Our nutritional needs change as we pass through different hormonal and growth stages. In addition to a daily multivitamin as nutritional insurance, plus calcium and magnesium for strong bones, consider taking these age-specific cures.
“An anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal ingredient of the spice turmeric, curcumin is a potent antioxidant and free radical scavenger, as well as a promoter of healthy lungs”, says Nicole Trelour, a naturopath from Sanofi-Aventis. Studies show that it may help prevent lung cancer due to its ability to inhibit cell proliferation; also that oral curcumin and catechin inhibit melanoma metastases in the lungs in mice, reducing the number of tumour nodules by 80 percent.
An antioxidant compound found in orange, red and yellow foods, such as stone fruits, citrus fruits and capsicums, lutein is also found in the eye. “It is in its highest concentration in the macular area of the retina”, says naturopath Charmaine Sofia. “Lutein supplements have been shown in human trials to increase macular pigment density, which is associated with healthier eyes, lower risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, and the retention of youthful visual sensitivity.” Plus, a study in Diabetes Care has discovered a 30 percent reduction in the likelihood of developing type 2 (adult onset) diabetes in people whose diets contained the most vitamin E.
Muscles: Vitamin D
“Vitamin D works by attaching to muscle cell receptors and assisting in increasing the amount of muscle fibres,” says clinical nutritionist Sheree Ward. “It also advocates the absorption of calcium in the body, which is essential for healthy, strong teeth and bones.” Studies show that vitamin D deficiency inhibits DNA repair and is linked to multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis and weak muscles. The antioxidant vitamins C and E are also critical, with a Pittsburgh University study of 2,000 men and women finding a significant positive link between dietary intake of vitamins C and E and muscle strength. Previous studies have shown the importance of protein in staying strong; this is the first to show that antioxidants boost muscle power.
Liver: Milk thistle
This antioxidant and anti-inflammatory herb has been used for centuries to treat liver disease. “The results of numerous trials suggest that silymarin, an ingredient of milk thistle, protects liver cells and acts on cell membranes to prevent the entry of toxic substances,” says Trelour. “Protein synthesis is also stimulated, thereby accelerating regeneration process and production of liver cells.”
“Zinc is an important part of superoxide dismutase, an antioxidant enzyme which plays an essential role in repair, maintenance and defence of the skin from free radical damage and ageing,” says Sofia. Integral to the production of protein and collagen fibres and for regular cell growth and regeneration, zinc has positive effects on tissue healing as well as other skin conditions.
This herb is renowned for relaxing blood vessel walls and improving blood flow. “Extracts of ginkgo leaves contain antioxidant flavonoids, compounds which combat free radicals in the body,” says Ward. In Germany, Dr Joachim Volkner was awarded a medical prize for research showing that ingredients in ginkgo were beneficial to circulation of blood.
Blood sugar: Chromium
This mineral is required for normal carbohydrate, lipid and protein metabolism and is an active component of glucose tolerance factor (GTF), which aids transport of glucose into cells and enhances the action of insulin. “Supplementation can produce substantial enhancement of blood sugar control,” says Trelour. “And better control of blood sugar reduces the threat of insulin resistance, which can initiate adult-onset diabetes.” Studies show that chromium deficiency leads to insulin malfunction which, in turn, can result in hyperglycaemia, hyperinsulineamia, and heart disease.
Heart: Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
CoQ10 levels decrease with age and are rarely available from food sources. A natural, vitamin-like antioxidant nutrient, studies show it to be a safe and effective long-term cardiovascular treatment. “CoQ10 maintains healthy heart muscle function and protects against free-radical damage, therefore helping to maintain healthy arteries,” says Sofia.
Brain: Alpha lipoic acid (ALA)
Suggested by Australian researchers as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, ALA prevents free radical damage to the neurological system. “ALA’s reduced form, dihydrolipoic Acid (DHLA), regenerates vitamin C, vitamin E and CoQ10 when they become inactive,” says Trelour. “In animal studies, giving ALA and l-carnitine for 30 days decreased DNA strand breaks.” Other research has proven ALA to be effective in reducing the formation of proteins that lead to ageing, reducing post-stroke brain damage, and increasing acetylcholine, an essential nervous system messenger which is deficient in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers.
An anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-fungal phytochemical found in peanuts, mulberries, grapes, pine, and red wine, resveratrol has been shown in animal studies to slow ageing and extend life span. “Resveratrol plays an important role in protecting the nervous system against disorders associated with ageing and genetic factors,” says Trelour. “A study with rats demonstrated that grapeseed extract – a source of resveratrol – can maintain the overall viability of the nervous system.”