Chapter 5

Take the Right Supplements

Most of us regularly use supplements. Yet most of us looking to live longer and healthier are not taking the right supplements.

It’s unsurprising, however, given the growing number of supplements available. The choice also depends on our specifics, including gender, age, life circumstances, health status, and additional health goals.

To take the right supplements, we must have the following:

  1. a broad awareness of what’s available – the categories.
  2. sufficient knowledge within the categories – the specific products and agents.
  3. at least some awareness of quality issues and assurance – for example, manufacturing processes, ingredient sourcing and transportation, synergistic ingredient considerations, etc. and then we can
  4. match the products according to the priority of our specifics at a quality level that we are comfortable with while ensuring that the cost is within the range we can afford.

By following these steps, we can find peace of mind that we are taking the right supplements and getting the best value for our money.

This chapter will lay the foundation by introducing the categories of dietary and longevity supplements, highlighting their differences, and then closing with where they overlap.

Dietary Supplements

Dietary supplements are products designed to compensate for any deficiencies you might have from diet or lack of adequate diet—particularly if you cannot regularly ingest enough foods, and with enough variety. They are mainly vitamins and minerals.

You get more or fewer vitamins and minerals depending on your nutritional program and how often and how much you eat. For example, a traditional omnivore eating from animal and plant-based sources is more likely to get adequate vitamin B12 than a person following a vegan diet (as B12 is primarily found in animal products.)

Dietary supplements aim to establish a foundation or provide insurance, along with your nutritional intake, to ensure that you’re getting everything you need to have a basic level of mental health, physical health, and opportunity for optimal performance.

You can’t outrun bad lifestyle decisions using supplementation, such as a bad diet.

Although the primary goal of dietary supplements is to support overall health and wellness by addressing any nutrient deficiencies, they may also be used to address specific health concerns, such as joint pain or immune support.

There are several sub-categories of dietary supplements, chiefly:

  1. Vitamins: These are organic compounds that the body needs in small amounts to function properly. Examples include vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin E.
  2. Minerals: These are inorganic compounds that the body needs in small amounts to maintain good health. Examples include calcium, iron, and zinc.
  3. Herbs and botanicals: These are plant-based supplements used for their medicinal properties. Examples include echinacea, ginkgo biloba, and turmeric.
  4. Amino acids: These are the building blocks of protein and can be taken as supplements to support muscle growth and repair. Examples include glutamine, creatine, and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).
  5. Enzymes: These are proteins that help the body break down and absorb nutrients from food. Examples include lactase, which helps digest lactose, and protease, which helps break down proteins.
  6. Probiotics: These are live bacteria that can be taken as supplements to support gut health and improve digestion. Examples include Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum.
  7. Omega-3 fatty acids: These are essential fatty acids that are important for brain function and heart health. They can be taken as supplements, usually from fish oil or flaxseed oil.

Longevity Supplements

Longevity supplements, on the other hand, are products intended to support healthy aging and increase lifespan. They may contain ingredients shown to have anti-aging effects or improve cellular function, such as resveratrol, NAD+, or certain types of antioxidants.

The primary goal of longevity supplements is to promote healthy aging and reduce the risk of age-related diseases.

Whereas in dietary supplements, the bioactive ingredients found may be obtained through food alone, in longevity supplements, they may be present in tiny amounts and not easily obtained through food alone. Additionally, some longevity supplements contain high doses of certain compounds that are impossible to achieve through nutrition alone.

Resveratrol, for example, is a compound found in red wine, grapes, and some berries and has been shown to have anti-aging effects in animal studies.

However, the amount of resveratrol that can be obtained through food or drink is relatively low, and it may be difficult to achieve the doses used in some longevity supplements. Even for a very low-dose resveratrol supplement, you’d need to drink many liters of red wine daily to get the supplement’s dose.

Similarly, NAD+ (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) is a coenzyme involved in many cellular processes and plays a critical role in aging. While NAD+ is found in small amounts in foods such as milk, fish, and meat, obtaining therapeutic doses for increased lifespan through diet alone is practically impossible.

Many factors influence lifespan, including genetics, lifestyle habits, and environmental factors. While some longevity supplements have anti-aging effects, they are not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a healthy diet, and stress management.

Dietary and Longevity Supplement Overlap

There is some overlap between longevity supplements and dietary supplements:

  1. Multivitamins or omega-3 supplements, for example, may also be used by people interested in healthy aging, but they are not explicitly marketed as longevity supplements.
  2. The foundational minerals of magnesium and zinc, when deficient, accelerate aging. Whereas iron and calcium accelerate aging when we have excess.
  3. According to the triage theory concept developed by Dr. Bruce Ames, given the body has a limited supply of nutrients and other resources, it will prioritize the use of these resources to support short-term survival and reproduction over long-term health and longevity. Supplementing certain nutrients helps fill in gaps in the body’s nutrient allocation and could reduce the risk of age-related diseases. Additionally, he has proposed that some nutrients, such as vitamin K or chromium, may play an important role in maintaining long-term health and are not essential for short-term survival.

The primary difference is that longevity supplements are formulated to promote healthy aging and increase lifespan.

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