Can vitamins and other supplements slow aging?

Mark C. Houston, MD
Internal Medicine
Although there is no definitive proof in humans that specific nutraceuticals, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals extend life expectancy, there is data in animal models that specific supplements are effective in extending life span. Coenzyme Q-10, R-lipoic acid, acetyl-L carnitine, phosphatidyl serine, glycerophosphocholine, N-acetyl cysteine, EGCG, resveratrol, grape seed extract, polyphenols, vitamin C, B vitamins, selenium, zinc, lycopene, garlic, ginkgo, a good multivitamin, gamma/delta tocopherol and tocotrienols (forms of vitamin E), royal jelly, and omega 3 fatty acids (fish oil)  increase life span and cognitive function in rats. Other supplements are being evaluated as well.

Do not take a multivitamin with preformed vitamin A or one with beta carotene or d- or dl-alpha tocopherol (vitamin E). Males should avoid supplemental iron.

Women and men need 2000 international units or more of vitamin D per day. Women need 1500 milligrams of calcium with other bone minerals. Use ginger, turmeric, curcurmin, and other natural anti-inflammatories.

Recent studies have shown that increasing blood levels of the powerful intracellular antioxidant glutathione and maintaining enzymes that produce glutathione or reduce its destruction will reduce heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, cardiovascular and vascular diseases, and cancer. Many foods and nutritional supplements will increase intracellular levels of glutathione such as R-lipoic acid, N-acetyl cysteine, selenium, whey protein, broccoli, vitamins C and E, as well as a few others.
Brian Tanzer
Nutrition & Dietetics
Vitamins, minerals and other supplements cannot "slow" aging to any significant extent. What vitamins, minerals and the phytochemicals, many of which are responsible for the rich colors found in fruits and vegetables can do is provide the body with the weapons it needs to support healthy aging. The only thing that has been shown in research studies to be able to slow the aging process is a very low calorie diet. A diet on average, of about 1200-1500 calories/day which is very low, has been shown to reduce the aging process by influencing the expression of genes that influence the aging process.

Research in this area is ongoing. Look at work done by Dr. Roy Walford, Dr. Richard Weindruch. Dr. David Sinclair and others to get a better idea about how healthy eating, and the compounds found in certain foods may help slow the aging process and reduce one's risk for the chronic disease that currently plague our country and many others around the world.
No supplement has ever been shown to be a "cure" for aging or to help you live longer, but certain supplements may slow or ward off some age-related diseases. For example, in people who don't get enough calcium and vitamin D, supplements of these nutrients have been shown to help prevent the bone-weakening disease osteoporosis.

Vitamins C, E, selenium, and beta-carotene, among other nutrients, are antioxidants -- substances that counteract the effects of oxidation. Oxidation is a body process that produces damaging molecules that are thought to be involved in the development of many age-related diseases. Diets full of antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables and other foods have been associated with lower risk for many chronic diseases. But antioxidant supplements don't seem to offer the same benefit. Large studies have failed to show that taking vitamins C and E, or selenium or beta-carotene, can help prevent cancer or cardiovascular disease.

There is some evidence that taking a combination of antioxidants and zinc in supplement form may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness, but more study is needed.

In addition, the National Institute on Aging has issued warnings against the use of so-called "anti-aging" hormone supplements that contain forms of melatonin, estrogen, testosterone, human growth hormone, or other hormones. None of these supplements have been shown to prevent or reverse aging, and taking them may cause potentially serious side effects. As with all supplements, talk to your doctor before taking any product that claims to have anti-aging benefits.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.