A blood test – sometimes referred to as a blood panel – is a laboratory examination of a blood sample used to check for a variety of things, including the functioning of certain organs (such as the liver, kidneys, thyroid and heart), infections and certain genetic disorders, as well as to assess an individual’s general health. 1
After the sample has been analyzed in the lab and the results compiled, a blood test report will in most cases be supplied to the testee. The report details the various components in the blood and at what level they are present. For those from non-medical backgrounds, the reports provided following blood tests can be complex and difficult to decipher.
Blood test abbreviations
Blood test results generally use the metric system of measurement and various abbreviations, including:
cmm: cells per cubic millimeter
fL (femtoliter): fraction of one-millionth of a liter
g/dL: grams per deciliter
IU/L: international units per liter
mEq/L: milliequivalent per liter
mg/dL: milligrams per deciliter
mmol/L: millimoles per liter
ng/mL: nanograms per milliliter
pg (picograms): one-trillionth of a gram
Blood test results components
A blood test is typically composed of three main tests: a complete blood count, a metabolic panel and a lipid panel.2 Each test for different things, which can be understood through a detailed analysis of the results.
Confusingly, it is likely that the results of the three tests will not be differentiated from each other and, instead, will be listed under one large column, often labelled “Test Name”. Within each are various sub-tests, which altogether give a broad picture of an individual’s health.
Complete blood count (CBC)
The complete blood count (CBC) concentrates on the three types of blood cells: white blood cells (WBCs), red blood cells (RBCs) and platelets. By measuring the volume of blood cells, the CBC allows a doctor to evaluate an individual’s overall health, as well as check for underlying conditions such as leukemia and anemia. 3
The subtests within the CBC are:
White blood cell (WBC) count
Also known as leukocytes, white blood cells are a major component of the body’s immune system. A high white blood cell count can indicate the presence of infection, while a low count can point towards various conditions, including HIV, leukemia, hepatitis and arthritis. 4
Differential white blood cell count
The lab tests the five main components of white blood cells and their proportion to each other. If the components are out of balance, this could indicate an infection, as well as a variety of medical conditions. Healthy proportions for each are:
Neutrophils: 40 to 60 percent of the total
Lymphocytes: 20 to 40 percent
Monocytes: 2 to 8 percent
Eosinophiles: 1 to 4 percent
Basophils: 0.5 to 1 percent
Red blood cell (RBC) count
Red blood cells (RBCs) carry oxygen to tissues throughout the body, making them important to its healthy functioning. A red blood cell count estimates the volume of RBCs within an individual – if the results show a count above or below normal levels this can indicate various medical conditions to a doctor. However, this form of testing is unable to pinpoint the root causes of any irregularities, meaning, if this is the case, further tests will be necessary. 3
Hematocrit (Hct) test
Tests what proportion of the blood is made up of RBCs. It is useful in diagnosing anemia, among other medical conditions.
Hemoglobin (Hgb) test
Hemoglobin is a protein contained within red RBCs that sends oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues. The hemoglobin test is also useful in diagnosing anemia, with many practitioners preferring this test over the hematocrit test. 5
The average volume of RBCs, or the space each red blood cell fills, is measured through this test. Results outside of the normal range can be a sign of anemia or chronic fatigue syndrome, among other medical conditions.
Mean corpuscular hemoglobin (MCH) test
The lab tests the average amount of hemoglobin present in each red blood cell. High levels are a possible indicator of anemia and low levels a possible sign of malnutrition.
Red cell distribution width (RDW or RCDW) test
Tests the distribution of RBCs, not their actual size. Levels outside of the normal range can indicate conditions such as anemia, malnutrition and liver disease.
Platelets are small cells that help the blood to clot. This test measures the amount of platelets present in the blood. If testing highlights a high count, this can indicate anemia, cancer or infection, while a low count can prevent wounds from healing and result in severe bleeding. 6
Mean platelet volume (MPV)
Tests the volume of platelets in the blood. A low platelet volume can cause irregularities with bleeding, while a high platelet volume can increase an individual’s risk of heart attack or stroke.
Comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP)
The comprehensive metabolic panel test, also known as a chemistry panel, measures the body’s glucose levels, fluid and electrolyte balance, as well as liver and kidney function. 7 It consists of a number of sub-tests:
Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) test
Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) is an enzyme mostly produced by liver cells. 8 High levels can be an indication of liver damage.
Albumin is a protein produced by the liver. Its volume within the organ can be measured via this test. Abnormal levels can be caused by liver or kidney problems.
Total protein test
The lab tests the ratio of two types of proteins: albumin and globulin. Low protein levels can indicate various conditions, including liver and kidney disorders and malnutrition, while high levels can be a sign of inflammation, infection or bone marrow disorder. 9
Alkaline phosphatase test
Alkaline phosphatase is an enzyme typically produced in liver and bone cells. Results outside of the normal levels can signal liver damage and bone problems such as rickets or bone tumors. 9
Aspartate aminotransferase test
Aspartate aminotransferase is an enzyme usually found in RBCs and muscle tissue, as well as the heart, pancreas, liver and kidneys. This test measures the levels of this enzyme in the body, with results above the healthy range indicating a variety of conditions, including some types of cancer, as well as liver, heart or kidney damage. 9
This test measures the volume of nitrogen in the blood. High levels can be caused by kidney damage or disease, while low levels may be a sign of malnutrition or severe liver damage. 9
This test measures the levels of calcium in the blood. If testing indicates low levels, this can indicate under-active parathyroid glands, insufficient calcium in your diet, or Vit D insufficiency, and other less common conditions.
High levels can indicate conditions including over-active parathyroid glands, excessive Vit D supplementation, kidney problems as well as more concerning causes that usually require further investigation. Proper interpretation of calcium levels often requires testing of other parameters such as total serum protein and albumin. 10
This test measures the body’s chloride levels. An increased level of chloride can indicate dehydration as well as kidney disorders and adrenal gland dysfunction.
Creatinine is a chemical waste molecule that is important for creating muscle energy. Increased levels of creatinine can be a sign of kidney dysfunction.
Fasting blood sugar test
Blood sugar levels are easily affected by recent food or drink intake. The fasting blood sugar test is therefore done after a minimum of six hours of fasting. Abnormal results can indicate diabetes, among other medical conditions.
The lab tests the amount of phosphorus in the blood. Elevated levels can indicate problems with the kidneys and parathyroid glands, and they may be a sign of malnutrition or alcohol abuse.
Potassium aids the communication between nerves and muscles, regulates the heart and maintains muscle function. Diuretics (a substance or medication used to increase urination) can cause potassium levels to fall.
Sodium is a mineral that aids nerve impulses and muscle contractions, as well as balancing water levels. Irregularities are a possible indication of dehydration, adrenal gland disorders, corticosteroids, and kidney or liver disorders.
The lipid panel consists of various tests used to measure the different types of triglycerides (fats) and cholesterol in the blood.
Tests for triglycerides, a fat found in the blood. Irregularities are a possible risk factor for heart disease and other medical conditions.
HDL cholesterol test
HDL cholesterol, also known as high-density lipoprotein (or good cholesterol), is useful in protecting against heart disease. Low levels can increase the risk of heart problems.
LDL cholesterol test
LDL cholesterol, also known as low-density lipoprotein (or bad cholesterol), is linked to heart disease and clogged arteries.
Total cholesterol to HDL ratio test
Calculating this ratio can help determine an individual’s risk of developing a heart disease. It is worked out by dividing HDL cholesterol into total cholesterol. High levels are a possible indicator of heart problems. 11
Here are some of the key vitamins and minerals that are important for senior health:
Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth. It also helps to prevent osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle. Good sources of calcium include dairy products, leafy green vegetables, and fortified foods.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, so it is important for bone health as well. It also plays a role in the immune system and helps to protect against some types of cancer. Good sources of vitamin D include sunlight, oily fish, and fortified foods.
Vitamin B12 is important for energy production, nerve function, and red blood cell production. A deficiency in vitamin B12 can cause fatigue, weakness, and memory problems. Good sources of vitamin B12 include meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products.
Folate is important for cell growth and development. It is also needed for the production of red blood cells. A deficiency in folate can cause anemia, fatigue, and other health problems. Good sources of folate include leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, and beans.
Potassium is an important mineral for heart health. It helps to regulate blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke. Good sources of potassium include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Magnesium is a mineral that helps to regulate muscle and nerve function. It is also involved in energy production and the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Good sources of magnesium include leafy green vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
In addition to these vitamins and minerals, there are a number of other nutrients that are important for senior health. These include zinc, selenium, vitamin C, and antioxidants. It is important to talk to your doctor about your individual needs so that you can get the right balance of nutrients in your diet. The long list of vitamins and minerals are as follows:
Vitamin A. Food Sources: Vitamin A can be found in products such as eggs and milk. It can also be found in vegetables and fruits, like carrots and mangoes.
Men Age 51+: Most men 51 and older should aim for 900 mcg RAE.
Women Age 51+: Most women 51 and older should aim for 700 mcg RAE each day.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin). Food Sources: You can find vitamin B1 in meat – especially pork – and fish. It’s also in whole grains and some fortified breads, cereals, and pastas.
Men Age 51+: Most men 51 and older should aim for 1.2 mg each day.
Women Age 51+: Most women 51 and older should aim for 1.1 mg each day.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin). Food Sources: You can find vitamin B2 in eggs and organ meat, such as liver and kidneys, and lean meat. You can also find it in green vegetables, like asparagus and broccoli.
Men Age 51+: Most men 51 and older should aim for 1.3 mg each day.
Women Age 51+: Most women 51 and older should aim for 1.1 mg each day.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin). Food Sources: Vitamin B3 can be found in some types of nuts, legumes, and grains. It can also be found in poultry, beef, and fish.
Men Age 51+: Most men 51 and older should aim for 16 mg each day.
Women Age 51+: Most women 51 and older should aim for 14 mg each day.
Vitamin B6. Food Sources: Vitamin B6 is found in a wide variety of foods. The richest sources of vitamin B6 include fish, beef liver, potatoes and other starchy vegetables, and fruit (other than citrus).
Men Age 51+: Most men 51 and older should aim for 1.7 mg each day.
Women Age 51+: Most women 51 and older should aim for 1.5 mg each day.
Vitamin B12. Food Sources: You can get this vitamin from meat, fish, poultry, milk, and fortified breakfast cereals. Some people over age 50 have trouble absorbing the vitamin B12 found naturally in foods. They may need to take vitamin B12 supplements and eat foods fortified with this vitamin.
Men Age 51+: 2.4 mcg every day
Women Age 51+: 2.4 mcg every day
Vitamin C. Food Sources: Fruits and vegetables are some of the best sources of vitamin C. Citrus fruits, tomatoes, and potatoes can be a large source of vitamin C.
Men Age 51+: Most men 51 and older should aim for 90 mg each day.
Women Age 51+: Most women 51 and older should aim for 75 mg each day.
Calcium. Food Sources: Calcium is a mineral that is important for strong bones and teeth, so there are special recommendations for older people who are at risk for bone loss. You can get calcium from milk and other dairy, some forms of tofu, dark-green leafy vegetables, soybeans, canned sardines and salmon with bones, and calcium-fortified foods.
Men Age 51+: Men age 51-70 need 1,000 mg each day. Men age 71 need 1,200 mg each day. Don’t consume more than 2,000 mg each day.
Women Age 51+: 1,200 mg each day. Don’t consume more than 2,000 mg each day.
Vitamin D. Food Sources: You can get vitamin D from fatty fish, fish liver oils, fortified milk and milk products, and fortified cereals.
Men Age 51+: If you are age 51–70, you need at least 15 mcg (600 IU) each day, but not more than 100 mcg (4,000 IU). If you are over age 70, you need at least 20 mcg (800 IU), but not more than 100 mcg (4,000 IU).
Women Age 51+: If you are age 51–70, you need at least 15 mcg (600 IU) each day, but not more than 100 mcg (4,000 IU). If you are over age 70, you need at least 20 mcg (800 IU), but not more than 100 mcg (4,000 IU).
Vitamin E. Food Sources: Vitamin E can be found in nuts like peanuts and almonds and can be found in vegetable oils, too. It can also be found in green vegetables, like broccoli and spinach.
Men Age 51+: Most men age 51 and older should aim for 15 mg each day.
Women Age 51+: Most women age 51 and older should aim for 15 mg each day.
Folate. Food Sources: Folate can be found in vegetables and fruit, such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, spinach, and oranges. It can also be found in nuts, beans, and peas.
Men Age 51+: Most men age 51 and older should aim for 400 mcg DFE each day.
Women Age 51+: Most women age 51 and older should aim for 400 mcg DFE each day.
Vitamin K. Food Sources: Vitamin K can be found in many foods including green leafy vegetables, like spinach and kale and in some fruits, such as blueberries and figs. It can also be found in cheese, eggs, and different meats.
Men Age 51+: Most men 51 and older should aim for 120 mcg each day.
Women Age 51+: Most women should aim for 90 mcg each day.
Magnesium. Food Sources: This mineral, generally, is found in foods containing dietary fiber, such as green leafy vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds. Breakfast cereals and other fortified foods often have added magnesium. Magnesium is also present in tap, mineral, or bottled drinking water.
Men Age 51+: 420 mg each day
Women Age 51+: 320 mg each day
Potassium. Food Sources: Many different fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy foods contain potassium. Foods high in potassium include dried apricots, lentils, and potatoes. Adults get a lot of their potassium from milk, coffee, tea, and other nonalcoholic beverages.
Men Age 51+: Men need 3,400 mg each day.
Women Age 51+: Most women age 51 and older need 2,600 mg each day
Sodium. Food Sources: Preparing your own meals at home without using a lot of processed foods or salt will allow you to control how much sodium you get.
Men Age 51+: Men 51 and older should reduce their sodium intake to 2,300 mg each day. That is about 1 teaspoon of salt and includes sodium added during manufacturing or cooking as well as at the table when eating. If you have high blood pressure or prehypertension, limiting sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day, about 2/3 teaspoon of salt, may be helpful.
Women Age 51+: Women 51 and older should reduce their sodium intake to 2,300 mg each day. That is about 1 teaspoon of salt and includes sodium added during manufacturing or cooking as well as at the table when eating. If you have high blood pressure or prehypertension, limiting sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day, about 2/3 teaspoon of salt, may be helpful.
Most “anti-aging” supplements that many popular websites and books recommend do not slow aging.
These are substances like vitamin A, vitamin E, coenzyme Q10, lipoic acid, B-vitamins, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, multivitamins, curcumin, EGCG, nicotinamide riboside (NR), mushroom extracts and many more.
All these substances have failed in well-conducted studies to extend lifespan in organisms (we explain here why this is the case).
Also, many touted “anti-aging” supplements are antioxidants, like vitamin A, vitamin E, coenzyme Q10, lipoic acid and so on. However, most antioxidants don’t slow down aging. Some antioxidants can even accelerate aging, like lipoic acid or vitamin A and vitamin E.
Luckily, there are far better, more science-based anti-aging supplements. We compiled a list below.
Fisetin is a natural ingredient found in vegetables and fruits, especially in strawberries. Fisetin is mostly known for its senolytic activity, meaning it can clear away senescent cells, and increase lifespan in various organisms (R,R,R,R).
Senescent cells accumulate everywhere in our body during aging. Senescent cells were previously normal cells that turned into “zombie cells”: senescent cells are cells that cannot divide anymore, but refuse to die, and secrete all kinds of substances that damage healthy surrounding cells.
Senescent cells in the skin contribute to wrinkles, senescent cells in the blood vessels make them more stiff, and senescent cells in the liver impair its proper functioning.
There are various natural substances that can have senolytic activity. One of them is quercetin. In fact, quercetin and fisetin look very similar. However, fisetin seems to be the most potent natural senolytic (R):
Researchers concluded that “fisetin had the most potent senotherapeutic effects in several cell types in vitro and showed strong anti-geronic effects in vivo.”
Besides clearing senescent cells, fisetin reduces inflammation (R,R), inhibits mTOR (an important aging switch) (R), reduces glycation (which also contributes to aging) (R), increases the production of cell protective substances, and has many more beneficial effects.
Various studies show the lifespan extending effects of fisetin (R,R,R). For example, one study found that fisetin extends median and maximum lifespan in mice, even when taken late in a mouse’s life (equivalent to 50 or 60 years old for a human) (R):
Learn more about the anti-aging effects of fisetin here.
2. Alpha-ketoglutarate (the calcium form)
Alpha-ketoglutarate (AKG) is a substance that naturally occurs in our bodies. When we get older, the levels of AKG decline.
Various studies show that AKG extends lifespan (R,R,R,R,R). In one study, mice that received AKG lived on average 14 percent longer (R).
But even more interestingly, the mice stayed healthy for much longer: The mice that received AKG had less aging-related diseases and symptoms, including a fur that became grey at a slower rate.
This probably has to do with alpha-ketoglutarate improving the stem cell function of the stem cells surrounding the hair shaft.
How can alpha-ketoglutarate extend healthspan and lifespan?
AKG has many functions in the body. For example, it is involved in mitochondrial health. Mitochondria are the power plants of our cells, which create energy so cells can go about their daily business. When we get older, our mitochondria function less and less well. Alpha-ketoglutarate provides energy for the mitochondria, among many other functions (R).
AKG also helps to maintain the epigenome (R). The epigenome determines which genes are active or not. The older we get, the more the epigenome gets dysregulated. Substances like AKG can slow down this decline. Alpha-ketoglutarate is also involved in stem cell maintenance (R). Interestingly, AKG also improves synthesis of collagen (R), which could improve skin appearance (R).
It’s important that the right form of alpha-ketoglutarate is used, namely calcium alpha-ketoglutarate. Most supplements contain alpha-ketoglutarate, not the calcium form.
Alpha-ketoglutarate needs vitamin C to function properly, especially for its epigenetic functioning (R). So ideally, a good anti-aging supplement would contain both AKG and vitamin C to enable synergistic effects. Interestingly, vitamin C also has epigenetic effects (R).
Learn more about the anti-aging effects of alpha-ketoglutarate here.
3. Microdosed lithium
Lithium is a mineral found in nature. It seeps from rocks into water, including drinking water.
Various studies showed links between the amount of lithium in the drinking water and mortality rates (R,R), while other studies showed that people living in regions with more lithium in the drinking water had less neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s (R) and have lower suicide rates.
Of course, correlation is not causation. However, many studies in animals show that lithium can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and various other neurodegenerative diseases (R,R,R).
A systematic review and meta-analysis demonstrated that lithium may have beneficial effects on cognitive performance in people with mild cognitive impairment (often the precursor to Alzheimer’s disease) and Alzheimer’s disease (R).
Also, many studies show that lithium can extend lifespan in organisms (R,R,R).
Lithium also has been used for many decades as a medicine to treat psychiatric diseases, especially to stabilize mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder.
However, the amounts of lithium given to psychiatric patients are hundreds to thousands of times higher compared to the amounts of lithium in drinking water, dosages given in trials to reduce dementia, and amounts in longevity supplements like NOVOS. We see that very low or micro doses of lithium (in the range of 0.3 milligram to a few milligrams) can have lifespan effects and protect the brain against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s (R,R,R).
There are many ways by which lithium can impact the aging process. Lithium has been shown to increase autophagy (the digestion of proteins that would otherwise accumulate in the cells, a process that contributes to aging) (R,R), enhance the generation of pluripotent stem cells demonstrating its epigenetic effects (R), and improve neurogenesis (R), the formation of new neurons.
Learn more about the anti-aging effects of microdosed lithium here.
Glycine is an amino acid that occurs naturally in our body. When we age, glycine levels decline.
Low glycine levels also have been associated with various aging-related diseases like cardiovascular disease and with type 2 diabetes.
Glycine extends lifespan in different species (R,R,R,R).
Glycine has many functions in the body. It improves the epigenome (the machinery that determines which genes are switched on or off, a process that goes increasingly awry when we get older). Glycine especially improves the epigenome of mitochondria, the power plants of our cells (R).
Glycine also functions as a chaperone. Chaperones are small molecules that gently stick to and protect the proteins. That is important, because one of the reasons why we age is due to proteins accumulating everywhere inside and outside our cells, eventually hampering the proper functioning of our cells.
Glycine also reduces inflammation (R) and has many other beneficial effects, especially for the cardiovascular system. People with higher glycine levels in the blood had less risk of a heart attack (R), and glycine can protect the blood vessels (R).
Learn more about the anti-aging effects of glycine here.
Pterostilbene is the better brother of the famous anti-aging substance resveratrol.
Resveratrol has long been hyped as a longevity substance. However, it unfortunately did not live up to that hype. Studies showed disappointing results when it came to resveratrol extending lifespan.
One reason for this is that resveratrol has a very short half-life: most of it is broken down in less than an hour. Also, resveratrol, when taken orally, is not very well absorbed.
Pterostilbene, on the other hand, has a far longer half-life and better absorption, so that higher levels reach the blood and stay around for longer in the body.
We see in studies that pterostilbene performs better than resveratrol (R).
Pterostilbene has been associated with longer lifespans (R,R), and could reduce various aging symptoms and mitigate aging-related diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease (R,R,R).
Learn more about the anti-aging effects of pterostilbene here.
6. Malate or malic acid
Malate, also called malic acid, is found in apples, and in our own bodies.
Malate is an important substance in the mitochondria. In fact, malate is a component of the Krebs cycle, which consists of various substances that are chemically modified to provide the energy that keeps all cells going.
Studies show that malate can extend lifespan in simple organisms (R).
In humans, malate can confirm various health benefits. For example, malate is given to provide energy, increase stamina and cognition, especially in combination with magnesium (R).
That’s why the best form of magnesium for anti-aging purposes is magnesium malate (and not magnesium oxide, magnesium citrate and other forms of magnesium).
Learn more about the anti-aging effects of malate here.
Magnesium is an indispensable mineral for the body to function properly.
Magnesium helps innumerable enzymes in our body to function properly. Cells shuttle magnesium in and out to propagate nerve signals and to generate muscle impulses, including the beatings of our heart.
Magnesium also sticks to our DNA, stabilizing our DNA, protecting it against damage (R). Increasing DNA damage is one of the reasons why we get older.
Low intakes of magnesium are associated with increased inflammation, increased blood pressure, increased risk of heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, insulin resistance, osteoporosis and even development of cancers (R).
Magnesium also provides energy, and can help people to deal with stress. Magnesium especially teams up well with malate, another substance that can provide energy.
Learn more about the anti-aging effects of magnesium here.
8. Glucosamine (the sulfate form)
Most people know glucosamine as a substance to reduce wear and tear of cartilage and to improve joint health.
Few people know that glucosamine can also extend lifespan in different organisms, including mice (R,R).
Interestingly, studies show that glucosamine is one of the few supplements associated with reduced mortality in humans (R,R), and also reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in humans (R). There are also associations between people taking glucosamine and reduced inflammation (R).
Various animal studies showed that glucosamine reduces atherosclerosis (R,R) and inhibits platelet aggregation (R), making the blood less clotty.
This should not be surprising, given the many effects glucosamine has on the body. It does much more than protect cartilage.
Glucosamine can improve mitochondrial health, thus enabling the mitochondria (the power plants of our cells) to function better. One way of doing this is by increasing “mitochondrial biogenesis”, which means that glucosamine induces the formation (genesis) of extra mitochondria.
The best form of glucosamine is glucosamine sulfate. Many supplements contain only glucosamine, not the sulfate form.
Learn more about the anti-aging effects of glucosamine here.
9. Hyaluronic acid
Hyaluronic acid is an important component of the skin. But hyaluronic acid (HA) surrounds and embeds many other cells in the body than just the skin cells.
The older we get, the less hyaluronic acid there is in the body. A 70-year-old has only about 19 percent of the amount of hyaluronic acid of a young person.
Studies show that hyaluronic acid, taken orally, can improve skin appearance by reducing wrinkles, improving moisturization of the skin and increasing skin radiance (R,R). It can also improve osteoarthritis (R,R,R), which makes sense given joints and cartilage contain a lot of hyaluronic acid.
Interestingly, hyaluronic acid is made up of acetyl-glucosamine (do not confuse with glucosamine).
Acetyl-glucosamine has been shown to extend lifespan in mice (R).
Acetyl-glucosamine could do this by inducing the “unfolded protein response”, which is a defense mechanism that kicks into action when the cell senses that there are too many improperly folded proteins accumulating in the cell (R).
Protein accumulation is one of the reasons why we age. When you consume hyaluronic acid, parts of the molecule are broken down in the gut into acetyl-glucosamine, which can be absorbed by the gut cells and end up in the bloodstream.
Learn more about the anti-aging effects of hyaluronic acid and its component acetylglucosamine here.
Ginger is a well-known spice. But it’s not just any spice.
Many scientific studies demonstrated multiple beneficial health effects of ginger, like reducing inflammation (R) and protecting cells against damage (R).
Ginger has been found to extend lifespan in simple organisms, like fruit flies (R).
Ginger can improve type 2 diabetes (R,R) and inflammation in humans (R,R).
Studies show that ginger can protect mice against lethal doses of radiation, which is quite impressive (R). The mice that received ginger before they got exposed to a high dose of radiation lived considerably longer. High-energy radiation is very damaging to cells, as the radiation oxidizes (damages) many components of the cells, rips molecules, including DNA apart, and induces strong inflammation.
However, ginger seems to be able to mitigate this molecular onslaught.
Learn more about the anti-aging effects of ginger here.
11. Rhodiola rosea
Rhodiola rosea is a very interesting plant that grows in the northern regions of Europa and Asia.
Rhodiola rosea has been used for centuries as an adaptogen, a substance that can improve resilience against both physiological stress and mental stress.
Rhodiola rosea extends lifespan in various organisms, for reasons that scientists have not completely understood yet (R,R,R,R).
Interestingly, Rhodiola can also improve nerve regeneration; specific substances in Rhodiola, like salidroside could be responsible for this very interesting effect (R,R). This could be one of the several reasons demonstrating neuroprotective effects of Rhodiola rosea (R,R,R).
Studies in humans show that Rhodiola rosea can improve memory, concentration and can reduce fatigue (R). Students and people with demanding jobs take Rhodiola rosea to improve their productivity and energy levels (R,R,R).
Learn more about the anti-aging effects of Rhodiola rosea here.
Theanine is a substance found in green tea, and is one of the reasons why green tea is healthy.
Theanine has been shown to extend lifespan in simple organisms (R,R,R).
Theanine has been associated with healthier blood vessels, and could reduce blood pressure and even obesity (R).
Theanine has shown to reduce neurodegeneration and protect neurons (R,R,R). It could also perhaps improve neuronal stem cell health and neurogenesis (the creation of new neurons in the brain) (R,R,R).
In humans, theanine can improve concentration, while also improving relaxation.
Learn more about the anti-aging effects of theanine here.
NAD+ is a very important substance in the cells. It provides energy for cells and is also a cofactor for proteins that repair and maintain our epigenome and our DNA.
The epigenome is the intricate machinery that surrounds the DNA and that determines which genes are active. During aging, the epigenome becomes more and more dysregulated.
NMN also improves the functioning of our mitochondria, the power plants of our cells.
NMN improves metabolism and reduces inflammation.
The older we get, the less NAD+ is present in our cells. Taking in NMN can increase NAD+ levels.
Various studies show that NMN has beneficial effects on aging diseases and symptoms (R,R,R,R).
For example, long term administration of NMN mitigated age-associated decline in mice: NMN reduced the typical age-associated increase in body weight, improved energy metabolism, improved lipids in the blood and insulin sensitivity and ameliorated eye function (R).
NMN can also improve aging-related decline in fertility (R), improve bone health (R) and vascular health (R,R,R).
For more information on NMN and aging, click here. For a comparison between NMN and NR (nicotinamide riboside), click here.
The importance of synergy in anti-aging supplements
In conclusion, many anti-aging supplements are based on outdated insights and don’t have any or just very little science backing up their claims.
Also, they do not contain substances that have been shown to act on aging mechanisms (the “hallmarks of aging”).
A good anti-aging supplement is one that contains substances that are based on science and that acts on aging mechanisms. This also enables these supplements to have an additional important benefit: synergy.
If you have an anti-aging supplement that only focuses on “improving mitochondrial health”, you are not addressing other important aging mechanisms, like epigenetic dysregulation or accumulation of proteins.
Therefore, this supplement, even if it could improve mitochondrial health, will have little impact on extending lifespan given it only tackles one facet of the aging process.
As such, it’s very important for a good anti-aging supplement to contain substances that act on different aging mechanisms and this in a synergistic way.
For example, alpha-ketoglutarate (AKG) can maintain the epigenome and improve mitochondrial health. AKG can work together with other substances that improve mitochondrial health, like fisetin and malate, or that improve the epigenome, like NMN and glycine.
But addressing the aging epigenome and mitochondria is not enough. You also need to tackle many other aging mechanisms, like protein accumulation and DNA damage.
For this, other anti-aging substances need to be added, like lithium (which can reduce the accumulation of proteins by stimulating autophagy – the digestion of proteins) or acetyl-glucosamine which can also reduce protein accumulation, or magnesium that can help stabilize the DNA.
So the ideal anti-aging supplement contains not just one or two substances that focus on one aging mechanism (like mitochondrial health or the NAD+ metabolism), but contains many substances that act on many aging pathways, and this in a synergistic way.
Surely you have heard the saying, “too much of a good thing can become a bad thing.” The same applies to vitamin supplements, as taking an excess of vitamins can be harmful to your health. This may seem contradictory because vitamins are often encouraged to supplement nutrients that may be lacking in our diets. Physicians or nutritionists may suggest vitamins once it is confirmed that you have a nutrient deficiency and highly advise that the daily recommended doses are followed.
The Institute of Medicine has established guidelines such as the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) and DV (Daily Value) to help people understand the daily suggested dose of vitamins.
Vitamin overdose occurs when a person ingests far more than the daily recommendation, for an extended period of time. Although the body can excrete excessive amounts of water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C, it can retain fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, which can be toxic.
Here are a few vitamins that are proven to be toxic if taken in excess, as well as their symptoms of overdose:
Iron- Nausea, bloody stools, diarrhea, dizziness, headache, fluid build-up in the lungs and fever.
Vitamin A-Hair loss, liver damage, severe headaches, bone pain, blurred vision, dry skin and vomiting
Vitamin E- Interferes with the body’s ability to clot blood, which can be harmful for those on blood thinning medication
B Vitamins-B6 in excess can cause nerve damage; while B3 can cause jaundice, elevated liver enzyme levels and nausea.
If you have decided to purchase vitamins, always follow the daily recommended dose to avoid excessive intake. Before purchasing it is recommended that you consult a physician or nutritionist to receive an assessment.
All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.
Taking vitamins is part of the daily routine of millions of people worldwide.
Though directions for safe dosing are listed on most supplement bottles, it’s common practice to take more than what’s recommended.
Consumers are bombarded with health information telling them that taking high doses of certain vitamins can benefit their health in many ways. However, taking too much of some nutrients can be dangerous.
This article reviews the safety of taking vitamins, as well as the side effects and potential risks associated with consuming high doses.
Fat-soluble vs. water-soluble vitamins
The 13 known vitamins are divided into 2 categories — fat-soluble and water-soluble (1Trusted Source).
Water-soluble vitamins include vitamin C, plus eight B vitamins:
Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
Vitamin B3 (niacin)
Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
Vitamin B7 (biotin)
Vitamin B9 (folate)
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)
Because water-soluble vitamins aren’t stored but rather excreted through urine, they’re less likely to cause issues even when taken in high doses.
However, taking megadoses of some water-soluble vitamins can lead to potentially dangerous side effects.
For example, taking very high doses of vitamin B6 can lead to potentially irreversible nerve damage over time, while taking large amounts of niacin — typically in excess of 2 grams per day — can cause liver damage (3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).
Given that fat-soluble vitamins can accumulate in the body, these nutrients are more likely to lead to toxicity than water-soluble vitamins.
While rare, taking too much vitamin A, D, or E can lead to potentially harmful side effects (5Trusted Source).
Alternatively, taking high doses of non-synthetic vitamin K seems to be relatively harmless, which is why an upper intake level (UL) has not been set for this nutrient (6Trusted Source).
Upper intake levels are set to indicate the maximum dose of a nutrient that’s unlikely to cause harm for nearly all people in a general population (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
SUMMARYWater-soluble vitamins are readily excreted from the body, while fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in tissues. Fat-soluble vitamins are more likely to cause toxicity, although water-soluble vitamins can do so as well.
Potential risks of taking too many vitamins
When consumed naturally through foods, these nutrients are unlikely to cause harm, even when consumed in large amounts.
Yet, when taken in concentrated doses in supplement form, it’s easy to take too much, and doing so can lead to negative health outcomes.
Side effects of overconsuming water-soluble vitamins
When taken in excess, some water-soluble vitamins can cause adverse effects, some of which can be dangerous.
However, similarly to vitamin K, certain water-soluble vitamins have no observable toxicity and hence no set UL.
It’s important to note that while these vitamins have no observable toxicity, some of them may interact with medications and interfere with blood testing results. Therefore, caution should be taken with all nutritional supplements.
The following water-soluble vitamins have set ULs, as they can cause adverse side effects when taken in high doses:
Vitamin C. Although vitamin C has relatively low toxicity, high doses of it can cause gastrointestinal disturbances, including diarrhea, cramps, nausea, and vomiting. Migraines can occur at doses of 6 grams per day (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).
Vitamin B3 (niacin). When taken in the form of nicotinic acid, niacin can lead to high blood pressure, abdominal pain, impaired vision, and liver damage when consumed in high doses of 1–3 grams per day (16Trusted Source).
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine). Long-term overconsumption of B6 can cause severe neurological symptoms, skin lesions, sensitivity to light, nausea, and heartburn, with some of these symptoms occurring at intakes of 1–6 grams per day (17Trusted Source).
Vitamin B9 (folate). Taking too much folate or folic acid in supplement form may affect mental function, negatively impact the immune system, and mask a potentially severe vitamin B12 deficiency (18Trusted Source).
Note that these are side effects that healthy people may experience when taking large doses of these vitamins. Individuals with health conditions can experience even more serious reactions to taking too much of a vitamin.
For example, though vitamin C is unlikely to cause toxicity in healthy people, it can lead to tissue damage and fatal heart abnormalities in those with hemochromatosis, an iron storage disorder (19Trusted Source).
Side effects related to overconsuming fat-soluble vitamins
Because fat-soluble vitamins can accumulate in your body’s tissues, they can cause much more harm when taken at high doses, especially over long periods.
Aside from vitamin K, which has a low potential for toxicity, the remaining three fat-soluble vitamins have a set UL due to their potential to cause harm at high doses.
Here are some side effects related to the overconsumption of fat-soluble vitamins:
Vitamin A. While vitamin A toxicity, or hypervitaminosis A, can occur from eating vitamin-A-rich foods, it’s mostly associated with supplements. Symptoms include nausea, increased intracranial pressure, coma, and even death (20Trusted Source).
Vitamin D. Toxicity from taking high doses of vitamin D supplements can lead to dangerous symptoms, including weight loss, appetite loss, and irregular heartbeat. It can also raise blood calcium levels, which can lead to organ damage (21Trusted Source).
Vitamin E. High-dose vitamin E supplements may interfere with blood clotting, cause hemorrhages, and lead to hemorrhagic stroke (22Trusted Source).
Although vitamin K has a low potential for toxicity, it can interact with certain medications, such as warfarin and antibiotics (6Trusted Source).
SUMMARYBoth water- and fat-soluble vitamins can cause side effects when taken in high doses, with some causing more severe symptoms than others.
Can taking too many vitamins be deadly?
Although it’s extremely rare to die from a vitamin overdose, there have been reported instances of death related to vitamin toxicity.
For example, hypervitaminosis A can be caused by taking one large dose of over 200 mg of vitamin A, or chronic use of more than 10 times the recommended daily intake (23Trusted Source).
Vitamin A toxicity may lead to serious complications, such as increased spinal fluid pressure, coma, and potentially fatal organ damage (23Trusted Source).
Overdosing on other vitamins can likewise cause potentially fatal side effects, such as liver damage.
A case report found that taking very high doses of over 5 grams of extended-release niacin can lead to metabolic acidosis, a buildup of acid in body fluids, as well as acute liver failure — both of which can be fatal (25Trusted Source).
Keep in mind that these potentially deadly side effects are associated with taking exceptionally high doses of vitamins. Even so, caution should always be taken when consuming any dietary supplement.
SUMMARYIn rare cases, taking extremely high doses of certain vitamins may lead to fatal complications.
How to safely take vitamins
The best way to get the nutrients you need is by consuming a well-rounded diet. However, many people need to supplement with vitamins for a variety of reasons.
Age, genetic disorders, medical conditions, and diet are all factors that can increase the need for certain nutrients.
Fortunately, vitamins are typically safe to take as long as they are used responsibly.