No matter what you eat or how many times a week you practice yoga, there's no way to completely stop aging – our bodies naturally wear down. However, there are some ways to help you minimize aging effects. Following a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and keeping stress levels in control can help, but supplements may make up for any of your body's shortfalls. Though researchers debate whether supplements provide serious anti-aging benefits, plenty of advocates share anecdotal evidence of their youthful properties. Here we review the risks and benefits of five popular anti-aging supplements.
Also known as CoQ10, this enzyme is an important part of our metabolism. Mitochondria, the power centers of cells, control cell growth and play a role in the aging process. CoQ10 needs to be present for mitochondria to function properly, and as we age, we produce less. Taking CoQ10 in supplement form may keep our bodies healthier and happier and, according to some studies, may boost heart health. Another option, the amino acid acetyl-L-carnitine, may help your mitochondria function properly and can be taken as a supplement. Unfortunately, this enzyme can cause some unpleasant side effects including dizziness, fainting, allergic reactions, nausea, diarrhea and gastrointestinal conditions [source: Monson & Schoenstadt]
So this may not truly be a supplement, but it's still a helpful addition to your anti-aging regimen. Studies show taking it daily may reduce your risk of heart attack by thinning the blood, thus reducing blood clots. The downside is that it's best used by people who have either had a previous heart attack, are at high risk of heart attacks, or suffer from diabetes. If you'd like to consider taking aspiring, consult with your doctor first, so he or she can assess and risks. Unpleasant side effects include ulcers, allergic reactions, and ringing in the ears.
Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are the ultimate anti-aging ingredient. Because our bodies can manufacture them, it's essential to get them through a diet of fatty fish or a supplement. Research tells us that omega-3 fatty acids reduce high cholesterol and high blood pressure, two risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Studies also show that regularly getting these nutrients can boost brainpower, prevent cancer, protect against aging and fight wrinkles. Many of those claims are still being studied, but there are very few side effects of fish oil (minus the potential for fishy burps).
Produced in the pituitary gland, the hormone helps us grow up big and strong and then helps us maintain our healthy bodies. However, as we age, we produce less and less HGH. Because of this shortage, researchers have been experimenting with a synthetic form of this hormone that may increase muscle mass, protect cells and boost skin health. It also has a slew of negative results: HGH may cause high blood pressure, joint pain, irregular heart rhythms and a higher risk of diabetes and carpal tunnel syndrome [source: Kuczynski].
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) helps your body produce important sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. Levels of DHEA peak at 25 and steadily decline as we age. Low levels are associated with chronic conditions such as breast cancer and cardiovascular disease, and those who have higher levels of the hormone typically live longer than those who have lower levels. Some believe that taking DHEA may reduce these health issues, and preliminary studies show that may slow bone loss, boost skin health and prevent memory loss. However these results are far from conclusive. Because there have been only a few studies dealing with long-term use of DHEA and it may cause unwanted side effects like insulin resistance and other hormone-related disorders, discuss the risks with a health care professional.
Before taking any of these supplements, it's important consider the potential dangers with your doctor. And remember, if a product seems too good to be true, it probably is!
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