According to Bruce Ames, an American biochemist, ageing processes are largely due to lack of nutrients. One important contributing factor is the fact that our uptake and utilization of vitamins and minerals decrease with age. In addition, a lot of different types of medicine block our ability to utilize different nutrients. As a result of this, many of our enzyme processes slow down, making our cells increasingly vulnerable and that increases our risk of disease. Nonetheless, there is a lot we can do to optimize our intake and utilization of nutrients, particularly with respect to vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, iron, selenium, and zinc. It is also worth taking a look at Q10 for energy turnover and melatonin for healthy sleep. Our endogenous synthesis of both compounds decreases with age.
Ageing is a complicated process that involves changes in our metabolism, hormone system, immune system, and digestion. Under normal conditions, a 25-year-old person needs far more calories than someone who is 65, and it is perfectly normal for our metabolism to slow down as we grow older. It is also quite common for ageing people to have reduced appetite, which means that their nutrient intake is affected. What makes it even worse is that the body’s ability to utilize the nutrients is impaired by age. This increases the body’s need for nutrients to help cells produce energy, carry out specific tasks, and protect themselves.
Lack of stomach acid
One of the most common reasons why older people have difficulty with absorbing nutrients is lack of stomach acid. It has been documented that the production of gastric juice decreases with age. We need a sufficient amount of stomach acid to help us break down the food so we can absorb the nutrients.
Just the for record, the symptoms of too little stomach acid are similar to those you see in people who have an overproduction of stomach acid, and using antacids can make the problem even worse.
Lack of stomach acid and the use of antacids impairs the body’s uptake of B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and iron.
You can stimulate your stomach acid with lemon juice, apple vinegar, or green tea before or with your meal. Bitter compounds from radishes, rucola, artichoke, and olive are also good. It is also recommended to take a high-dosed B vitamin supplement.
Also try to relax when you eat, as stress can have a negative effect on your production of stomach acid and your digestion. Moreover, avoid really cold beverages.
Vitamin B12 and folic acid
Vitamin B12 and folic acid work as a team and are particularly important for our energy turnover, red blood cell formation, and nervous system. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal food sources. Folic acid is found in many vegetables, fruits, and nuts. According to an Irish study, a large part of the population aged 50 years and older lack vitamin B12 and folic acid, and the same probably goes for other western countries. It increases the risk of chronic disease and loss of cognitive skills, which is often confused with dementia, simply because the vitamin deficiencies are not discovered and treated in time.
Too little stomach acid, excessive alcohol intake and the use of hormone pills and sleep medicine of people who take metformin for their type 2 diabetes lack vitamin B12 or are borderline-deficient.
Vitamin D is important for your bones, muscles, immune defense, blood sugar levels, mood, cancer prevention, and many other things. Recent studies suggest that older people can easily synthesize the precursor of vitamin D in their skin when exposed to sunlight but they have difficulty with activating the nutrient in their kidneys. It is also a problem that many older people and nursing home residents don’t get out in the sun often enough. In fact, some never do. If they at the same time eat too little and don’t eat oily fish, they are not likely to get enough dietary vitamin D.
Although the Danish Health Authority advises people from the age of 70 years and older plus nursing home residents to take a 20-microgram supplement of vitamin D all year round, it is not something that is enforced like the use of prescription medicine. The recommendations are not even included in the Danish Health Authorities’ COVID-19 awareness campaigns. Many experts recommend that older people take 50 micrograms of vitamin D daily. We also need magnesium to help the body activate the form of vitamin D that we get from sunlight or from supplements into the active form, a process that takes place in the kidneys.
|A diet without fat impairs the body’s uptake of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K)|
Magnesium is primarily found in wholegrains and in a diet with coarse greens. The nutrient is important for our digestion, muscles, relaxation, fluid balance, blood pressure, circulatory system, vitamin D utilization, calcium distribution in the body, and bone health.
Deficiency symptoms include fatigue and inner unrest, constipation, sleep disturbances, elevated blood pressure, muscle cramps, neurological disturbances, and insidious removal of calcium from the skeleton.
There is a clear relation between the lack of magnesium and the risk of cardiovascular disease and sudden heart death in post-menopausal women, according to a study that is published in Journal of Women’s Health.
Magnesium deficiencies are often a result of eating an unbalanced and refined diet. Diuretics and antacids, which many older people use, plus alcohol abuse and stress can also impair the uptake of magnesium or leach the body of the nutrient. Insulin resistance where the cellular uptake of glucose is reduced can also deplete the body’s magnesium stores. It is often a combination of the above-mentioned factors that makes it worse. Because of this, it would appear that the actual need for magnesium is a lot greater than the official recommendations.
Many people use Magnesia against constipation but this inorganic magnesium compound (magnesium oxide) has poor bioavailability and does therefore not improve the body’s magnesium status. Make sure to take magnesium supplements with magnesium sources that the body can easily absorb.
|Remember not to take antacids or calcium supplements together with iron. Take them at separate times.|
Calcium is important for our bones, teeth, heart, and blood pressure. The uptake of calcium is dependent on vitamin D. The distribution of calcium depends on magnesium, which is the nutrient that makes sure that 99 percent of our calcium is embedded in bones and teeth. Cells in soft tissues should be almost devoid of calcium. If they are flooded with calcium they may become stressed, causing symptoms such as local inflammation, muscle cramps and other more serious conditions. That is why it is so important to have the right balance between calcium and magnesium.
In Denmark, the official recommendations for calcium are 800 mg per day (reference intake). For the record, people in Japan only get around 400-500 mg of calcium because they do not consume dairy products. On the other hand, they get far more magnesium from vegetables, so they still have a 1:1 intake ratio between the two minerals. What is more, the Japanese get far more vitamin K2 from fermented foods. Vitamin K2 helps remove calcium from the bloodstream and embed it in bone tissue. Because of this, the Japanese have a lower rate of osteoporosis and atherosclerosis. They may even expect to live longer.
Iron is important for the hemoglobin in blood and the transport of oxygen to all the cells. Iron is also important for vitality, color, skin, hair, and nails. Iron deficiency is particularly common among older people due to having too little stomach acid or not eating enough animal food sources, which give the best absorption of iron. Lack of iron and poor utilization of the nutrient may also be a result of getting too much calcium from dairy products and supplements and because of prolonged use of antacids, acetylsalicylic acid, and anti-inflammatory NSAID preparations.
Iron deficiency can cause anemia and many other ageing symptoms such as fatigue, muscle weakness, low blood pressure, and paleness. Deficiency symptoms can also cause problems with your skin, hair, and nails and affect your vision, typically accompanied by blurry vision and lacrimation.
There is iron in liver, meat, eggs, pumpkin seeds, beans, spinach, beetroot, and other vegetables and fruits. Iron from animal sources have the best absorption in the body.
Iron is also a catalyst for free radicals, which his why one should only get iron in the right amounts and in combination with protective antioxidants. Iron supplements should only be taken in the case of a detected deficiency that has been identified with a blood test.
The daily reference intake of iron for adults is 9 mg per day.
Zinc is involved in several hundred enzyme processes and serves as a powerful antioxidant that protects our cells against oxidative stress. A zinc deficiency may lead to impaired immunity, lack of appetite, reduced sense of taste, changes of the conjunctiva and cornea, lethargy, heart failure, and mental disturbances.
Zinc deficiency is often caused by unhealthy eating habits and lack of animal protein, which is one of the best sources of zinc. Older people generally have difficulty with absorbing zinc and may become deficient even when they get enough zinc from their diet. Diuretics, ACE-inhibitors, and antacids, which are used by many seniors, also blocks the uptake and utilization of zinc. There are also other limiting factors such as large iron and calcium intake and too much alcohol.
The daily reference intake of zinc is 10 mg. If you suspect that you lack zinc you should primarily try to include more of the good zinc sources in your diet. With supplements it is important to choose organic zinc sources that are easier for the body to absorb and utilize. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has established a safe upper intake level of 25 mg daily for adults. One can safely exceed that limit for a short period of time.
Q10 and selenium
Q10 and selenium are particularly important in connection with ageing processes because older people often lack both of the nutrients for various reasons. Q10 is a coenzyme that is involved in the energy turnover in all our cells. Due to the fact that the heart pumps around the clock, it is particularly dependent on Q10 and contains large quantities of the compound. Q10 is also an important antioxidant that protects cells and the circulatory system in a variety of ways.
The body makes most of its own Q10 but the endogenous production decreases with age. Many people start to notice in their 50s and typically have decreasing vitality. Cholesterol-lowering statins that are commonly used by seniors also block the body’s Q10 synthesis.
Lack of Q10 speeds up the ageing process because it slows down the cellular energy production and impairs the body’s antioxidant defense.
In the groundbreaking Swedish KiSel-10 study, supplements of Q10 and selenium were given to a large group of seniors for several years. The reason why they got both compounds was that they work as a team. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant at the same time as being a prerequisite for optimal functioning of Q10 in the energy turnover.
The European farmland is low in selenium. Also, the body’s Q10 synthesis decreases with age, so many older people lack the substance. That is why the combination of the two nutrients made perfect sense. Half the participants got 200 micrograms of selenium yeast and 200 milligrams of Q10 per day, while the other half got matching placebo.
The study lasted around five years and showed that the supplemented groups had a 54% lower cardiovascular mortality rate and substantially fewer hospitalizations.
Follow-up studies after 10 and 12 years showed that supplementation with Q10 and selenium had a long-term effect on heart function and lifespan.
It is likely that the effect would have been even more pronounced if the participants had continued taking the supplements. Q10 is poorly absorbed in the body but the pharmaceutical-grade formula used in this study has good bioavailability.
Melatonin is primarily known as a hormone that supports the body’s day-and-night rhythm and helps us sleep properly, which is important for our digestion and ability to recharge physically and mentally. During the period of deep sleep, the brain detoxifies and gets rid of toxins. The REM sleep with dream activity can be compared to a mental laundry process that promotes learning, memory, creativity, and a good mood. Melatonin also serves as a powerful antioxidant that repairs cell damage during our sleep.
Melatonin is produced by our pineal gland but our endogenous production decreases with age. Exposure to artificial light late in the evening (especially blue light from device screens) can reduce your melatonin synthesis, and the same goes for nightshift work and air travel across several time zones. Chronic lack of sleep is very bad for your health and associated with faster ageing, dementia, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and cardiovascular disease.
A melatonin supplement compensates for the body’s deficiency, no matter if it is a result of ageing, light exposure, or other factors – and works as a natural shortcut to better sleep.
Oxidative stress and antioxidants
Oxidative stress is an imbalance between harmful free radicals and protective antioxidants. Free radicals are molecules with an unpaired electron. In their attempt to replace the missing electron, the free radicals try to steal one from their surroundings and that can set off a chain reaction of negative processes. Free radicals are generated as a natural part of the energy metabolism and other metabolic processes, but it is a controlled process where they are kept on a tight leash so they do not attack our cells. The lipids in cell membranes, the mitochondria, and the cellular DNA are all potential targets for free radical attacks. The number of free radicals is heavily increased by ageing processes due to impaired oxygen turnover. Also, ageing is associated with chronic low-grade inflammation, which in itself increases the production of free radicals. The same goes for factors such as overweight, smoking, medicine, and various toxins. It is therefore important to get plenty of Q10, selenium, zinc, melatonin, and other antioxidants, and the same is the case with vitamin D, magnesium, and other nutrients that have anti-inflammatory properties. Last but not least, it is essential that the nutrients can be absorbed and utilized by the body so they can help the cells carry out their functions and be properly protected against oxidative stress.
Tylor Sorensen. Absorption of Nutrients as You Age. 2021
Bruce N Ames. Prolonging healthy aging: Longevity vitamins and proteins. PNAS 2018.
UHN Staff. Low Stomach Acid: A Surprising Cause of Indigestion Symptoms. University Health News. 2019
Trinity College Dublin. Many older adults are deficient in vitamin B12 and folate. ScienceDaily June 26, 2018
Vanita R Aroda et al. Long-Term Metformin Use and Vitamin B12 Deficiency in the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study. Endocrine Society 2016
Barbara J Boucher. The Problems of vitamin D Insufficiency in Older People. Aging and Disease 2012
Martin Kohlmeier. Avoidance of vitamin D deficiency to slow the COVID-19 pandemic. BMJ Nutrition, Prevention and Health 2020
Andrea Rosanoff et al. Essential Nutrient Interactions: Does Low or Suboptimal Magnesium Interact with Vitamin D and/or Calcium status. Advances in Nutrition 2016
Jason Li et al. Association of Dietary Magnesium Intake with Fatal Coronary heart Disease and Sudden Cardiac Death. The Health of Women. 2020
Gerry K. Schwalfenberg and Stephen J. Genuis. The Importance of Magnesium in Clinical Healthcare. Scientifica (Carro) 2017
Fujita T, Fukase M. Comparison of osteoporosis and calcium intake between Japan and United States. PubMed. 2002
Daniel Brugger and Wilhelm M. Windisch: Short-Term Subclinical Zink Deficiency in Weaned Piglets Affects Cardiac Redox Metabolism and Zinc Concentration. Journal of Nutrition 2017
Rosenblum H et al. Zinc deficiency and Heart Failure: A Systematic Review of the Current literature. Journal of Cardiac Failure, 2020 Jan.
Will Chu. Co enzyme Q10 has potential to help chronic condition symptoms, review finds. https://www.nutraingredients.com/Article/2020/10/01/Co-Enzyme-Q10-s-potential-aids-chronic-condition-symptoms#
Alehagen U, et al. Cardiovascular mortality and N-Terminal-proBNP reduced after combined selenium and coenzyme Q10 supplementation. Int J Cardiol. 2012
James Ives: Chronic sleep deprivation linked to increased biological aging and cardiovascular disease risk. News Medical Life Sciences. 2019.
Hanne Kokkegård. Døgnrytmens mekanik udløser Nobelprisen i fysiologi. Ingeniøren okt. 2017
Dun Xian Tan. Pineal Calcification, melatonin Production, Aging, Associated Health Consequences and Rejuvenation of the Pineal Gland. Molecules 2018
Det sundhedsvidenskabelige Fakultet: Science hædrer professor Maiken Nedergaard for ”Årets Artikel”. 2015
Search for more information...