Supplements to slow biological aging: What does the science say?

By Olivia Brown

- Last updated on GMT

© Feodora Chiosea / Getty Images
© Feodora Chiosea / Getty Images

Related tags biological age healthy aging

The concept of biological age has captured consumer attention with an increasing number of brands offering supplements promising to slow or even reverse the biological clock, but what does the scientific evidence backing these claims say?

An expert in the field underlined diet and lifestyle interventions as the most important tool for biological age reversal but spotlighted vitamin D, methyl folate, ashwagandha, magnesium, omega-3 and nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) as specific longevity-promoting nutrients.

James Brown, co-founder and nutrigenomics director of epigenetic analysis company Muhdo, highlighted the growing consumer interest in the category.

"There seems to be a huge amount of interest in people proactively trying to reduce the rate to which they are aging, whether that be in the form of a supplement, a specific type of diet and/or our bio hacks that have been shown to be beneficial," he said.

Referring to research carried out at Muhdo, Brown noted that conditions such as type 2 diabetes have been shown to accelerate biological age by 4.15 years, and lifestyle factors such as drinking under two liters of water a day accelerated age by an average of 5.19 years.

In contrast, achieving 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night decelerated biological age by 1.6 years, and taking a daily multi-vitamin reduced age by 4.2 years.

Slowing the biological clock

"Vast amounts of resources are currently being allocated to trying to identify the elixir to eternal life, with Jeff Bezos throwing his hat into the ring with the funding of Altos Labs," Brown said. "I think unfortunately many in the longevity community, perhaps the fault of the supplement suppliers and manufactures, look at anti-aging supplements as some sort of panacea to aging, when in fact they should be viewed as the proverbial cherry on top of the cake."

He emphasized the importance of a healthy lifestyle as the first priority for reducing biological age, including regular strength and aerobic exercise, optimal hydration and quality sleep.

Regarding supplements, he said NMN, NAD, resveratrol and CA-AKG are gaining the most interest within the anti-aging category.

"There are a whole variety of nutrients which have been publicized for having an effect on biological age," he added. "If we are looking exclusively at which nutrients we have observed in our own research having a beneficial effect on the DNA methylation on genes associated with aging, then there seem to be quite a few.”

He noted unpublished research conducted by Muhdo using a cohort of 260 adults between the ages of 30 and 50 years, which aimed to assess the impact of supplements on DNA methylation compared to those who do not take supplements. A positive effect was reported for vitamin D, methyl folate, ashwagandha, magnesium, omega 3 and NMN.

Separate research highlighted that vitamin D supplementation was associated with a 2.6-year lower DNA methylation age​ acceleration (DNAmAA). Magnesium deficiency has been shown in a number of studies to be associated with hallmarks of aging​, such as telomere attrition, epigenetic alterations and loss of proteostasis. Omega-3s have also been linked to the deceleration of telomere attrition​.

Evidence​ also shows significant associations between folate deficiencies and cognitive decline in older adults, however minimal evidence exists specifically linking methyl folate and ashwagandha with the slowing of chronological age. Overall, the nutrients display a range of health benefits across stress reduction and anti-inflammatory activities, which may indirectly benefit the aging process.

NMN is a main precursor of the essential enzyme NAD+​, which is responsible for fundamental biological processes. As such, supplementation with NMN has been found to increase NAD+ ​concentrations​ and therefore could mitigate age-related disorders.  

Nutrients which did not show a direct impact on DNA methylation levels within Muhdo’s research were NAC, coQ10, methlyB12 and resveratrol.

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