Supplements

The science behind telomeres is fast becoming a pop culture phenomenon. Just about anyone interested in anti-aging interventions has heard about its effect on aging. People with longer telomeres are said to look and feel younger, regardless of biological age.

A few years ago resveratrol was the talk of the town. However, when new research showed that resveratrol does more to improve quality of life than extend life span, the hype died down. The anti-aging community soon after found its new saviour.

Coaxing telomerase into lengthening telomeres is the new hope for longer human lives.

It turns out that humans do have a built-in mechanism to control the process of aging. The passage of time along with poor lifestyle choices wears down telomeres. The function of telomerase is to rebuild the tips of the DNA. The problem lies in the fact it can’t keep up with the damage. No matter how carefully you follow the direction of your doctor, eat right and exercise, the gradual decline of your genetic code persists. Mutations give us age spots, sagging skin and weaker organs. When our telomeres get too short, we die.

Despite the lack of funding, a small group of biotech laboratories are working around the clock to find out what substances can lengthen telomeres. Companies such as Sierra Sciences in Reno, Nevada use sophisticated robots to test compounds. Their goal is find something that can effectively halt the aging process. So far the best compound they have found has reached 15.89% of this target.

As the public, we have no idea what has been tested so far and what hasn’t. What we do know is an herb popularly used as complementary medicine is among the top performers; it’s called astragalus. The plant was known by the ancient Chinese to have a positive effect on the immune system. How interesting that all these years later, there is evidence to show they were right.

So does this news make astragalus the new super supplement every health-conscious person over 30 needs to take? Scientists are in disagreement.

One camp, including nobel prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn, feels that there isn’t enough data in place to suggest astragalus can extend life in humans. More testing and clinical trials need to be done before it can be responsibly recommended. This is of course the default position of scientists: one of scepticism.

The other camp, including Sierra Sciences founder Bill Andrews, feels that being overly conservative can cost us years of life that could otherwise be saved. Although there isn’t conclusive evidence that astragalus based supplements like TA-65 work, we’ve got a pretty good hunch based on sound research. The only way you’d be able to tell if astragalus worked is if it was given to a large group of people from middle age to death. Tests of that magnitude aren’t realistic so we could be waiting for the data Blackburn speaks of indefinitely.

It is important to note that run of the mill astragalus supplements don’t have much ability to extend telomeres, if any. The compounds that work are rare portions extracted from the plant: astragaloside IV or better yet cycloastragenol. Some readily available supplements have traces of astragaloside IV, check the label. Keep in mind that such tiny dosages won’t do much good. The only products with promise are cycloastragenol from RevGenetics and TA-65 from TA Sciences.

Prices are shocking to the casual supplement-popper, so chances are most will be waiting on the wings until more studies are published and more options are available.

gary-hair11-267x300Resveratrol is one of the most discussed supplements on health message boards such as Longecity at Imminst.org. There is a wealth of information in a giant thread entitled the “500 club.” Users chime in about benefits and side effects experienced as well as how much they take daily. You’ll commonly read about increased energy. This effect has been proven in mouse studies. You’ll also come across less common results like reversal of gray hair.

There is more feedback about reversal of hairs in the beard than on the scalp. Some have photographed their lower face as evidence. In one example some hairs were dark at the root and white at the tip. Although far from conclusive it seems there is substance to the claims.

So far resveratrol users that claim to have less gray on the scalp are met with scepticism. First off, it is very hard to prove because it is a noted improvement, not a dramatic reversal. There are generally 100,000 hairs on the average human head to account for. Secondly, there is no way to confirm that the resveratrol alone is solely responsible for the reversal. Let’s remember that it is a compound taken by people concerned with optimal aging and health. Any number of positive lifestyle changes may help darken the hair.

Since gray hair reversal from resveratrol hasn’t been studied or proven it isn’t a good bet to buy it based on a handful of antidotes on the internet. Some lucky folks may experience less gray hair but this should be thought of as a pleasant side effect.

Primarily resveratrol’s strength lies in prevention and treatment of a number of age-related diseases. It will certainly make you feel younger. Whether it helps you keep your youthful good looks is still up for debate.

Better Off with Hair Dye?

Rumours are circulating that L’Oréal holds a patent for gray hair reversal without dye. In the future we may be swallowing a pill to restore hair color. It’s exciting to think about, but still a long way off. If you are unhappy with your grays the best way to take care of the problem is still hair dye.

Another option is of course is to embrace your gray. Women are starting to warm up to the idea of showing off their natural color with pride instead of shame. Jamie Lee Curtis, Emmylou Harris and Meryl Streep are just a few of the mature stars inspiring women around the world.

Traditionally it was seen as un-masculine to be a slave to hair dye. All this is changing. More men are dying their hair today than in the past.

Research backing the health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids keeps piling up as years pass. The evidence is so overwhelming that the most conservative health professionals have jumped on the bandwagon. Nutritionist Dr. Dean Ornish, known for advocating whole foods, recommended taking a fish oil supplement in his TED talk entitled “Dean Ornish on Healing”.

“If you don’t remember anything else from this talk, 3 grams a day of fish oil can reduce the risk of a heart attack and sudden death by 50 to 80 percent” said Ornish.

As a practicing doctor he developed a diet plus simple interventions that actually reversed heart disease without surgery. In the past, this was thought impossible. Clearly bad lifestyle choices can harm our health, but now we know that good ones can potentially reverse the damage.

Of course the health benefits don’t stop at heart health. The brain for example is 60 percent fat, so fatty acids are important building blocks for our body. The numerous benefits could fill another article. Let’s get to the meat of it and take a look at popular fish oils offered by Carlson.

Carlson Very Finest Fish Oil

Liquid fish oil has a bad reputation for two things: producing “fish burps” and tasting disgusting (especially to those that hate fish). Carlson has managed to alleviate these concerns by adding pleasant lemon flavoring. Personally I find it tastes terrific and this is coming from a person that isn’t big on seafood. If you absolutely hate the taste of fish, go with Carlson soft gels to be safe.

Tests conclude that this product is free of mercury. This is great news because as advantageous as it is to get fatty acids from a salmon fillet, mercury levels are sometimes nearing dangerous levels depending on where it is caught and if it is wild or farmed.

One serving is a full teaspoon. It contains 1600 mg of omega 3 (EPA – 800 mg, DHA – 500mg, Other Omega 3s – 300mg). The 16.9 fl oz bottle contains 100 servings.

Carlson Super Omega-3 Fish Oil

Some fish oil capsules are just as notorious for producing “fish burps” as fatty acids in liquid form. This is caused when the oil becomes slightly rancid inside the body. Carlson adds a small amount of vitamin E (10 UI) to keep the product fresh thus avoiding this issue. In my own experience, I haven’t noticed a problem.

I like capsules for travel. After popping a dozen or so in a small container I’ll a way to feel a better about myself if I drink too many Piña coladas on vacation. Yes, I know it is slightly delusional.

Like all Carlson fish oil products, Super Omega-3 Fish Oil is free of mercury.

You’ll have to swallow 2-3 capsules to equal the punch offered by Carlson Very Finest Fish Oil. Each soft gel contains 600mg of omega 3 (EPA – 300 mg, DHA – 200mg, Other Omega 3s – 100mg).

Conclusion

There are some very pricy omega 3 supplements out there by Nordic Naturals and New Chapter. Both have a lot of hype behind them however I can’t justify paying that much for a fish oil supplement. Carlson’s stuff has a good balance of value and quality, making it the brand I stick to.

Photo: Jo Christian Oterhals

Staying active is crucial to good health, however it is equally important to stay hydrated, especially in the hot sun. Bottled water can replace diminished fluids, however it will not restore electrolytes that are lost through the sweat glands. Sports drinks are formulated with electrolytes but also contain tons of sugar, calories and artificial flavors. Now, there is a natural solution that was previously overlooked: coconut water.

What is Zico Coconut Water?

Zico coconut water is a natural beverage usually sold in 1-liter boxes. It contains 100% pure coconut water and is infused with natural flavor essences. Drinking it replaces essential electrolytes as well as minerals, lost due to sweating. This makes it an ideal workout companion.  If electrolytes aren’t replaced, muscles can get cramped and sore. After long workouts the potassium and calcium loss may even lead to muscle weakness and an abnormal heart beat. A single serving has more potassium than a banana, which is typically considered one of the best sources of potassium.

How Many Calories Does Coconut Water Contain?

For those who are watching their calorie intake, Zico coconut water has only sixty calories per serving and is completely fat free with no added sugar. Because of the natural carbohydrates found in the coconut, it has fifteen grams of carbs, but when exercising in the heat particularly exercise that lasts more than an hour, carbohydrates are needed as fuel.

What Does Zico Coconut Water Taste Like?

That of course depends on the flavor you choose: natural, passion fruit, mango, pineapple, and tangerine, each have a tropical taste that is not overpowering. The coconut water itself is fairly neutral although some say it is an acquired taste. People new to coconut water will probably want to try the flavored varieties first and move on to the natural flavor later.

Extracting coconut water from fresh coconuts is fairly inconvenient, as you would have to crack several to get a good amount. So most people will opt for a box of Zico or O.N.E. Coconut Water.

Where Can You Get Coconut Water?

If you live in a large city, Zico coconut water can be found at some specialty grocery stores and food markets. Since you have to do some digging to find it, even in the best circumstances, most people avoid the hunt by buying it online. A popular place to get it is Amazon.com. Here you can stock up with a 12 pack of 1 liter containers, which costs around $50. The cost may seem a little high a first. This is the only real disadvantage, along with the limited availability. Many that are serious about their health know it is well worth it as it is also a tasty and unique treat.