by Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D.
The belief that aging is inevitable is in many cases a myth. It is not age per se, but years of abuse that wear down our bodies. (1) Many aspects of aging can be slowed or avoided – from wrinkles and age-related health conditions to middle-age spread and even to the frailty and loss of independence that many of us fear – by making a few changes in what we eat and how much we move. There is every reason to expect we can live robustly, passionately and vitally into our 90s and beyond.
Aging starts much earlier than you think, as early as your 20s. (2) It’s only after the accumulation of damage has progressed that you notice the overt signs of aging. That means, the sooner you start taking charge of your aging process, the longer you will remain youthful and vital. However, it’s never to late. Start today. Vow to make a few simple changes in your diet (and exercise) to ensure you get enough of the following 4 nutrients.
The so-called “bad” fats — such as saturated fats in red meat and cheese, or trans fats in processed foods — are major players in heart disease. (3,4) In contrast, some of the “good” fats, such as the omega 3s, actually support your heart.
There are three types of omega-3s, and the one most important to overall health is DHA. Heart tissue concentrates DHA to a greater extent than any other omega-3. (5,6) Research points to the cardiovascular benefits of omega-3s, including DHA, in supporting the overall health of the heart. (7-10)
Fatty fish, such as salmon, is a great source of DHA. However, if you are vegetarian, choose foods fortified with or supplements containing an algal- or vegetarian-based DHA. Aim for two servings of fatty fish a week or take a supplement that contains ample amounts of the omega-3 DHA.
Little oxygen fragments, called free radicals or oxidants, damage cell membranes throughout the body, contributing to inflammation throughout the body. (11) Maintain a well-stocked arsenal of anti-free radicals or antioxidants, and you side-step this damage and help keep your tissues healthy.
Vitamin E, being a fat-soluble antioxidant, is a primary protector of cell membranes throughout the body. (12,13)
Even the skin benefits from vitamin E. Vitamin E helps slow skin cell ageing by reducing the production of an enzyme called collagenase that otherwise breaks down collagen, causing the skin to sag and wrinkle. (14,15) The best dietary sources of this potent antioxidant are nuts and oils, such as wheat germ oil.
Resveratrol is a polyphenol found in abundance in red wine and in lower amounts in red grapes, peanuts, pomegranates and berries. It is a potent antioxidant. Studies show that resveratrol alters gene expression, turning on the cells’ production of anti-aging substances. It also speeds cell repair and strengthens blood vessels. As if that wasn’t enough, it even shows promise in extending the lifespan. (16-23)
Vitamin B12 supports memory and nervous system function, yet people are less efficient at absorbing vitamin B12 as they age. Several studies suggest that low vitamin B12 status might be associated with memory function. (24-29) Also, this vitamin is only found in meats, eggs, and milk, so are prone to deficiency unless they supplement or include several servings a day of foods fortified with vitamin B12. People taking acid-inhibiting medications for stomach conditions, such as gastric reflux, also could be low in the vitamin, since B12 requires stomach acid for absorption. (30,31)
The best dietary sources are clams, tuna, tempeh, yogurt, eggs, miso, chicken and fish. Also make sure your multi-vitamin supplement contains ample amounts of vitamin B12.
Imagine if someone said they had a pill that would help slow aging while helping you feel and look younger for the rest of your life. That pill had no side effects other than improved mood, energy level, and self image. Would you take it? You’d be crazy not to! Well, it may not be a pill, but eating well, exercising daily and supplementing responsibly will stack the deck in favor of you living a long and healthy life.
- National Institutes onAging: What is aging? https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/aging-under-microscope/what-aging
- Williams C, Salter A: Saturated fatty acids and coronary heart disease risk. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care 2016;19:97-102. (Saturated fat)
- Ginter E, Simko V: New data on harmful effects of trans-fatty acids. Bratisl. Lek. Listy. 2016;117(5):251-253.
- Defilippis A, Blaha M, Jacobson T: Omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease prevention. Current Treatment Options in Cardiovascular Medicine 2010;12:365-380.25.
- Sakabe M, Shiroshita-Takeshita A, Maguy A, et al: Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids prevent atrial fibrillation associated with heart failure but not atrial tachycardia remodeling. Circulation 2007;116:2101-2109. (Heart rate )
- Clark C, Monahan K, Drew R: Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation attenuates blood pressure increase at onset of isometric handgrip exercise in healthy young and older humans. Physiological Reports 2016; July;4(14). (Blood pressure)
- Spigoni V, Lombardi C, Cito M, et al: N-3 PUFA increase bioavailability and function of endothelial progenitor cells. Food & Function 2014; 5:1881-1890. (Endothelial function and blood flow)
- Ellulu M, Patimah I, Khaza’ai H, et al: Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease: A review of initiators and protective factors. Inflammopharmacology 2016;24:1-10.
- Ambrogini P, Betti M, Galati C, et al: Alpha tocopherol and hippocampal neural plasticity in physiological and pathological conditions. International Journal of Molecular Science 2016;17(12).
- Georgousopoulou E, Panagiotakos D, Mellor D, et al: Tocotrienols, health and aging: A systematic review. Maturitas 2017;95:55-60.
- Ricciarelli R, Zingg J, Azzi A: The 80th anniversary of vitamin E: Beyond its antioxidant properties. Biological Chemistry 2002;383:457-465.
- Azzi A, Stocker A: Vitamin E: Non-antioxidant roles. Progress in Lipid Research 2000;39:231-255.
- Barger J, Kayo T, Vann J, et al: A low dose of dietary resveratrol partially mimics caloric restriction and retards aging parameters in mice. PloS ONE 2008;308:e2264.
- Majumdar A, Banerjee S, Nautiyal J, et al: Curcumin synergizes with resveratrol to inhibit colon cancer. Nutrition & Cancer 2009;61:544-553.
- Kroon P, Iyer A, Chunduri P, et al: The cardiovascular nutrapharmacology of resveratrol. Current Medicinal Chemistry 2010;17:2442-2455.
- Mercader J, Palou A, Bonet M: Resveratrol enhances fatty acid oxidation capacity and reduces resistin and retinol-binding protein 4 expression in white adipocytes. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry 2010;November 24th.
- Smith D, Nagy T, Allison D: Calorie restriction: What recent results suggest for the future of ageing research. European Journal of Clinical Investigation 2010;40:440-450.
- Anekonda T: Resveratrol: A boon for treating Alzheimer’s disease? Brain Research Review 2006;52:316-326.
- Roth G, Lane M, Ingram D: Caloric restriction mimetics. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 2005;1057:365-371.
- Mukherjee S, Dudley J, Das D: Dose-dependency of resveratrol in providing health benefits. Dose Response 2010;8(4):478-500.
- Osimani A, Berger A, Friedman J, et al: Neuropsychology of vitamin B12 deficiency in elderly dementia patients and control subjects. Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology 2005;18:33-38.
- Durand C, Mary S, Brazo P, et al: Psychiatric manifestations of vitamin B12 deficiency. Encephale 2003;29:560-565.
- Hin H, Clarke R, Sherliker P, et al: Clinical relevance of low serum vitamin B12 concentrations in older people. Age and Ageing 2006;35:416-422.
- Barghouti F, Younes N, Halaseh L, et al: High frequency of low serum levels of vitamin B12 among patients attending Jordan University Hospital. Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal 2009;15:853-860.
- Smith A, Refsum H: Vitamin B12 and cognition in the elderly. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2009;89:707S-711S.
- Behrens M, Diaz V, Vasquez C, et al: Dementia caused by vitamin B12 deficiency. Revista Medica de Chile 2003;131:915-919.
- Smith A: Hippocampus as a mediator of the role of vitamin B12 in memory. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2016;103:959-960.
- Kobe T, Witte A, Schnelle A, et al: Vitamin B12 concentration, memory performance, and hippocampal structure in patients with mild cognitive impairment. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2016;103:1045-1054.