Growing older can be a great experience when your customers create a healthful regimen based on supplements that may counteract or stave the internal aging processes.
Although “youth is wasted on the young,” getting old doesn’t have to stink. In fact, it is a blessing. Living life is acquiring experiences and knowledge, and giving of one’s unique characteristics. Biologically speaking, if one does not take care of one’s health and well being, aging can be a painful, debilitating and thus depressing experience. Adults tend to begin thinking of their health and “innards” when they are in middle-age, because when we are young, we tend to feel invincible, if not immortal.
As a category and as an expression, “healthy aging” can indeed encompass every single supplement and healthy practice. In fact, mindfully leading a healthy lifestyle is in and of itself, “healthy aging.” But as more researchers delve into studies and defining this term with much more clarity, it may be expressed as how the body delays slowing down of biochemical production and systems/organs.
Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, author of The Most Effective Ways to Live Longer, described four systemic activities that constitute biological aging: inflammation, which “is associated with every major degenerative disease on earth, and a factor in other non-life-threatening health conditions; glycation, where excess dietary sugar impacts circulation and blood sugar levels; oxidative damage, caused by an abundance of free radicals and stress, which causes the body to release certain hormones (eg cortisol), that also cause widespread systemic damage. “There is not a disease on earth that doesn’t involve one or more (usually all four) of these issues,” he declared.
But consumers are slowly understanding that aging is systemic, and according to Bowden, diseases associated with aging are outcomes.
Tim Hitt, supplement buyer and manager for Fiesta Nutrition Center in Monroe, LA, observed that his customers “definitely have a better understanding of what healthy aging really means, opposed to just a few years back. I think they are seeing the term more often these days. The biggest misconception they have about it are having the mindset that they are only a few choices to aid in the healthy aging process.”
Fiesta Nutrition, he added, focuses on healthy aging products that provide antioxidant support, and healthy inflammatory response management. Other areas include brain health, joint health and bone health. His personal favorite healthy aging supplements are Curamed + OPC from Terry Naturally, Omega Memory from Nordic Naturals, Ageloss Rejuvabolic from Nature’s Plus and Bone Up from Jarrow Formulas.
The understanding of what, exactly, constitutes healthy aging in the minds of consumers today, is all over the map. In the viewpoint of Timothy Mount, CN, CCMH, director of education for NeoCell in California, there are three key aging symptoms that consumers first notice—wrinkling, pain and energy loss.
Cheryl Myers, chief of education and scientific affairs at EuroPharma, Inc. in Wisconsin, echoed those key concerns. She opined, “I think that many people think about appearance, cognitive health, and their heart when they think about aging. I suppose bone and joint health are top concerns, too, as well as pain relief. It’s perfectly understandable that any family history of disease would loom large in someone’s mind.”
Currently, she has observed a growing understanding among health-minded consumers about how oxidative stress and inflammation contribute to aging and increased risk of disease, and “it’s good to have retailers sharing that message with their customers as well.”
“People need to dispense with outdated concepts and bring themselves up to speed with current concepts in nutrition science,” admonished Rafael Avila, director of research and development, New York-based Nature’s Plus. He points to the “old ideas” about antioxidants as a great example.
Most consumers do know that free radicals are harmful to their health and they have a general understanding that free radicals are destructive to their cells, tissues and organs. They also know that antioxidants kill these off and are thus very healthy to consume as both foods and supplements.
However, when it comes to healthy aging, he said, “the old belief that antioxidants perform a single function and can be compared to one another simply by comparing their oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) values is outdated. You still see misguided people out there citing old studies that compare botanical antioxidants to vitamin C or to vitamin E, assuming that they’re chemically doing the same thing.”
There are five most prevalent and damaging types of health-damaging free radicals: peroxyl, hydroxyl, peroxynitrite, superoxide anion and singlet oxygen free radicals and each targets different tissues, cells and even microscopic structures within cells. There are five major classes of antioxidant activities—ORAC, HORAC, NORAC, SORAC and SOAC, and “total ORAC” refers to the sum of all five. “When a particular system or tissue within the body displays poor health, there is usually a set of specific free radicals doing most of the damage,” he emphasized. “The belief that you can address that combination of free radicals with a single antioxidant, such as vitamin C alone, or vitamin E alone, is pure fantasy. We have to be smarter. In order to fight such free radicals more effectively, we have to recognize the characteristics of the tissue and the most likely free radicals to be attacking that tissue.”
The situation is similar with inflammation, according to Avila. A deep reservoir of research continues to point to inflammation as a significant contributor to aging and the decline in health of many tissues of the body. Still, many people immediately believe that inflammation is only redness, pain and swelling. However, systemic inflammation is not felt, and this is the unhealthy, aging inflammation. Inflammatory molecules include: c-reactive protein (CRP), cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a), interleukins, histamines, leukotrienes, nitric and nitrous inflammatory mediators, as well as prostaglandin inflammatory mediators.
“Similar to what we see in how free radicals affect the health of our tissues, a variable combination of inflammatory molecules appear to attack different systems in different ways,” he explained. “But most interestingly, there is a lot of overlap between free radicals and inflammation. All eight inflammatory molecules are either triggered by oxidative free radicals or worsened by them.”
There’s another contributing factor to accelerated aging, a vicious cycle, where in the inflammatory molecules often create more free radicals. This, Avila, noted, can eventually cause cell, organ and system degradation. “Knowing which antioxidants can break these cycles not only helps control inflammation, but by removing a range of free radicals, it also addresses many other problems aside from inflammation,” he said.
Collagen, or degradation and slowed production thereof, is also involved in accelerated aging, affecting appearance and function, according to Mount. “As an inevitable, inescapable consequence of life,” he described, collagen production declines through time. Collagen comprises as much as 75 percent of the skin, and loss of collagen is responsible for the visible wrinkling, sagging and thinning. Further, ligaments and tendons are comprised of more than 86 percent collagen so when production slows, people are more susceptible to joint pain and stiffness.
Additionally, collagen binds bone minerals, and collagen decline is partially responsibility for increased susceptibility to fracture. Collagen forms the framework in bone that holds minerals in place, but as this scaffolding declines, bones become weak and brittle. Arthritis is the destruction of cartilage, which is comprised of 60 percent collagen. “The good news is that we can rebuild our collagen matrix by taking a collagen supplement, thereby strengthening our tissues and improving our appearance and mobility,” he noted.
There are numerous factors that contribute to accelerated aging, including environmental, genetic, dietary and other lifestyle habits, observed Myers, “that the causes and conditions of each interlock in a way that can be tough to unravel. The fact is, however well you’ve done in the lottery of life, you still need to control for inflammation and oxidative stress—those are the main accelerators of aging, no matter your health status.”
As mentioned, there are systemic occurrences that contribute to accelerated aging, and from there, risk of typical age-related disease increases. Customers may ask about supplements, foods and remedies that are condition-specific without taking into account the roles of silent inflammation, oxidative stress and collagen loss.
Osteoporosis and arthritis are the most common age-related diseases that people would like to try to prevent, as the facility of discomfort-free movement is important to sustain, according to Mount. Although collagen production naturally declines as we age, collagen breakdown is further accelerated through stress, poor diet and strenuous exercise. “Collagen supplements such as NeoCell Collagen contain a unique set of amino acids not found in other proteins,” he said. These amino acids stimulate collagen production at the cellular to support the rebuilding of the body’s tissues, and skin may appear more youthful.
Myers agreed that loss of mobility with chronic pain is a key concern among adults concerned about age-related illnesses. She also believes that cognitive decline (dementia and Alzheimer’s) is “very much top-of-mind,” especially for those who have had relatives suffer from these issues and who believe that therefore, these illnesses are inevitable for them. But they’re not,” she declared.
And this is where natural product retailers can really sway a new mindset among customers. Diet-wise, Myers advised recommending customers eat an anti-inflammatory diet, that is, avoiding fried foods, sugar (also for the glycation aging factor), and refined grains; concentrating on eating fresh fruits, vegetables, healthy fats (such as olive oil) and proteins. Following such a diet removes major sources of inflammation. “Plus, the foods themselves provide a number of healthy polyphenols, amino acids, and cell-protecting fats that have their own anti-aging power,” she noted.
“Inflammation and free radical damage account for so much of the accelerated aging (and virtually every disease) that it’s tough to separate the mechanism of actions from the ultimate result,” Myers added. But supplements can certainly help support healthier inflammation levels and antioxidant activity. For example, she noted, the curcumin in EuroPharma’s CuraMed and CuraMed 750 is clinically shown to relieve inflammation across multiple pathways, and can protect cells from damage. CuraMed’s curcumin is combined with turmeric essential oil which Myers said has enhanced absorption. Antioxidant protection from oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) is found in the company’s Clinical OPC formulas. “Grape seed extract, well known for cardiovascular protection (another concern that comes with age) is also a potent cell protector.”
According to Avila, declines in brain function, joint mobility, skeletal strength and cardiovascular health are among the top concerns of adult Americans. “By identifying and consuming the antioxidants and phytonutrients that are best capable of fighting the free radicals that attack each tissue, people can nutritionally target these areas with unprecedented accuracy,” he stated. Nature’s Plus, he said, has investigated the free radicals that contribute to biological degradation and inflammation (subtle and unseen), in a range of tissues, then researched nutraceuticals that were shown to be most capable of neutralizing the free radicals that target specific tissues and systems. This research and development has led to the company’s wide-ranging and targeted AgeLoss products. There is an AgeLoss supplement for the aforementioned consumer concerns, (ie, brain function, joint mobility, skeletal strength and cardiovascular health). “But there are many more AgeLoss products to promote the health of many more areas,” he said.
Although not a disease, for women, menopause is quite fearsome and very concerning. Women are worried about the symptoms and those symptoms disrupting their quality of life, as well as the increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease following cessation of menses. According to David Winston, founder and president of New Jersey-based Herbalist and Alchemist, a growing number of women are going through menopause and symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, lack of libido and painful sex—creating significant quality of life issues.
Many natural health-minded women believe that black cohosh is the superior herb to address menopause symptoms, but “sadly this is not really true,” Winston asserted. “Although black cohosh may aid in reducing the number and severity of hot flashes, as a stand-alone herb it is often underwhelming in its effects. In fact, the eclectic physicians felt the herb was much more useful for menopausal and other types of hormonal depression, than for other peri-menopausal symptoms,” he explained.
In his viewpoint as an herbalist, the most effective herb for hot flashes and night sweats is chaste tree, which works via the pituitary to regulate follicle stimulating hormone and lutenizing hormone levels. The combination of black cohosh and chaste tree, Winston said, is “far superior “to either alone, and the addition of the anxiolytic herb blue vervain and the trophorestorative nervine fresh oat relieves emotional irritation and anxiety as well as helps resolve sleep issues. “This combination, Women’s Transition Compound, also includes dong quai and night blooming cereus which enhance circulation and cardiac health,” he explained.
In general, said Avila, aging is a complex process that involves many activities. It is not as simple as addressing one process and that will counter all of the processes that accelerate aging. “But we can address several major factors through carefully planned supplementation,” he emphasized. “As it turns out, two relatively simple sounding processes, oxidation and inflammation, impact virtually all other areas of health. Controlling or reducing these processes is the most effective means by which we can fight aging with natural nutrition.” VR
For More Information:
EuroPharma Inc., (866) 598-5487
Herbalist & Alchemist, (908) 689-9020
Nature’s Plus, (631) 293-0030
NeoCell, (800) 346-2922