Anti-aging supplements may help support healthy aging and help you feel much younger, and they don't need a doctor's note. However, self-medication can lead to side effects, abuse, and interactions with prescription drugs. Understanding the potential risks of the anti-aging supplements and why you are taking them is essential, as is discussing your best options with your healthcare provider.
What are anti-aging supplements?
Anti-aging supplements can consist of vitamins, minerals, botanical compounds, enzymes, or amino acids available in tablets, capsules, powders, and soft gels. They are one of the novel approaches to anti-aging, and their proposed mechanisms of action include slowing aging manifestations, reducing the risk of age-related diseases, or a combination of both.
Examples of anti-aging supplements include:
- Minerals, such as magnesium and zinc.
- Vitamins, such as vitamins D and E.
- Botanical compounds, such as curcumin and quercetin.
- Amino acids, such as creatine and glycine.
- Antioxidants, such as coenzyme Q10 and resveratrol.
The truth about anti-aging supplements market
Have you ever wondered about what scares people about aging and why they would go to any length to reverse age-related changes?
It might be the same fears that you have.
An online survey conducted on behalf of Pfizer's Get Old initiative found that 87% of Americans have at least one fear when they think about aging. The number one fear with 23% was fear of a decline in physical ability, followed by memory loss (15%), a chronic illness (12%), running out of money (12%), and death (10%).
This relates to why the size of the anti-aging market is expanding globally. The global anti-aging market was estimated to be worth $57.5 billion in 2020 by Statista and is expected to see a compound yearly growth rate of 7% between 2021 and 2026.
Potential health benefits of popular anti-aging supplements
There is no doubt that nothing else beats healthy living habits such as exercise and a healthy diet in helping to avoid diseases and improving your quality of life. However, some anti-aging supplements may potentially have some benefits.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an antioxidant naturally present in the body. People with some conditions, such as diabetes, certain types of cancer, and heart failure, have been reported to have lower levels of coenzyme Q10; therefore, researchers have hypothesized that supplementation with this compound may be beneficial.
A systematic review of coenzyme Q10 supplementation in individuals with heart failure involving nine randomized trials and 824 patients showed a trend toward an improvement in ejection fraction, suggesting it might have certain benefits for adjunctive care. However, no convincing evidence was found to support its use for heart failure currently.
Additionally, coenzyme Q10 is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat any medical conditions.
Resveratrol is a popular polyphenolic compound found in a variety of plants, including the skin of grapes, peanuts, and other berries. It is well known for its potential link to many health benefits, including proposed anti-obesity, antitumor, antioxidant, anti-aging effects, and support in glucose metabolism.
Over the past two decades, billions of dollars have been spent on resveratrol research, and though its positive effects have been described in cell culture studies and experimental models, the evidence is less conclusive in randomized human trials. For example, in individuals with metabolic syndrome, oral resveratrol did not appear to lower blood pressure, blood sugar, or cholesterol levels in the body.
Potential risks of self-medication
Self-medication involves the use of medicinal products (drugs) or other biologically active compounds, such as supplements, to treat self-diagnosed symptoms or conditions without consulting a healthcare provider or without medical supervision.
However, with supplements, 'natural' does not always mean 'safe' for you. Companies selling these products do not require FDA approval; thus, the FDA does not review dietary supplements for effectiveness and safety. This means that not every product out there might be safe, though it may be marketed as such.
It is important to note the following risks associated with anti-aging supplements. The effectiveness of most has only been tested in animal models and cell cultures — not in humans. For example, the widely popular NAD+ supplements have been mostly subject to pre-clinical studies and lack clinical evaluations in humans evaluating their safety and efficacy. Moreover, caution is advised when taking anti-aging supplements if you are pregnant or lactating, as many haven't been tested on expecting/postpartum individuals or children.
Furthermore, anti-aging supplements may interact with your medications or pose harmful risks if you have certain medical conditions. An example of this is the interaction between coenzyme Q10 and warfarin, which leads to reduced responsiveness to warfarin. Additionally, there is the risk of side effects if taken in high doses or together with other supplements. For instance, vitamin D overdose can result in toxicity and hypercalcemia, with symptoms like vomiting and kidney failure. Some anti-aging supplements, like resveratrol, might increase the risk of bleeding during or after surgery, which may pose more complications.
While they may help support healthy aging and slow aging effects, they are not a substitute for healthy lifestyle habits and medications.
Before starting any anti-aging supplements, consult your doctor to identify the ones that are suitable for you. Additionally, inform your healthcare provider about your supplement use if you have surgery scheduled.
While taking anti-aging supplements, follow the label instructions carefully. If you encounter any side effects, discontinue use and tell your healthcare provider.
The bottom line
Some anti-aging supplements may support healthy aging and help reduce your risks of age-related diseases, while others are not proven to have effects in humans yet. Anti-aging supplements may pose serious health risks like overdose and drug interactions if you don’t make informed decisions. Cultivating healthy lifestyle habits, such as a healthy diet, enough sleep, and regular exercise, is the best way to promote longevity and overall health.
Some anti-aging supplements may support healthy aging and help reduce your risks of age-related diseases, while others are not proven to work in humans yet.
Manufacturers do not require FDA approval to sell supplements — just because they're marketed as safe does not necessarily mean that they are.
Consult your healthcare provider when you’re considering taking anti-aging supplements to get the best options suitable for you, if any.
- WHO. Ageing and health.
- NIH. Risks of self-medication practices.
- NIH. Age-related physiological changes and their clinical significance.
- PFIZER. #FOGO? – New Survey Reveals 87% of Americans have a Fear of Getting Old (FOGO) – Results Show Top Fear is Decline in Physical Ability.
- NIH. Coenzyme Q10 in the treatment of heart failure: A systematic review of systematic reviews.
- NIH. Coenzyme Q10.
- British Heart Foundation. Heart failure.
- American Heart Association American Heart Association. Ejection Fraction Heart Failure Measurement.
- International Journal of Molecular Sciences. The Effects of Resveratrol in the Treatment of Metabolic Syndrome.