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Supplements combat aging and exercise induced damage

Free radicals and aging

Many theories of aging have been proposed and none entirely explain the aging process. However, free radical damage is considered the major cause of aging and the degenerative diseases associated with aging.

Bruce Ames, Ph.D., from the University of California at Berkeley, is one of the world's foremost anti-aging experts. Dr. Ames has calculated that the human cell is buffeted by 10,000 free radical hits a day. The majority of these free radicals are by-products of normal metabolism. Any activity that increases metabolic rate such as dieting, chronic stress, or vigorous exercise also increases production of free radicals.

In fact, much of the scientific information on aging has come from the study of well-conditioned athletes who have higher than normal metabolic rates and thus generate greater numbers of free radicals. Effective methods for reducing exercise and injury-induced free radicals can be directly applied to the general population. Benefits gained from the use of dietary supplements among athletes are quickly seen and this information has been used to design optimum anti-aging supplements.

Core cellular antioxidants

Vitamins C and E, and beta-carotene are well known for providing antioxidant support throughout the body. Vitamin E provides a protective antioxidant barrier because it is anchored within the double walled cellular membrane. Consequently, it is able to neutralize free radicals attempting entry into the cell or those produced from metabolic processes within the cell.

Vitamin C, being water soluble, circulates freely throughout the body and protects all tissues and organs. It also prevents oxidation of fatty molecules such as cholesterol that circulate in the blood. Beta-carotene and other carotenoids such as alpha carotene, lycopene, lutein, beta cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin are membrane specific, being concentrated in cells such as those that make up the skin, eyes, prostate gland and lungs. Alpha and beta-carotene are also dietary precursors of vitamin A.

Optimum intake

The importance of vitamins C, E and vitamin A has been long recognized with recommended daily intakes (RDI) having been established by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Institutes of Medicine. The suggested levels are set to prevent acute deficiency symptoms. Optimum levels, including those needed for anti-aging benefits, may be higher than just the RDI. Most dietary supplements today contain both vitamin A and beta-carotene to allow conversion into vitamin A on as needed basis. In addition to these antioxidants, several others are being increasingly recognized as essential for protecting against free radical damage, particularly as we age.

Suggested levels for anti-aging benefits of the core antioxidants are vitamin A - 5,000 IU to 10,000 IU; beta-carotene - 5,000 IU to 25,000 IU; vitamin E - at least 200 IU; and vitamin C - 500 mg to 1,000 mg daily.

Specific mitochondrial antioxidants

Mitochondrial decay results from oxidative damage to its DNA, proteins and lipids. Mitochondria are tiny powerhouses in the cell that produce energy. Acetyl-L-carnitine, alpha lipoic acid and Co-Q10 are specific mitochondrial antioxidants and animal studies suggest that supplementation reversed this decay, and increased physical activity and cognitive function in old animals to that of their younger counterparts.

Acetyl-L-Carnitine

Fatty acids are the preferred fuel for energy production and acetyl-L-carnitine shuttles them into mitochondria for breakdown. As we age levels of acetyl-L-carnitine decline. Human studies suggest that supplementation with acetyl-L-carnitine, which readily crosses the blood-brain barrier, boosts cognitive function and enhances endurance.

Suggested levels to supplement are 500 mg to 1,500 mg daily.

Alpha Lipoic Acid

Alpha lipoic acid boosts the antioxidant protection of mitochondria and activates energy production. It is one of the only micronutrients known to boost levels of glutathione, a component of internal detoxifying enzymes. Selenium is an essential co-factor in these enzymes. Dr. Lester Packer, Director of the Packer Lab at UC Berkeley, highlighted the anti-aging effects of alpha lipoic acid in his book The Antioxidant Miracle:

• Reduces DNA damage, particularly in mitochondria by blocking free radicals
• Protects the brain against oxidative damage and strengthens memory
• Reduces advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) involved in insulin resistance
• Reduces vulnerability to disease
• Topical lipoic acid reduces radiation and UV damage to skin

A suggested level for anti-aging benefits is 100 mg daily.

Co-Q10

CoQ10 is required in the final steps of producing energy within mitochondria. In the late 1980s, I worked with scientists at NASA to reduce muscle disuse atrophy in astronauts by supplementing with Co-Q10. Space travel accelerates aging by increasing levels of free radicals. Using trained athletes at the University of Massachusetts, we found Co-Q10 reduced muscle pain and recovery from fatigue following exhaustive exercise.

Suggested levels for supplementation are 120 mg daily.

The anti-aging multi-vitamin and mineral

A total of approximately 40 vitamins, minerals and other important micronutrients are required to achieve metabolic harmony and to support long-term health and delay aging. According to Dr. Ames, approximately 50 human genetic diseases are due to deficiencies of B-vitamin coenzymes and supplying high doses of them can ameliorate many conditions.

Additionally, deficiencies of certain vitamins, (B12, folic acid, B6, niacin, C, or E) or the minerals iron or zinc, can actually mimic radiation in damaging DNA. These deficiencies can derail the transfer of vital genetic information and result in chronic conditions such as memory loss, neurological symptoms, immune dysfunction, heart disease, cataract and cancer. Consequently, you should consider a well-balanced daily multiple that contains 25 mg to 50 mg of vitamins B1, B2, B6, and pantothenic acid, 100 mcg of vitamin B12, at least 400 mcg of folic acid. Ideally it should contain at least 50 mg of niacin and 50 mcg of biotin.

A multiple mineral should contain all of the essential elements at recommended daily intake levels. A multiple formula covers the basics and you may have to purchase the mitochondrial antioxidants separately in order to achieve optimum anti-aging levels.

Botanical antioxidants

The inclusion of botanical antioxidants such as pycnogenol, grapeseed and grape skin extracts, green tea, garlic, bioflavonoids, and quercetin are most desirable because they also enhance the overall effectiveness of your anti-aging program.

Anti-aging medicine is one of the fastest growing specialties as people increasingly realize that growing older is inevitable but how one ages is a choice. Take charge of your own aging process today by making appropriate dietary, supplement, and lifestyle changes. 

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