Anti-Aging Strategies

SOURCE: Better Nutrition
AUTHOR: Victorian Dolby

There is a tidal wave of Baby Boomers coming face-to-face with the aging process. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by the year 2040, 76 million Americans will be 65 and older, and 13 million will be inching past the 85-year mark. But they aren't taking the insult of wrinkles, lagging vitality, and dull cognition sitting down -- they want to do everything possible to push the longevity envelope. Baby Boomers, and others already entrenched in their senior years, are revolting against the aging process any way they can. for many, this means going on a quest for the best youth-preserving options, including antioxidants and other supplements.

Theories of aging and their antidotes

What is the energy driving the insidious aging process? Dr. Denham Harman, a free radical researcher from the University of Nebraska, thinks he has uncovered an answer: "There is now a growing consensus that aging changes are produced by free-radical reactions." Harman wrote, in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, that the "...addition of one of a number of different antioxidants in the diet can increase the average life span." In fact, he suggests that five years can be tacked onto the average life span through dietary modifications and the addition of antioxidants.

Free-radical damage can occur in all types of cells, including collagen, as well as different parts of cells, such as the mitochondria (the "powerhouses" of the cell) and even the DNA, our genetic code. The accumulated damage from free radical "hits," as the years go by, results in the signs and symptoms associated with the aging process. There can be little doubt that youth-sapping free radicals are the cause, and antioxidants are the antidote, to premature aging. The Alliance for Aging Research, the leading advocacy organization for improving the health and independence of older Americans, recognizes the importance of antioxidants. This group, after convening a panel of antioxidant experts and reviewing two decades of scientific research, recommends a daily intake of 250-1,000 mg of vitamin C, 100-400 I.U. of vitamin E, and 15,000 I.U. of beta carotene as a means of preventing chronic age-related diseases. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve this intake of nutrients without supplementation to a healthful diet.

In order to validate the free-radical theory of aging, a group of researchers from Italy recently compared the antioxidant blood levels, free-radical activity, and state of health of 100 healthy participants and 62 disabled 80-year-olds with 91 middle-aged adults.

As expected, those in the over-80 group showed greater systemic oxidative stress and lower levels of antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E. Within the elderly group, those who were unhealthy -- in other words, aging unsuccessfully compared to those who were aging successfully -- showed the greatest systemic oxidant load. It appears that markers of free-radical activity and levels of antioxidants can predict both successful and unsuccessful aging.

Vitamin E may play a particularly important role in longevity. Animal studies in many different species show that supplementing the diet with vitamin E lengthens the life span. Fruit flies are a popular species for this type of experiment. Since the life span of fruit flies is ordinarily very short, it is easy to chart life-lengthening effects and track changes through successive generations. Such studies demonstrate that vitamin E supplementation increases the maximum life span for fruit flies, and similar benefits are presumed to be possible in humans.

Brew a pot of tea for a healthier you

The secret of living a longer life may be found brewing in a pot of tea, especially if you're making green tea. Green tea contains a class of powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols. Evidence for the anti-aging effect of green tea is supported by a study that followed the lives of 3,380 Japanese women for nine years. These women, as practitioners of the Japanese tea ceremony, are presumed drink quite a bit more tea than the average Joe. Compared to the mortality rates of other Japanese women during this same time period, fewer of the green tea drinkers died, "...indicating the possibility that green tea is a protective factor..." against premature death.

Basic multi does the trick

Although the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) are the same for everyone over the age of 51, the aging process and individual needs alter the use and requirement of several nutrients. As metabolism slows down with advancing years, and activity levels wane with the passage of time, people tend to eat less food. This means that each bite has to count, since smaller portions of food are now responsible for supplying all of the essential nutrients.

Consequently, improved intake of most of the essential vitamins and minerals is crucial for replenishing supplies in many aging individuals. A multivitamin/mineral supplement can correct marginal deficiencies of nutrients that could contribute to compromised immunity, fatigue, and even impaired cognitive ability in older individuals.

The Council for Responsible Nutrition, an association of the nutritional products industry, announced last year that nutrition experts advocate the routine use of multivitamin supplements for the elderly, especially those in nursing homes. Multi supplements could have many health benefits, including improving quality of life, increasing mental clarity, boosting immunity, and preventing osteoporosis, anemia, and dementia.

`Fountain of youths' formulas show some promise

The hormone DHEA may provide some benefits for staying young and feeling fit. Levels of DHEA, a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands, peak during the prime of life, in a person's 20s or 30s; after that, it's all downhill. By the age of 60, DHEA is generally only 5 to 15 percent of its peak level. It seems logical that, if the decline of DHEA corresponds to the problems associated with aging, then boosting DHEA levels may counteract some of the effects of aging, and even contribute to longevity. Early studies support this theory and older people taking DHEA supplements report an enhanced feeling of wellbeing.

The National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA), the leading non-profit trade association of the natural products industry, issued a statement on DHEA late last year in order to clarify the current status of DHEA. Although there has been some controversy surrounding the appropriateness of hormones being sold in health-food stores, the NNFA explained that the sale of DHEA is "apparently legal" under current regulations.

"At present, there is a great deal of research underway with this hormone. Particularly needed for confidence in its safe use are longterm human studies," the NNFA's statement added. Nonetheless, preliminary research in animals indicates that DHEA "...may be beneficial in preventing obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, and in increasing life span."

Garlic: the `bulb of the tree of life'

Throughout history, many people have relied on garlic as an anti-aging food, which explains why one of garlic's nicknames is the "bulb of the tree of life." Laboratory research tends to confirm the anti-aging reputation of garlic. Skin cells supplemented with garlic are healthier and live much longer than non-supplemented cells. And studies involving living creatures concur with these findings.

For example, a recent animal based study found that garlic-fed mice live longer than non-supplemented mice. Not surprisingly, the lead researcher of this study concluded that garlic "...might be useful for treating physiological aging and age-related memory deficits in humans."

There are many other supplements that may either boost longevity directly or improve the quality of life in later years by minimizing the physical and mental signs of aging.

These supplements include coenzyme Q10, ginkgo biloba, choline, soy isoflavones, selenium, chromium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins, glutathione, essential fatty acids, and amino acids, such as L-carnitine and glutamine.

Any longevity plan is really a strategy of how to "die young as late as possible." Living longer isn't the true goal. Living healthier is.

SOURCE: Better Nutrition
AUTHOR: Victorian Dolby

Disclaimer: this website is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for a professional medical diagnosis, opinion or suggested course of treatment. Please see your health care professional for a professional medical opinion, and refer to our Disclaimer regarding your use of this website.

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