Proper nutrition and exercise are essential to helping us maintain optimum health and wellness throughout our lives. In addition, many supplements are available to us, each of which promises to improve our health and well being. Studies show the body needs approximately 30 vitamins and minerals to thrive.
We take supplements for many reasons, including a desire for anti-aging and longevity. Some of us take supplements to improve our diet and increase our energy levels. Some choose herbal and phytonutrient extracts while others stick to basic vitamin and mineral supplements and satisfy the rest of their nutrient intake through their diet. Other supplements are touted for beauty and personal care, including topical nutrients and products for oral ingestion.
Anti-aging and longevity supplements are specifically formulated to slow down the aging process so that you might enjoy a longer, healthier life. Some of these are fairly sophisticated, such as the mitochondria energy optimizer extracts. Mitochondria are the smaller particles in every cell which produce cellular energy by means of the ATP cycle, a term for the process that metabolizes glucose and turns it into energy. The ATP cycle also produces free radicals and, as part of this reaction, produces nutrients for the body.
Mitochondria energy optimizers not only improve energy output of cells, but also clear some free radicals so that they do not damage the cellular proliferation ability of other cells. Coenzyme-Q10 is a mitochondria support product that helps convert fats and sugars into cellular energy. It is made in your body, but has a tendency to decrease with advancing age. If the body has enough CoQ10, the mitochondria work well, particularly in the heart muscle. If not, the heart muscle ages faster. When CoQ10 is taken by mouth, only a certain amount is absorbed into the blood stream, so that higher doses may be needed to maintain adequate levels.
Other anti-aging supplements include those that improve the immune system. There are a good number in this category, one of which is whey protein. Lactoferrin, immunoglobulins, and other compounds are present in this protein and are known to protect against free radicals in the body, which can be damaging.
Vitamin C is another major immune-supporting compound, one that human beings do not make, and is an important ingredient to include in our anti-aging and longevity regimen. Garlic, both in natural form and as a supplement, is useful for its immune-supporting properties. It stimulates immunity and white blood cell activity and also the natural killer cells in the body. A component of garlic, allicin, has been highlighted for its particular improvement in the immune response and oxidative stress. Echinacea extract is a wide-spectrum immuno-modulator that improves both innate and adaptive immune responses. This has been shown in studies to improve the body’s defenses against infectious agents.
Diet and energy supplements are often taken by sports-oriented individuals, who want their bodies to be stronger with more muscle, less body fat, and a better performance level. Of course, the skeleton is the foundation for a strong body. Certain supplements containing vitamin D3 and magnesium along with boron and zinc help protect the bones against age-related loss of bone mineral density. These supplements must be combined with a good diet and elimination of soft drinks and high protein intake, which promote calcium loss, while a more alkaline diet high in natural calcium promotes bone health and strength.
Some people take bromelain, which is a protolytic enzyme from pineapple stems, which seems to contribute to better joint health. Glucosamine and chondroitin stimulate the important components of cartilage needed for healthy joints. One of the main problems with aging of the joints is loss of this delicate, but tough cartilage layer that cushions the motion of the bones against each other during physical activity. By having strong dense bones and healthy joints, muscles can be optimized for better performance.
Herbals and phytoextracts are another category of supplements which serve to augment the dietary intake of phytonutrients. We know that phyto (plant) nutrients play a large role in keeping us healthy. First of all, they promote an alkaline environment in our blood stream so that the body’s numerous chemical processes are able to function better. By eating berries, green vegetables, grapes, olives, and many fruits, we are able to obtain antioxidants, and these reduce the number of free radicals in our body. Some of these phytonutrients specifically act as anti-virals, such as coconut oil, which contains lauric acid.
Eating blueberries, pomegranate seeds, broccoli, and other nutrient-rich foods adds phytonutrients to our diets, but most of us may not have the time or inclination to eat 5 to 7 fruits and vegetables a day. However, many extracts and concentrates are available for us. These include spices such as circumin; fruits such as pomegranate, grape extract (resveratrol), ginkgo, green tea; and general mixtures of phytonutrient food powders. These food powders contain broccoli extract, cabbage, tomato, carrot, parsley, and other nutrient extracts and can be obtained from most health food stores.
The question is, how many supplements do you need and how often should you take them? If you have a good dietary intake composed of organic fruits and vegetables, organic eggs and meat, and low-glycemic carbohydrates, you may never have to take any of these extra nutrients. In choosing these supplements, you should be careful not to overdo it; instead concentrate on your dietary intake for the best health regimen. In summary, caloric restriction with a well-balanced, highly nutrient diet is the only regimen that has ever been proven as an anti-aging pathway.