Beyond Generic Longevity Supplement Advice: Safety, Effectiveness and Personalisation
If you took all the recommended longevity supplements to boost your healthy ageing – you’d rattle.
In fact, overdoing levels of many common vitamins and minerals will accelerate your ageing.
An ideal setup is that you take exactly the supplements you need for optimal health, based on feedback from your own body. Blood tests help. However, they won’t catch the ebb and flow of your nutrient needs – and using them to measure specialist longevity supplements is difficult.
Add in scares (the legacy press is virulently anti-supplement), fashions, and interactions between compounds. And knowing what the optimal supplements to take is confusing at best (and at worst, the conflicting advice dangerous).
This page covers longevity supplements from two distinctive angles:
- Firstly, a broad overview of the categories of compounds out there from over-the-counter vitamins all the way through to specialist anti-ageing supplements.
- Secondly, specific supplement summaries with pros and cons. This section will grow as I complete deep-dives into the science of each.
Which supplements you take depend on your age, health, nutrition habits, fitness, and your healthy ageing goals.
By the time you reach the end of this page, you’ll have a framework to understand what is available.
As always, there is no medical advice on this page. Your final mix of anti-ageing supplements needs to be made in conjunction with your primary care doctor.
Note that I have not included prescription / longevity specific drugs here. For more information on rapamycin, metformin and more, see my longevity drugs overview page here. The list of healthy ageing supplements will undoubtedly grow.
One Million Pills: Categories of Supplements for Longevity and Healthy Ageing
Listing every possible supplement is like battling the mythical hydra.
This multi-headed creature grew extra new heads whenever you chopped one of them off. With healthy ageing supplements, you list one compound – only to discover three more.
I have created four broad categories. There are multiple overlaps:
- Popular Food Supplements: Over the counter additions to your diet. For example, common vitamins, minerals, and oils.
- Specialist Supplements: Fibre, hyaluronic acid, antioxidants, creatine, probiotics, and collagen fit here. This category can be produced or can come from food – though are taken for specific health needs.
- Longevity Science Specifics: NAD precursors, resveratrol, spermidine and sulforaphane fit into this specialist group.
- Misc. Supplements: Mushroom extracts, nootropics and other anti-ageing or health issue specific supplements which don’t fit into the buckets above.
Approaching Longevity Supplements: Three Questions Before You Pop Any Pill
Let’s rewind back to first principles before taking any supplements.
First principles are the core assumptions on which any theory is based. Avoiding harm, promoting healthy ageing, and not wasting money are all first principles when it comes to supplements.
I have broken this into four questions:
- Do I need it, based on my current levels?
- Are there downsides or risks, however small?
- What are the downsides of having too little?
- Can I get it from food?
Many times, levels of helpful minerals or vitamins are reduced by unhealthy habits.
For example, consuming excessive simple carbohydrates like bread or potatoes can lead to zinc deficiency by locking free zinc molecules in your blood stream. In this case, reducing these simple carbs is a smarter option than supplementing zinc. Even moderate alcohol intake is another common factor that needs to be balanced.
Supplements and the Legacy Press: Mixed Messages
A recent study involving vitamin D got massive coverage in the legacy press (both TV and newspapers).
It concerned bone strength.
The study found no link between vitamin D supplements and fractures in older people. Anyone watching the coverage would think that this supplement was poison, pushed by snake oil salespeople and a complete waste of time. Here is a link to a summary of the paper.
Firstly, low levels of vitamin D are terrible for health including immune function and bone strength. The study so widely publicised did not even measure starting levels. Secondly, vitamin D is proven for fighting respiratory viruses. You’d have thought that was important these days, right?
Overall, positives of supplements are brushed over or ignored, and negatives make the headlines.
For most people, Vitamin D levels are healthy, and no supplements are needed. It is exactly the vulnerable types that are dangerously deficient that those click-bait headlines damage most.
A recent study linking NR (nicatinomide riboside) to cancer is another excellent example. The claims were instantly rebuffed by the author of the paper (they involved a minute chance and at super-extreme levels). Yet the press went ahead without mentioning this rebuttal at all…
Common Vitamin and Mineral Supplements and Longevity.
Head to any supermarket or pharmacy and you’ll find shelf after shelf packed with vitamin and mineral supplements.
Some are individual compounds (vitamin C, B complex and so on). Others are multivitamins, designed for specific age and sex profiles.
Here are the different supplements I have included in this category:
- Vitamins: A, B, C, D, E and K
- Minerals: Zinc, magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron.
- Food Oils: Omega 3, MCT oils.
Your diet is the single biggest determinant of your levels of these vitamins and minerals. Surprisingly, the exact diet choices that scientists recommend for healthy ageing supply all of them. A delicious win / win.
Ageing and Supplements: Deep Dives So Far
I stopped my regular zinc supplements following an intensive 2-day dive into the scientific papers.
Not because I found that zinc is dangerous. In fact, it is extremely hard to overdose on zinc – you’ll get stomach problems and nausea as an early warning even if you do.
The reason for stopping is that my diet already has multiple sources. Spinach, seafood, and legumes are all zinc-rich foods.
Zinc is a powerful immune booster. I take some on hand should I feel a cold coming on.
Find out more in my Zinc and Longevity Deep Dive
Vitamin D Supplements:
Vitamin D is controversial.
It comes from the sun. Yet most of us in the Northern Hemisphere don’t spend nearly long enough outdoors – and when we do we tend to be mostly covered.
Deficiency in vitamin D is a major problem.
Signs include impaired immune function (more infections), fatigue and muscle pain. Unless you are deficient, then supplementing it does not have benefits above a slightly lower chance of catching a cold or flu.
My biggest take-away from the vitamin D science is to avoid being deficient at all costs. This includes considering supplementation in the darker winter months. Find out more in my Vitamin D and Longevity page here.
(Note add link when up)
More deep dives to follow soon!
Other Popular Supplements and Healthy Ageing
I originally called this category ‘non-food.’
However, many of these supplements are linked to what you eat, for example collagen and fibre. I’m treating them as a separate category as outside of the regular vitamins and minerals. These are the supplements you take for specific health needs.
I also include probiotics in this category. These supplements feed your gut microbiome. The benefits are powerful – an unbalanced or unhealthy gut microbiome is linked to multiple chronic conditions.
Here is an overview of popular non-food supplements:
- Collagen Peptides
- Hyaluronic Acid
- Antioxidants (outside of the common vitamins)
- Probiotics (and prebiotics)
Deep dives are already underway, and summaries will appear here as they are published!
Longevity Specific / Specialist Supplements
Many of the mainstream supplements in the world of longevity and biohacking are nowhere near to being on the radar of everyone else.
Head to a longevity conference, and you’ll be able to debate the relative merits of different NAD precursors. Try this in the office or family dinner table – and you’ll get confused blank stares.
Longevity specific supplements are controversial.
Some are promoted by different ‘camps,’ including academics keen to one-up each other for their unique type of status. Others are linked to risky outcomes, albeit at extreme doses or with specific existing health conditions.
Here are the supplements I have included in this category:
- NAD Precursors: NR, NMN, Niacin
- Resveratrol (and other polyphenols)
- Spermidine (and other autophagy inducing compounds including curcumin)
- Sulforaphane (and other specialist antioxidants)
- BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) boosting supplements
- CoQ10 and other mitochondria boosters
With multiple deep dive articles already underway I’m personally holding off taking these for now. It is easy to get seduced by the promise of these compounds. Before I dive in, the safety data needs to be pristine.
Check back soon, I’ll be covering each of these longevity specific supplements in depth.
Wrapping Up: Longevity, Healthy Ageing and Supplement Choices
Before you take any compound to promote your health, find out what your current levels are and what you are deficient in.
You’ll need a blood test – which your doctor can compare with the safe levels for your age, health profile and other individual factors.
My deep dive articles on each vitamin, mineral and longevity-specific supplement will become a cornerstone of the Age Well Times (alongside diet, exercise, and sleep).
The best thing you can do is to eat a balanced, healthy diet – and make sure you get safe sunlight to boost your vitamin D.