mice showed a 50 percent decrease in physical activity [source: Food & Fitness Advisor]. Astonishingly, the combination of vitamins and supplements lengthened the lifespan of the rodents that took it by 11 percent. Did the Canadian scientists discover the legendary Fountain of Youth? If you are a mouse, they did. But the McMaster researchers say the cocktail probably wouldn't work as well in humans [source: Dye].
For better or worse, whether we like it or not, all of us age. It's a natural, unpleasant fact. Why we age is open to conjecture. While molecular biologists know that our cells age at different rates, they don't know exactly why. They suspect that environmental factors, such as smoking, stress and exercise have something to do with it, and they also think genetics plays a role, too [source: Harrell].
No matter the reasons, many of us continue trying to stay young. That's why the sale of anti-aging lotions, supplements and other products is expected to top $291 billion by 2015 [source: World Health.net].
Do these supplements work? What's the science behind them? While some might help your body function more robustly, the research behind most anti-aging supplements is based on common sense, rather than science. Our bodies, for instance, need coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) to keep running. Because CoQ10 decreases significantly with age, it makes sense that maintaining proper levels of the substance would make us healthier [source: Mayo Clinic].
The effects of most anti-aging supplements have not been studied, and some could even be harmful. Most doctors agree that the best way to combat the effects of aging is with a proper diet and exercise. Yet, that doesn't seem to stop us from trying anything to hold back the Grim Reaper. Read on to find out the top five supplements that claim to keep you young.
5: Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Our bodies produce CoQ10, a substance that's necessary for cells to function. It helps produce an important molecule known as adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. ATP is the fuel that helps power the energy-producing center of the cell known as mitochondria [source: University of Maryland Medical Center]. As we get older, our body produces less CoQ10, and as a result, our cells don't function as they should. In fact, those who suffer from chronic diseases such as Parkinson's, cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease have lower CoQ10 levels than healthy people [source: Mayo Clinic].
Researchers believe that taking CoQ10 as a supplement can help prevent heart disease. It helps prevent blood from clotting, and may act as an antioxidant, which protects our cells against the effects of free radicals that can damage cells and cause heart disease. Moreover, researchers suspect CoQ10 supplements may improve the health of diabetics by managing blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure [source: University of Maryland Medical Center].
Consumers can buy CoQ10 as a supplement in several forms, including soft gel capsules. There is even an oral rinse that helps treat gum disease. The supplement also comes in hard-shell capsules and tablets. Our bodies tend to absorb soft gel capsules better than hard capsules. Cosmetic companies also add CoQ10 to various products. The recommended dosage for adults is 30 to 300 mg. daily [source: University of Maryland Medical Center].
CoQ10 supplements seem to have no side effects except for an occasional upset stomach. However, consult with your physician if you want to take the supplement and are on any other medications [source: University of Maryland Medical Center].
Take one aspirin and call me in the morning, because there isn't anything aspirin can't do, or so it seems. Aspirin can help get rid of a headache, relieve minor pain and reduce low-grade fevers. Those with heart conditions are often put on a low-dose aspirin regimen because it helps blood flow, which is important as our bodies age. One study showed that men who took aspirin every other day didn't need as much surgery to repair blocked blood vessels [source: Mother Nature].
Aspirin might also help a person avoid colon cancer. One study suggested that those who took aspirin 16 or more times a month had a 50 percent lower risk of developing colon cancer because the tiny, white wonder drug slows the down development of polyps that could be a tell-tale sign of the disease [source: Mother Nature]. Beware! Aspirin therapy doesn't work well for everyone. Studies show that men react differently to aspirin than women. And taking too much aspirin could cause stomach problems [source: Duenwald].
Produced in the liver and kidneys, and stored in the heart, brain, muscles and sperm, carnitine is a nutrient that helps the body turn fat into energy. Some people take carnitine pills because their bodies, for whatever reason, do not produce enough of the nutrient. Among its other benefits, several studies suggest that carnitine helps reduce the symptoms of angina, a medical condition in which a lack of blood to the heart causes severe chest pains [source: University of Maryland Medical Research Center].
Acetyl-L-Carnitine is a type of carnitine. It has been touted as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease and as an anti-aging supplement because it improves memory function. Carnitine is also used to help relieve depression related to senility and dementia. Several studies suggest that L-carnitine supplements may increase sperm count in men, too [source: University of Maryland Medical Research Center].
The recommended dosage for the supplement varies depending on what ailment is being treated. The usual dose is between 1 to 3 grams per day. Those suffering from heart disease should take between 600 to 1,200 mg three times a day. According to the University of Maryland Medical Research Center, other common dosages include the following:
- Angina and heart failure: 1.5 to 2 grams per day
- Peripheral vascular disease: 2 to 4 grams per day
- Diabetic neuropathy: 3 grams per day
- Male infertility: 300 to 1,000 mg 3 times daily
- Chronic fatigue syndrome: 500 to 1,000 mg 3 to 4 times per day
2: Fish Oil
The key component of fish oil supplements is omega-3, which is a fatty acid. Doctors tout omega-3 as a way to keep your heart healthy. It can also reduce the overall risk of sudden death in patients with coronary heart disease. Some studies also show that fish oil is beneficial in lowering high triglyceride levels, which are fats related to cholesterol [source: WebMD].
Some older people use fish oil to stem the effects of glaucoma and macular degeneration. According to scientists, the body does not produce its own omega-3 fatty acids, so eating a lot of fish or taking fish oil supplements is important. Omega-3 has proven useful in reducing pain and swelling, and for preventing blood from easily clotting [source: WebMD].
However, there are some side effects. Taking too much fish oil can cause the blood to run too thin, increasing the chance of bleeding. High doses might also harm the body's immune system, reducing a person's ability to fight disease. Fish oil can interact with birth control pills, too [source: WebMD].
Fish oil comes in soft gel capsules. Doctors recommend taking 1 to 4 grams of fish oil a day if you're fighting high triglyceride levels. Those suffering from high blood pressure should take 4 grams a day. Those with depression can also benefit from fish oil. Doctors recommend taking 9.6 grams a day in conjunction with anti-depressant medications [source: WebMD].
1: Human Growth Hormone
If you want to hit old age out of the ball park, many people recommend taking human growth hormone, or HGH. HGH is made in the body's pituitary gland, and while it is important for normal growth in children, many books and articles have touted the hormone as a Fountain of Youth that reverses the effects of aging. That's because HGH levels decrease naturally the older you get. There's only one problem: There's no scientific evidence to back up the claim that HGH will help stave off the effects of aging. Those who use HGH might even be putting their health at risk [source: Childs].
Synthetic human growth hormone was developed in 1985 and approved for use in children who had growing problems. Since then, the FDA has approved the drug's use for adults who have various maladies, including a muscle-wasting disease associated with HIV/AIDS [source: WebMD]. In 2007, the Annals of Internal Medicine reviewed the published studies about HGH's effect on aging. The journal concluded that while there are minimal benefits associated with the hormone, there are potential side effects, such as diabetes, and the formation of breasts in men, so HGH is regulated by the government [source: WebMD].
Still, thousands of healthy Americans have received illegal HGH injections each year as an anti-aging drug. Athletes also use HGH as a performance-enhancing drug [sources: WebMD, Childs]. How do they get the drug if it is regulated by the government? Nefarious doctors give their patients illegal HGH injections. People can also buy the synthetic hormone over the Internet and through anti-aging clinics [source: WebMD].
Lots More Information
- Top 7 Anti-aging Tips
- 5 Beauty Tips for Older Women
- 5 Myths About Aging and Your Health
- 5 Anti-aging Vitamins
More Great Links
- Childs, Dan. "Growth Hormone Ineffective for Anti-Aging, Studies Say." ABC News. Jan. 16, 2007. (May 2011).http://abcnews.go.com/Health/ActiveAging/story?id=2797099&page=1
- Duenwald, Mary. "Aspirin Therapy Benefits Women, but Not in the Way it Aids, Men." The New York Times. March 7, 2005. (May, 2011).http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/07/health/07cnd-aspirin.html?pagewanted=1
- Dye, Lee. "Is There a Fountain of Youth?" ABC News. Feb. 17, 2010. (May, 2011).http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/DyeHard/fountain-youth/story?id=9855805
- Fitness Food Advisor. "Diet and exercise still better anti-aging weapons than supplements." June, 2010. (May, 2011).
- Harrell, Eben. "Scientists Get Closer to Understanding Why We Age." Time. Feb. 15, 2010. (May, 2011).http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1963637,00.html
- Mayo Clinic. "Conenzyme Q10." (May, 2011).http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/coenzyme-q10/NS_patient-coenzymeq10
- Mother Nature. "Aspirin." (May 2011).http://www.mothernature.com/l/Age-Erasers-for-Women/Aspirin_74.html
- University of Maryland Medical Center. "Carnitine (L-carnitine). (May 2011).http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/carnitine-l-000291.htm
- University of Maryland Medical Center. "Conenzyme Q10." (May, 2011).http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/coenzyme-q10-000295.htm
- WebMD. "Fish Oil." (May, 2011).http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-993-FISH%20OIL.aspx?activeIngredientId=993&activeIngredientName=FISH%20OIL
- WebMD. "Human Growth Hormone." (May, 2011). http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/human-growth-hormone-hgh
- World Health. "Global Anti-Aging Products Market to Reach $291.9 Billion by 2015, According to New Report by Global Industry Analysts." Feb. 19, 2009. (May, 2011).http://www.worldhealth.net/news/global_anti-aging_products_market_to_rea/