There are countless supplements claiming that they are “anti-aging”.
Unfortunately, almost none of them are.
The problem is that most anti-aging supplements contain ingredients that:
- Are based on outdated ideas (e.g., that antioxidants slow down aging – they don’t).
- Are based on little to no science.
- Contain too few ingredients to really impact aging (aging is a complex process caused by multiple mechanisms).
- Contain too low a dose of ingredients (a big problem with most supplements that are pills instead of sachets).
Be critical of “anti-aging” studies
Put simply, most “anti-aging” supplements have not shown to extend lifespan in well-conducted scientific studies.
And for the few ingredients that did lengthen lifespan according to scientific studies, the problem is that often these studies:
- Have not been well-conducted (e.g. using the wrong animal strains, not measuring aging correctly, stressing the animals, using the wrong doses and combinations).
- Have not been confirmed by other research groups.
- Have experimental set-ups that are not good models of the real aging process (like, using accelerated-aging mice with very debilitating mutations in their mitochondria, which then receive a mitochondrial antioxidant – of course in this designed context, it will extend their lifespan).
Probably the biggest problem is that most supplements are based on outdated ideas about aging, such as the idea that aging is mainly driven by oxidative damage, caused by free radicals which antioxidants can neutralize.
Unfortunately, large studies, sometimes even with hundreds of thousands of participants, have shown that antioxidants do not extend lifespan (R,R,R).
Sometimes, antioxidants may even accelerate aging or increase the risk of cancer (R).
We know now that aging is a far more complex process than just oxidative damage. There are many other and more important reasons why we age, like epigenetic dysregulation, protein accumulation, mitochondrial dysfunction, and so on.
Which are some examples of these popular “anti-aging supplements” that in fact will do little to slow down aging?
Examples are most vitamins, minerals, and herbs. Vitamin A, vitamin E, co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10), alpha lipoic acid, copper, and potassium are not going to slow down aging.
They can be useful if you have deficiencies in these vitamins or minerals, but taking additional amounts of these substances is not going to address aging at its root causes.
However, there are real anti-aging ingredients that can extend lifespan, because:
- They have good scientific studies supporting them, preferably in different organisms.
- Their use has been associated with reduced mortality in humans.
- Their intake is associated with reduced-risk or mitigation of typical aging diseases, like cardiovascular disease or Alzheimer’s.
- They have been shown to act on aging mechanisms, like epigenetic dysregulation, mitochondrial dysfunction or protein accumulation (e.g., autophagy, unfolded protein response, chaperone functionalities, etc).
Ideally, these ingredients act on well-described aging mechanisms, often in ways different than being an antioxidant.
For example, they improve the stability of the epigenome (like alpha-ketoglutarate), reduce the accumulation of proteins (like glycine and glucosamine) or clear senescent cells (like fisetin).
We compiled a list with the best anti-aging supplements here.