Copyright © 2008
by Joe Smulevitz, CH, MH
We can’t stop our bodies from aging, but we can take a nutritional approach to help our bodies age better. As the years go by we become less efficient at absorbing vital nutrients that are important to our health and well-being. We can help counter this effect by increasing our intake of certain nutrients, either as a supplement or from food sources.
Here is a rundown of some key anti-aging nutrients:
A nutrient that was primarily known for bone health and preventing fractures in the elderly, vitamin D, is now recognized as a critical nutrient in preventing many age-related diseases. A growing body of evidence indicates that low levels of vitamin D increases the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and more. The majority of vitamin D is produced in the skin in response to sunlight exposure. The elderly, who convert less vitamin D with sunlight compared to younger people, are more likely to be vitamin D deficient. Only limited amounts of vitamin D are available in foods such as dairy products, oily fish, and eggs. Therefore, older adults, especially in the winter months, should consider supplementation with 1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D3 daily (better absorbed than D2) to provide protection against these killer diseases.
Coenzyme Q10 is a powerful antioxidant compound that is found in every cell in the body, protecting all the vital organs. It is needed to promote energy production and protects against disease-producing free radicals. CoQ10 helps guard against a number of age-related disorders including heart disease, diabetes, periodontal disease, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. Aging and statin drugs decrease the body’s own production of this compound. Supplements taken with a fat-containing meal to improve absorption can counter this effect. Recommended dosage is 30-360 mg per day. Consult a physician before usage at the higher range. Food sources of CoQ10 include broccoli, mackerel, nuts, salmon, sardines, and spinach.
Vitamin C is an essential anti-aging, antioxidant that cannot be made by our bodies but must be consumed in food or supplements. It is a crucial vitamin in order for many of the body’s systems to function properly. Adequate vitamin C consumption is essential to improve cardiovascular health and help avoid degenerative disease. Many health practitioners suggest supplementation with 500 to 1,000 mg of vitamin C daily. Excellent food sources include peppers, parsley, collard leaves, turnip greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and many other fruits and vegetables.
Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the most significant nutrients in the anti-aging arsenal. The body cannot produce omega-3 fatty acids, so they must be consumed in food, such as fatty cold-water fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, and herring) or omega-3 supplements. Numerous studies validate the wide-ranging health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for many brain functions, decreasing irregular heartbeat, lowering blood pressure, reducing blood triglyceride levels, easing inflammation, guarding against age-related macular degeneration, and cutting the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Aging increases the need for the B group of vitamins, especially folic acid, B6, and B12. These B vitamins are crucial for lowering blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood. High levels of this amino acid can be a risk factor for memory loss and heart disease. Good sources of folic acid include leafy green vegetables, legumes, liver, and whole grains. Good food sources of B6 include whole grains, legumes, nuts, and bananas. B12 food sources include organ meats, fish, eggs, and cheese.
Magnesium is a vital mineral that protects the cells of the body against aging in a variety of ways. It helps prevent heart disease, diabetes, kidney stones, and osteoporosis. Magnesium works with calcium and vitamin D to keep bones strong. Nuts, whole grains, legumes, and dark green vegetables contain significant amounts of magnesium. Dairy products, kelp and other seaweeds, leafy green vegetables, nuts, and seeds are good sources of calcium.
As our body slows down the same holds true for our brains. Gingko biloba is a well-researched botanical that can play a constructive role in reducing the risk of developing age-related mental decline. It increases blood flow to the brain and to the lower legs and feet. Evidence supports the use of gingko for memory and brain function, circulation enhancement, Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration, and tinnitus.
Green tea has been prized for centuries in the orient for its health-boosting properties. Scientific studies have confirmed the healthful potential of green tea which has led to its growing popularity in the west. The health benefits are attributed to its high content of antioxidant polyphenols that protect against many age-related diseases such as heart disease, certain cancers, high cholesterol, and Alzheimer’s disease. Green tea may also aid in losing weight and helps prevent tooth decay. Although abundant research supports the health benefits and safety of green tea, it does contain caffeine that may interact with some medications.
Joe Smulevitz is a nutritional researcher and author of numerous health articles. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.