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If living longer was as easy as taking a pill, everyone would do it. Problem is, there's a ton of conflicting info out there on the purported perks of supplements, especially when it comes to the anti-aging category. Separating fact from fake news takes a decent amount of effort, but ongoing research is uncovering some exciting potential benefits, so if you put in the work, the payoff could be worth it. Here's everything you should know about choosing the best anti-aging supplements. (Related: Are Dietary Supplements Really Safe?)
Finding the Best Anti-Aging Supplements That Aren't BS
If you're taking a load of pills while ignoring food, you're doing it wrong—they're called supplements for a reason. "If you just take a pill and don't eat properly, you won't get all the benefits, which is why I like to introduce supplements not only into a nutritional program but also into a dietary program," says Richard Firshein, D.O., Founder of Firshein Center for Integrative Medicine. Consider supplements as a way to top off a healthy lifestyle.
You also shouldn't look at supplements as a means to make your skin look the same way it did 10 years ago. Instead of thinking about anti-aging supplements in terms of your skin or body "looking" younger, think about these additives as something that can improve your health and promote longevity, says Dr. Firshein. Working with a nutritionist or physician will always get you the best results for your specific needs, but you may want to consider keeping these promising options on your radar.
- Fisetin: "Fisetin is a very potent anti-inflammatory that's been shown to prevent cancers from spreading in studies with laboratory animals," says Dr. Firshein.
- Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH or NAD+): "Your body uses these to regulate almost every body function that you have," says Dr. Firshein of these two forms of NAD. "They regulate how your body repairs itself in terms of your DNA and helps you regulate your sleep cycles. And it really helps your body go through a process called autophagy, which is the way that your body cleans up damaged material inside yourself."
- Curcumin: Curcumin is the molecule in turmeric that's responsible for the spice's yellow color. Research suggests it has anti-inflammatory and artery-clearing effects.
- Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ): PQQ is a compound that's naturally found in foods like green tea, kiwi, and green peppers. According to studies, it might have antioxidant effects and positively impact brain function.
- Boswellia: Boswellia is an extract from the Boswellia (AKA frankincense) tree. "Boswellia has data against placebo for inflammatory conditions, including aging-related inflammatory conditions," says Dr. Sreek Cherukuri, M.D., who developed Boscumin, a supplement combining Boswellia and curcumin.
As far as supplements you can likely skip, surprisingly, multivitamins top both doctors' lists. "There are probably few people who really need a multivitamin unless they just don't eat," says Dr. Firshein. A recent review of existing research suggested that some of the most popular supplements–multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin C—don't have any impact on the risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, or premature death.
How to Find Safe Supplements
The FDA doesn't regulate supplements, which has led to some extremely shady practices over the years from paying for fake Amazon reviews to selling pills laced with prescription-strength drugs. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb recently announced that the government agency will be modifying its approach to dietary supplement regulation, but at least for now, you'll have to do some digging if you want to be aware of what you're taking and what you're expecting as a result.
First, you should do a little research on what you're considering taking to see if the nutrient has research-backed benefits or is mostly hype. Look for placebo-controlled studies published in medical journals, suggests Dr. Cherukuri. If you're taking any prescription medication, you should also ask your doctor about how it might interact with any supplements you consider taking.
Once you've decided a particular supplement is worth taking, do a little research before settling on a brand. Since supplements are unregulated, some companies sell pills that are completely different from what they say on the label. For starters, in 2015, the New York Attorney General's office called out GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart after finding that four out of five of the herbal supplements on their shelves didn't contain any of the herbs on their labels. Check on a company's website to see if it's had third-party testing to guarantee that what's on the label is what's in the bottle, adds Dr. Cherukuri.
Putting in some research will mean avoiding a sketchy product and finding a supplement that's not completely based in hype.