Have scientists discovered the Fountain of Youth in pill form? (Photo: Getty Images)
Most of us wouldn’t mind uncovering the Fountain of Youth, but scientists are intending to do us one better: packaging it up in the form of a pill. According to research from McMaster University in Canada, a new dietary supplement may dramatically slow or even reverse the effects of aging that can lead to conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS (also known a Lou Gehrig’s disease).
Researchers developed the supplement formula back in 2000 with the intent to make an over-the-counter pill that would combat neurological aging and degeneration. To be included in the supplement, each ingredient had to have a history of combating one of five components involved in that aging process: oxidative stress, inflammation, mitochondrial deterioration, membrane dysfunction, and impaired glucose metabolism. The final blend includes 30 vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B, C, and D, folic acid, green tea extract, cod liver oil, and other types of nutraceuticals.
In a series of studies performed over a decade and a half, researchers have chronicled the anti-aging potential of the supplement in mice. The vitamin-and-mineral blend was administered on a piece of bagel to mice that aged normally and mice that aged rapidly (for the purpose of research) over the course of their lifespans. The rapidly aging mice had widespread loss of more than half of their brain cells, severely impacting multiple parts of the brain and mimicking cases of severe Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the study’s lead author, Jennifer Lemon, PhD, a research associate in the department of biology at McMaster University, while on the supplement, all of the mice were tested for motor activity, balance, and coordination, as well as several types of cognitive tests and sensory functions. Scientists also examined their brains and other tissues for markers of aging and deterioration.
The results have been consistently astonishing in both sets of mice. “We found that the severe cognitive deterioration in the rapidly aging mice was completely prevented,” Lemon tells Yahoo Beauty. “Both those mice and the normal ones actually got smarter as they got older.”
She adds: “We also determined that older mice on the supplement were more active, stronger, had better balance and improved vision and sense of smell compared to untreated mice of the same age.”
Lemon says the findings indicate this super-powered supplement may be able to safeguard a broad spectrum of functions, and overall brain health might be protected and improved if taken consistently.
“We know that the mental and physical deterioration seen in aging is a multifactorial process,” Lemon says. “Historically, anti-aging interventions have been ineffective, mostly because they only treat one factor or symptom of aging. What we discovered was that if you simultaneously protect several of the key processes that contribute to that deterioration, you can significantly slow aging and offset both physical and mental dysfunction.”
What’s the next step for this exciting magic pill? Unfortunately, it won’t hit store shelves instantly. Human studies focusing on men and women with neurodegenerative disease will likely begin within two years — but just knowing the pill exists and looks promising is a pretty great way to end the week.