Although many compounds are thought to help extend health span and promote healthy aging, some have more scientific evidence to support their potential benefits than others.
Supplements that promote healthy aging and longevity have become big business for the anti-aging market. And with so many products available, it can be challenging to know which ones actually work.
Although no supplement is proven to reverse aging or lengthen the lifespan, some show more promise than others at promoting healthy aging.
Taking anti-aging supplements safely is important, as some can interact with other medications.
Still, adhering to a healthy diet and getting enough regular exercise may offer more benefits for healthy aging than supplements alone.
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Though aging is a natural process, many people search for ways to slow or reverse the hands of time in the hopes of living long and healthy lives. Anti-aging is such a hot topic that in 2021, the worldwide anti-aging market was estimated to be worth about 62.6 billion and is projected to rise to 93.1 billion by 2027. Staying young isn't going away anytime soon.
Much of these funds are spent on supplements advertised to promote healthy aging and longevity. But do anti-aging supplements work? And if so, which ones have scientific evidence to support that they are effective at slowing down aging’s effects on the body and mind?
The best science-backed anti-aging supplements
Although no dietary supplement is proven to reverse the aging process or add years to the lifespan, the following herbs, spices, and compounds may have potential for enhancing healthspan and healthy aging.
Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric — a spice commonly used in cooking. It is a natural polyphenol that may have potential health benefits, such as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer effects.
In addition, a 2017 study suggests curcumin can help manage inflammatory conditions, arthritis, anxiety, and high cholesterol.
Although, it's unclear how much curcumin is required for anti-aging benefits, European health authorities suggest the Allowable Daily Intake (ADI) value is roughly 0 to 1.4 mg of curcumin per pound of body weight.
Resveratrol is a compound found in certain plants, including grapes, berries, and peanuts, thought to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. One research review suggests that resveratrol may help protect against age-related cardiovascular, neurodegenerative, and diabetic disorders.
When used topically, resveratrol may help protect the skin from free-radical damage and reduce the signs of aging. When taken orally, doses up to 5 g are considered safe. However, adverse reactions — like vomiting, diarrhea, and liver dysfunction — have been observed with higher amounts.
EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) is a type of catechin, a natural antioxidant found in green tea. Research suggests EGCG may have a wide range of therapeutic effects, including improving cardiovascular health, increasing fat oxidation, and protecting against diabetes.
Because scientists aren’t sure how much EGCG is safe to take in pill form, the best way to incorporate it into the diet is by drinking green tea. One cup of green tea usually contains about 50 to 100 mg of EGCG.
Found naturally in fatty fish like salmon, Omega-3 fatty acids may also offer anti-aging benefits.
Jeff Gladd, M.D., a practicing integrative medicine physician and chief medical officer at Fullscript, told Healthnews:
"Evidence demonstrates that individuals with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood have greater life expectancy. Furthermore, research shows that having higher levels of omega-3s helps the body combat chronic inflammation, a key driver of many chronic conditions ranging from heart disease to dementia."
According to the NIH, adequate intake (AI) for omega-3s per day for adults are 1.1 grams for females and 1.6 grams for males.
Nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) is a primary precursor of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) — a coenzyme the body needs to perform critical cell functions.
NAD+ plays a vital role in metabolic processes, including energy production, DNA repair, and gene expression. However, NAD+ levels decline with age, and this depletion is linked to age-related diseases and reduced cellular function. Therefore, compounds that help create NAD+ in the body may be beneficial to healthy aging.
"I’m particularly interested in NAD+ precursors, such as nicotinamide riboside (NR) and nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN)," Gladd said. "Emerging research suggests that these supplements may offer some benefit by increasing levels of NAD+ in the cells and tissues and enhancing mitochondrial function."
"Additional research demonstrates that NAD+ precursors may offer protection against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease," he added.
A recent study suggests that taking 250 mg/day of NMN can significantly increase and sustain the levels of NAD+ in the blood, without adverse side effects.
NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine) is a derivative of the amino acid cysteine and is used as a supplement to boost glutathione levels — a powerful antioxidant in the body.
Marios Kyriazis, M.D., a gerontologist nominated for the 2017 Nobel Prize in Medicine and main contributor at For the Ageless, told Healthnews,
"NAC, the acetylated form of the amino acid cysteine, protects our brain by stimulating the activity of glutathione, which is a potent antioxidant that protects our mitochondria from free radical damage. NAC is also effective against viruses and it is used both for the prevention and treatment of some viral infections, including brain infections."
He added, "Conventional doctors use NAC to counteract the consequences of paracetamol overdose because it protects the liver from damage."
Kyriazis suggests the conventional dose is around 1000mg to 1500mg per day and says some doctors recommend taking NAC with vitamin C to prevent it from being destroyed in the body prematurely.
"500mg of NAC every morning is an effective dose for adults looking to use it daily as a longevity supplement," he explained. "It has an excellent safety profile and can be taken with any other supplements, including glutathione."
Used in Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is an herb that research suggests improves quality of life, sleep, and mental alertness in older adults. Benefits of ashwagandha may include reduced stress and anxiety, improved brain function, improved athletic performance, and enhanced fertility and overall well-being.
Although there is no established standard dose for ashwagandha, researchers generally use 250 mg to 1000 mg per day in their clinical trials.
Commonly used as a medication for type 2 diabetes, metformin may have anti-aging properties. However, according to one research review, despite the data supporting metformin’s anti-aging benefits, evidence that it extends lifespan is inconclusive.
An immunosuppressive drug and an antifungal agent, rapamycin increased the lifespan of mice up to 14% longer in studies. Although research in humans is still needed, rapamycin may enhance longevity and improve the signs of skin aging.
How to take supplements safely
The FDA regulates dietary supplements as food, not as drugs. Because of this, it’s important to research the supplement to help identify fraudulent products.
In addition, here are some general guidelines for taking dietary supplements safely:
- Talk with a healthcare provider before adding any dietary supplements to ensure they will not interact with other medications.
- Choose high-quality products that have been third-party tested and have the USP (US Pharmacopeia) or NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) seal of approval, which indicate that the product meets specific quality standards.
- Follow the recommended dose on the product label.
- Start by taking one supplement type at a time to determine if it has any adverse effects. This also helps identify which supplements are producing benefits.
Although these herbs, spices, and compounds have scientific evidence to support their potential role in anti-aging, it's important to remember that dietary supplements are not a substitute for a healthy diet and regular exercise — which may offer the best anti-aging benefits.
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