Intense research and ingredient innovation improve anti-aging and longevity products for health-minded adults who want to lead active lifestyles for years to come.
Consumers are increasingly interested in anti-aging and longevity nutritional products—especially considering that the number of older people has tripled in the last 50 years and will triple again in the next 50 years. By 2050, nearly one-third of the population will be over the age of 65. And some 75 percent of adults over the age of 65 report having used dietary supplements—it’s the fastest growing age group in terms of supplement use, according to Sid Shastri, product development manager with Texas-based Kaneka Nutrients. The company is the sole manufacturer of the advanced ubiquinol form of coenzyme Q10.
“Our understanding of the market suggests older adults don’t want to prevent aging as much as they want to ensure that they remain as active and independent as possible while they grow older,” Shastri noted. “There’s even greater interest in products that might help improve a person’s quality of life, for example, by helping them maintain a healthy functioning heart, supporting good memory or protecting against health conditions that limit the independence people want to maintain in the later years of their life.”
And it should come as no surprise that anti-aging and longevity are the subjects of intense research in many fields, including genetics, food and nutrition and pharmaceutical development, he added.
A new class of supplements is leading the way on the anti-aging market. “Recent scientific advances have transformed previously indigestible substances into highly bioactive supplements,” said Tim Mount, CN, CCMH, director of education with California-based NeoCell. “This revolution started with the discovery of hydrolyzing collagen, a process that breaks down tough collagen proteins and allows it to absorb through the digestive tract and stimulate new collagen production at the cellular level.” NeoCell’s best-selling Super Collagen line of products was America’s first collagen supplement and still leads the anti-aging category, he said. A similar discovery occurred with keratin, the main protein in hair, which stimulates the growth of new hair in a way never before possible. NeoCell takes advantage of this new ingredient in Keratin Hair Volumizer.
“New extraction techniques and refinement processes have also allowed for the concentration of nutrients at unprecedented levels,” Mount continued. “In the past, whole leaves, berries and roots were ground into a powder and sold as a nutritional supplement, but contained bulky fibrous material and inactive substances that contributed little to the effectiveness of the product. Nowadays, we are able to isolate specific compounds and deliver more powerful health promoting nutrients in smaller doses. Turmeric is a perfect example. The health benefits of this spice have been known for centuries, but only recently have we isolated curcuminoids from turmeric to make it significantly more powerful and convenient.”
The smaller nature of these extracts also allow for innovative delivery systems. The extra “space” available in the formula allows for flavorings, so people can look forward to their supplements, such as in NeoCell’s Biotin Bursts soft chews.
“When scoping out new supplement products, it appears that trends lie in offering more palatable and appealing ways to ingest the ingredients: gummies, chews, beverages and more,” agreed Michael Olinde, president of Avie Nutraceuticals in Louisiana. “The good news here is that there are quite a few consumers who are seeking to live healthier through a customized supplement regimen and who dislike swallowing so many pills. The diversity of tasty delivery systems greatly helps in adding more targeted supplements to one’s daily routine. It is also becoming clear that customers are looking for products that contain ingredients with proven benefits to promote their health.”
Shastri pointed out that studies have shown that ubiquinol levels are significantly diminished by aging, compromised health states or high oxidative stress. This is partially explained by a diminished ability to convert (“reduce”) ubiquinone to ubiquinol with increasing age. Much of this research has also shown that the ubiquinol form of CoQ10 promotes healthy aging in various ways and helps prevent damage caused by oxidative stress (which is increased among older adults). “For instance, ubiquinol protects the mitochondria from oxidative damage, thereby protecting the integrity of mitochondrial DNA,” Shastri said. “Excess mitochondrial DNA damage is thought to be one of many complex factors involved in premature aging. Because ubiquinol is readily available in the body—unlike the conventional ubiquinone form of CoQ10—it is also better absorbed for use to support a person’s heart and vascular health.”
Amy Pereira, national educator with Enzymedica in Florida, noted that while antioxidants have been and will continue to be a formidable approach in healthy aging, there are numerous additional supplements that can play a strong role in supporting a graceful aging process. “Formulas containing ingredients like blueberries, green tea, carnosine, vitamin D3, resveratrol, glutathione, broccoli seed extract, rhodiola, astragalus, SOD and catalase may confer great benefits. Additionally, some research indicates that the synergistic effects of combinations of ingredients may far exceed the benefits of the individual ingredients alone.”
For example, Pereira said, a leading university research team discovered that the whole significantly exceeds the sum of the parts when it comes to the synergy among blueberries, green tea, carnosine and vitamin D3. In fact, the synergy among these ingredients was actually so impressive that a patent was secured for a specific blend of these ingredients, now known as NT-020. The team’s data indicates that NT-020 is capable of improving healthy adult stem cell populations in a way that is superior to the individual ingredients effects upon stem cell populations.
“Innovative formulas that utilize science-backed ingredient blends, like the patented NT-020 and antioxidant enzymes SOD and catalase in Enzymedica’s Stem XCell, may promote the growth and health of stem cells, encourage efficient cell renewal and offer antioxidant support,” Pereira noted.
Many individual antioxidant nutrients are touted for the role they may play in longevity, but a 2009 study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that women who regularly took a multivitamin had longer telomeres, which are associated with youth, whereas shorter telomeres are linked with aging and disease, said Marci Clow, MS, RDN at California-based Rainbow Light. “However, not all multivitamins are created equal,” she added. “I recommend looking for a multi, like Rejuvenage from Rainbow Light, which is based on researched nutrient potencies and includes other potentially anti-aging ingredients.”
Longevity and Inflammation
There are so many products claiming to slow the aging process, and those who see their appearance fading or feel their health declining are inclined to believe what they hear, noted Clow. “The fact is that aging is inevitable and many of the products available will give you little more than an empty wallet. That being said, there is suggestive evidence that some of the ingredients being touted as anti-aging may suppress free radical and inflammatory reactions that have been linked to the aging process.
“So as far as what I believe to be the most innovative, I would tend to steer toward products targeted for being ‘anti-inflammatory,’ as there is evidence to support inflammation as a common factor in many chronic conditions exacerbated by the aging process,” Clow continued.
Turmeric, which is the spice that gives much Middle Eastern food its yellow color, has been used as a spice and traditional medicine for thousands of years, Clow explained, adding that turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which has, in more recent years, been extensively studied for its anti-inflammatory benefits. Although widely available in supplements, curcumin may not be too well absorbed so look for products, such as Theramend from Rainbow Light, which utilizes a patented extract studied for bioavailability, plus other targeted ingredients, she suggested.
Avie Nutraceuticals is founded on the proven significant human health benefits of turmeric curcumin, said Olinde. “Avie has produced a unique, water-soluble formulation to improve absorption and bioavailability based on its proprietary ultramicronization technology,” he said. “Avie’s products are also unique because they are designed to target specific conditions. As a result Avie’s products contain only a few ingredients proven to promote and support healthy cells.
The company’s high-potency Joint Balance contains a combination of Avie’s proprietary water-soluble Ultramicronized Turmeric Curcumin and Boswellia to help support joint mobility and flexibility. Clinical studies have shown that this combination of curcumin and boswellia relieves joint discomfort and increases walking distance similar to prescription drugs, Olinde noted. “Curcumin also relieves aching and muscle stiffness and promotes recovery after exercise. Older people are increasingly leading an active lifestyle and they need products that provide the benefits that do not cause the side-effects that are seen with prescription drugs,” he said.
The company’s Gastrointestinal Balance product supports healthy digestion by providing an environment that can lessen bouts of age-related occasional indigestion and gastrointestinal discomfort, Olinde added. Gastrointestinal Balance contains a combination of natural herbal ingredients (Avie’s proprietary water-soluble Ultramicronized Turmeric Curcumin and DGL licorice) that can relieve gastrointestinal discomfort and indigestion. It also supports healthy liver and promotes healthy immune response.
Michael T. Murray, ND, director of product science and innovation with Washington-based Natural Factors Nutritional Products, Inc., added the growing amount of evidence that smoldering inflammation plays a big role in accelerated aging and the development of age-related health conditions. “One product that is particularly interesting in fighting this sort of inflammation is Celadrin, a mixture of cetylated esterifed fatty acids that modify inflammatory mediators like prostaglandins, leukotrienes and cytokines,” Murray said. One of the actions of Celadrin is its ability to enhance cell membrane health and integrity. As a result it halts the production of inflammatory prostaglandins. It also reduces the production of the negative immune factors like IL-6 that play a central role in inflammation. “Though Celadrin has shown impressive clinical effects in improving joint health, its use in fighting against the effects of aging may extend far beyond simply helping aging joints,” he said.
As previously mentioned, telomeres are a factor to consider in the graceful aging equation, as telomere health is also related to healthy cells, according to Pereira. She explained that telomeres are the protective end caps within the chromosomes of cells that help minimize degradation of critically important DNA/genetic material. “With each cell division or replication, DNA must be divided. To minimize loss of important genetic material, telomeres help ‘donate’ of themselves in order to preserve the more critical internal DNA. An enzyme called telomerase is known to manage the length of the telomeres and supplements designed to support telomerase activity may help us manage important cell resources,” Pereira said.
Numerous testing methods are available to monitor an individual’s telomere length, which is considered an indication of cell health. Lifestyle practices (like poor diet, environmental toxins, and stress) can reduce telomerase activity and telomere length. “While it is wise to manage stress levels and mood, get adequate physical activity, avoid cigarette smoke exposure, maintain healthy weight and avoid environmental toxins, innovational techniques are being employed to build formulas that enhance telomerase activity and support the body’s ability to protect its telomeres,” Pereira noted.
Enzymedica’s Telomere Plus includes yet another synergistic blend of (D3, astragalus, broccoli seed extract and rhodiola) that was found to increase telomerase activity. Enzymedica’s Telomerin blend is specially formulated to positively influence telomerase and cell vitality.
PQQ (short for pyrroloquinoline quinone) is a relatively new dietary supplement on the market that looks to be the perfect answer to diminishing brain function associated with aging, said Murray. “PQQ serves as a cofactor for a special class of enzymes involved in cellular function including cellular growth, development, differentiation, and survival,” he explained. “Without PQQ our cells would cease to function properly. One key action of PQQ involves a direct action on key enzymes involved in the energy producing compartments in our cells—the mitochondria. As a result PQQ improves energy production. In addition, PQQ’s powerful antioxidant effect protects against mitochondrial damage. But, PQQ not only protects mitochondria from oxidative stress—it also promotes the spontaneous generation of new mitochondria within aging cells, a process known as mitochondrial biogenesis or mitochondriogenesis. This effect is a ‘fountain of youth’ for mitochondrial function.”
Given the nutritional importance and tremendous span of physiological effects of PQQ, there are considerable benefits in conditions that revolve around low mitochondrial function including aging, many brain and neurological diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease), and many other chronic degenerative diseases. Current research has primarily focused on its ability to protect memory and cognition in both aging animals and humans, Murray noted.
In addition, preliminary clinical studies are extremely encouraging and several larger clinical trials are currently either completed waiting publication or are in process. In regard to improving brain function, Murray added, while PQQ is somewhat effective on its own, when it is combined with CoQ10, even better results have been shown.
Here lies another endorsement for combination products. “We’re aware of several innovative supplement companies that have started to combine the ubiquinol form of CoQ10 with other ingredients thought to have complementary health and aging benefits,” Shastri added. “For example, we’re seeing brand holders introduce ubiquinol products that are combined with fish oil, resveratrol or PQQ. These are interesting combinations that seek to address seniors’ interest in cardiovascular health and vitality. In addition, there is growing interest in novel formats, such as gummies and other forms outside of soft gels.
“It’s important to acknowledge that in meeting the needs of older adults, long term success for supplement companies will come from tying their products to an overall healthy lifestyle as opposed to following the latest supplement fad. This is an often skeptical consumer segment that isn’t afraid of aging so much as they are concerned about aging well.”
“Seniors,” Shastri said, “are interested in any product that can help them feel (but not necessarily look) younger, and that help them remain active and independent for as long as possible. Physical or cognitive decline is a pervasive concern among those over the age of 65.”
He added that people between the ages of 45 and 64 remain reliable supplement users, with distinct interest in gut health, cardiovascular health and sustained energy.
While Baby Boomers tend to drive the market and are largely seeking products designed to protect cell health and support graceful aging, these products are not only for older individuals, Pereira said. “More and more men and women in their 30s and 40s are becoming interested in putting their health in the front seat and being proactive on the aging front. Increased recognition that what you put into your body is as important as what you slather on it abounds, so we are seeing greater amounts of interest in working to support health both internally and externally.”
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Lindsey, J., Mcgill, N., Lindsey, L., Green, D., and Cooke, H. (1991). “In vivo loss of telomeric repeats with age in humans.” Mutation Research/DNAging, (256), 45-48.
Harley, C.B., Andrews, W.H., Blasco, M., Briggs, L.A., Liu, W., Raffaele, J.M. and Vera, E. “A natural product telomerase activator as part of a health maintenance program.” Rejuvenation Res. 2011 Feb; 14(1): 45-56.
Richards, J., Valdes, A., Gardner, J., Paximadas, D., Kimura, M., and Nessa, A. (2007). “Higher serum vitamin D concentrations are associated with longer leukocyte telomere length in women.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 86(5), 1420-1425.
Dr. Michael Murray