A pill that holds back the years sounds like science fiction. But it could be available within the next decade, says David Stipp, author of The Youth Pill: Scientists at the brink of an anti-ageing revolution (Current Trade £10.99). Scientists in the growing area of medical research known as ‘longevity science’ are developing drugs that could slow human ageing and potentially keep us vibrant beyond our 100th birthdays. In one study published in the journal Nature, researchers found that one drug, called rapamycin, prolonged life in female mice by 38 per cent and the mice weren’t just older, they were healthier and even looked better.
Despite the breakthroughs, a single live-to-100 pill for humans is still years away from being ready for the rest of us to take. But right now powerful nutrients known as ‘nutraceuticals’ found in foods and supplements are available and have been proven to help fight the effects of age from skin wrinkling to memory loss. ‘Nutraceuticals such as resveratrol, from grapes, and omega-3 oils from fish, have shown promise in fighting ageing,’ says David Stipp. ‘Some have inflammatory properties and inflammation is at the heart of just about every disease of human ageing. Others have antioxidant effects which may help preserve the health of cells.’ Here are six potent anti-ageing nutraceuticals.
The Skin and Joint Preserver GLUCOSAMINE You may have heard about its power to slow the progression of osteoarthritis, which affects eight million Brits over 40. But glucosamine’s benefits to ageing skin were highlighted in a report in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology in 2006. ‘Glucosamine is proven to help accelerate wound healing, improve skin and decrease wrinkles,’ says pharmacist Margo Marroney. ‘It works by encouraging the skin to produce more hyaluronic acid, a substance which keeps skin cells moist in youth but decreases by over half as we get older’. Eat it Root vegetables, ginger, turmeric and shellfish. Take it Organic Pharmacy Skin Radiance Capsules £34.95 (stockists 0844 800 8399)
The Memory Keeper VITAMIN B12 Between 24 and 80 a typical brain’s weight decreases by about 20 per cent and our frontal lobe, which is key to mental abilities, shrinks often causing changes in memory and attention. A recent study from the Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Ageing (OPTIMA) at Oxford University found that people with low vitamin B12 in their blood were six times more likely to experience the brain shrinking associated with old age, compared to those who had higher levels of the vitamin. ‘The level of vitamin B12 in the blood is strongly associated with the rate at which the brain shrinks,’ says Professor A. David Smith, who led the study. Eat it Meat (especially liver), fish, shellfish, poultry, eggs, milk, yoghurt and fortified breakfast cereals. Take it Solgar Vitamin B12 1000mg £9.25 from health food stores.
The Heart Helper OMEGA-3s ‘Omega-3s are the safest anti-inflammatory nutraceutical available today,’ says David Stipp. ‘When it comes to ageing, their most potent power is in lowering cholesterol. Heart disease associated with high cholesterol is common in the UK in people over 50. In the US, omega-3s are even approved as a prescription medicine that doctors give to people at risk of having heart attacks, instead of drugs.’ Eat it oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna, olive oil, walnuts. Take it Natural Health Practice Omega-3 Plus Capsules £22.97 (naturalhealthpractice.com)
The Metabolism Enhancer ALPHA-LIPOIC ACID Most people don’t need a scientist to tell them their metabolism slows with age leading to tiredness and weight gain. Hailed as ‘the metabolic antioxidant’, alpha lipoic acid can change that by promoting energy production by helping ‘mitochondria’ – little engines in each cell – convert food into stamina. ‘Alpha Lipoic acid has superb antioxidant ability,’ says anti-ageing specialist Dr Nicholas Perricone. ‘It also a helps with metabolism and research now shows it can also help regenerate vitamin C and E in the body to encourage the production of skin’s collagen.’ Eat it Green leafy vegetables such as broccoli or spinach as well as beef and calf’s liver. Take it Dr. Perricone Alpha Lipoic Acid £24 (from perriconemd.co.uk and stockists 0207 734 2566)
The Cell Rejuvenator BERRY EXTRACTS A recent study from researchers in Boston has found that extracts from berries can activate cells’ natural house-cleaning process, helping remove toxins and other compounds that can interfere with their function as we age. ‘This process is called ‘autophagy’’ says David Stipp. ‘It’s the rate at which our cells recycle their old components or ‘clean house’; a process that slows as we get older. Strawberry and blueberry compounds may rev up this autophagy process again.’ Eat it you guessed it – blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, acai and goji berries. Take it Nature’s Plus Source of Life Red Lightening Capsules and Blue Lightening Capsules £24.65 from nutricentre.com
The Age Fighter RESVERATROL It’s the stuff that gives red grapes their deep colour, resveratrol is (like berries) renowned as an antioxidant. ‘It acts as a long-term anti-ageing agent by protecting against the oxidative stress from the environment which causes damage to skin and cells as we age,’ says Joseph Vercauteren, Professor of Pharmacology at the Montpellier Faculty of Pharmacy in Paris. ‘It stimulates the creation of substances called ‘sirtuins’ in the cells which are sometimes referred to as the ‘proteins of longevity’ because they help protect against this environmental damage,’ he says. According to David Stipp, resveratrol could also help fight the effects of a high fat diet as we get older. Chips anyone? Eat it Red grapes (don’t peel them, the nutrient is in the skin) and red wine. Take it Caudalie Vinexpert Dietary Supplements £21 from Debenham’s, Space NK, Selfridges and pharmacies.
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