Part 2: Anti-Aging Supplements: Are There Any Worth Taking?

Anti-Aging Supplements: Do They Work?
By: Health Gauge

This is a continuation of an article we published last week on anti-aging supplements. If you didn’t get a chance to read the first article, here’s a link. Now let’s talk about the supplements we didn’t cover last time. Then we’ll finish off with a few tips we believe works best for slowing down the aging process. So stay with us until the end!

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone produced by a tiny gland in your brain called the pineal gland. Its main purpose is to regulate your biological clock, the internal clock that controls important bodily functions like hormone release and your sleep-wake cycle. Some people take melatonin for jet lag and insomnia and it does appear to work for this. There’s also some evidence that it may lower the risk of some forms of cancer.

Where might melatonin’s anti-aging benefits come from? Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant, even more potent than vitamin E. Even more interesting is it increases life span by as much as 20% in animals. Unfortunately, we don’t know if it does the same in humans. Melatonin levels drop with age, another reason some experts believe it plays a role in aging. The possible anti-cancer benefits of melatonin are intriguing, but unproven in humans.

Melatonin may hold benefits for diabetics. Some research shows it helps with blood sugar control and may reduce the risk of diabetic complications like diabetic kidney disease, eye disease and nerve disease etc. That makes sense since it’s an antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory activity as well.

Our Take on Melatonin:

We don’t know with certainty that melatonin plays a role in aging – but it is a potent antioxidant, meaning it should theoretically offer some benefits. Your pineal produces less melatonin with age so supplementing at bedtime may be beneficial, especially if you suffer with insomnia.

One way to naturally maximize melatonin production is to sleep in a completely dark room. Even a small amount of light peeking through a window or the lighted numbers a digital clock reduces melatonin production. Melatonin may not be the “holy grail” when it comes to aging but it may offer some protection against common diseases associated with aging like cancer.

Do we take it? Yes, we both take 3 milligrams of melatonin nightly. Are we aging more slowly as a result? Hard to say – but we’d like to think so. One benefit is we never have problems sleeping. Before taking it, check with your doctor since it can interact with some medications. Be aware that some people experience daytime drowsiness when they first start taking it.

Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10 is important for healthy cell function. This antioxidant helps keep a cell’s energy producers called mitochondria healthy. One theory as to why we age is mitochondria are damaged by free radicals. These free radicals come from eating a bad diet, smoking etc. As a result, mitochondria become less efficient energy producers.

Some research shows coenzyme Q10 protects mitochondria again damage. Like melatonin, coenzyme Q10 levels go down with age. That’s why some people supplement. Coenzyme Q10 also modestly reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension. Some studies also show it prevents migraine headaches and benefits people with congestive heart failure.

Our Take on Coenzyme Q10

As with melatonin, the anti-aging benefits of coenzyme Q10 are unproven. If you’re taking certain medication including statins, a type of cholesterol-lowering drug, you SHOULD take coenzyme Q10 – but talk to your doctor before starting. Statins lower coenzyme Q10 levels by as much as 40%. Low coenzyme Q10 levels may be responsible for some of the side effects of statins like muscle weakness. Beta-blockers, used to treat high blood pressure, also lower coenzyme Q10.

Do we take it? We take 400 milligrams of coenzyme Q10 daily. The reason? Because it’s hard to get coenzyme Q10  through diet. Meat, fish and vegetable oils are the best sources and we don’t eat a lot of meat. Even though it’s not proven, the fact that coenzyme Q10 protects mitochondria against damage is intriguing and it appears to be safe.

Carnosine

Carnosine is a compound that’s received lots of attention lately for its possible anti-aging benefits. Dr. Oz talked about it on one of his shows.

One cause of aging and cell death has to do with telomere shortening. Telomeres are short sequences of DNA that are found at the end of chromosomes. They protect chromosomes (DNA or genetic material) from damage. As cells divide, telomeres are slowly worn away and become shorter. When they become too short, the cell can no longer replicate and it dies. Carnosine may offer some protection against telomere shortening, thereby prolonging the life of cells and slowing down the aging process.

There’s also some evidence that carnosine may protect against heart disease and heart attacks. In addition, it may be helpful for diabetics. Diabetics develop damage to proteins due to high blood sugar levels. This damage called glycation plays a role in some of the complications of diabetes. Carnosine seems to protect against this. It also appears to bind to heavy metals and helps remove them from your body.

Our Take on Carnosine

Dr. Oz calls carnosine an anti-aging miracle, claiming it can boost your energy level and improve the appearance of your skin. We’re not so quick to recommend it, at least until there’s more research in humans. On the other hand, if it protects cells from damage due to glycation – it would be of definite benefit to diabetics. Talk to your doctor about this.

Do we take it? Not at this point. We’d like to see more evidence.

Beyond Anti-Aging Supplements

At least in our opinion, there’s no magical anti-aging pill. Some supplements like coenzyme Q10, carnosine, melatonin and resveratrol, a supplement we talked about in the last article, may have some benefits, but the effects won’t make up for an unhealthy lifestyle. Before turning to anti-aging supplements, do the following:

  • Stop smoking and don’t use alcohol excessively
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes most days of the week. (strength and aerobic)
  • Eliminate processed foods from your diet and enjoy more antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables
  • Wear a sunscreen daily to protect your skin from premature aging
  • Sleep at least 7 hours a night, 8 is better.
  • Find ways to reduce stress in your life – meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises etc.

If you’re doing ALL of these things, you’ll get more protection against aging than any supplement can offer. On the other hand, don’t completely rule out anti-aging supplements – they may offer some benefits.

References:

Life Extension Magazine. “Beyond Sleep: 7 Ways Melatonin Attacks Aging Factors”
Brain Res 2000;852:56-61.
Medscape.com. “Supplement Use in the Prevention and Treatment of Cardiovascular Disease in the Aging Population”
WebMD. “Carnosine”
Medscape Family Medicine. “The Therapeutic Potential of Melatonin: A Review of the Science”
Medscape Family Medicine. “Diabetes and Frailty: An Emerging Issue”

Kristie Leong M.D.

Dr. Kristie Leong and Dr. Apollo Leong are physicians helping you to lead a healthy lifestyle by sharing nutrition and fitness tips and keeping you abreast of the latest health news.

2 thoughts on “Part 2: Anti-Aging Supplements: Are There Any Worth Taking?

  • December 21, 2013 at 11:20 am
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    I need to ask my doc if it’s ok for me to take melatonin.If you see him would you mind?

    • December 22, 2013 at 10:11 pm
      Permalink

      And would I be safe with the Q10 as well?

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