Research on the benefits of key nutrients has provided the impetus for taking supplements designed to improve health. Recently, researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, have experimented with a mix of many of the most popular supplements—all readily available wherever most vitamins and nutrition aids are sold—and found that it forestalls major aspects of the aging process in mice. The ingredients used in combination were vitamins B1, C, D, E, acetylsalicylic acid, beta-carotene, folic acid, garlic, ginger root, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, green tea extract, magnesium, melatonin, potassium, cod liver oil and flax seed oil. "As we all eventually learn, aging diminishes our mind, fades our perception of the world and compromises our physical capacity," says David Rollo, associate professor of biology at McMaster. "Declining physical activity—think of grandparents versus toddlers—is one of the most reliable expressions of aging and is also a good indicator of obesity and general mortality risk." The study found that the complex dietary supplement powerfully offsets this key symptom of aging in old mice by increasing the activity of the mitochondria—think of them as cellular furnaces that supply energy—and by reducing free radicals—emissions of these furnaces thought to be the basic cause of aging itself. Most of the primary causes of human mortality and decline are strongly correlated with age and free-radical processes, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, many cancers, neurodegenerative diseases, and inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. Successful intervention into the aging process could consequently prevent or forestall all of these, say the researchers. Their formula maintained youthful levels of locomotor activity into old age whereas old mice that were not given the supplement showed a 50 per cent loss in daily movement, a similar dramatic loss in the activity of the cellular furnaces that make our energy, and declines in brain signaling chemicals relevant to locomotion. This builds on the team's findings that the supplement extends longevity, prevents cognitive declines, and protects mice from radiation. For Rollo, the results go beyond simply prolonging the lifespan. "For aging humans maintaining zestful living into later years may provide greater social and economic benefits than simply extending years of likely decrepitude," he says. "This study obtained a truly remarkable extension of physical function in old mice, far greater than the respectable extension of longevity that we previous documented. This holds great promise for extending the quality of life of health span of humans.” Development of new and hopefully more effective supplements is ongoing. The findings are published in the current issue of Experimental Biology and Medicine.
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