The essentials for “Seniors”
For this issue I will be discussing some very helpful supplements for men over the age of 40 (and maybe some of you who are close). Now even though this article is designed for men over the age of 40, most of these supplements can be beneficial to everyone. So, don’t go skipping it because you’re not 40! Ok, so first things first, we must remember that these are “supplements” meaning they are designed to “supplement” your diet and fitness routine, not replace them. They are not magic pills, but rather beneficial additions. With modern advertising and health supplements being a multibillion dollar industry, there is no shortage of new supplements with wild claims. As my grandfather told me a long time ago, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” I will be discussing supplements that have proven over time and with research to be beneficial and effective.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a steroid hormone produced by the body’s adrenal glands. Scientists still do not know everything DHEA does in the body, but what they do know is that it functions as a precursor to testosterone, the male sex hormone. I’m sure by now we all know that as we age we experience a loss of testosterone. This loss in testosterone can lead to muscle loss, strength loss, lower sex drive, etc. Well it has been hypothesized that one of the factors to decreasing testosterone is the natural decreases in DHEA as we age. While research results have been varied, this has led to the idea that DHEA supplementation may be beneficial to fight some of the effects of aging.
DHEA and its sulfate ester (DHEAS) are the most abundant products of adrenal steroidogenesis in humans. DHEA displays a characteristic secretion pattern over a lifetime, with a surge during the prepubertal period, reaching a maximum at 25–30 years of age, followed by a continuous decline to steadily low levels with advancing age. It has been suggested that this age-related decrease in DHEA plays a part in the decline of various physiological functions with aging. By age 50, only 50% of the peak concentrations can be detected in serum. By age 70, serum levels fall to about 20% of the peak. This seems pretty straight forward, right? DHEA reaches peak and then slowly and steadily declines. So, we should be able to effectively estimate our DHEA levels, right? Well, not exactly. Normal circulating DHEA levels vary widely by age, sex, and ethnicity and are affected by day-to-day changes in corticosteroid production, alcohol intake, smoking, body mass index, medications, and thyroid function. This is one of the most common reasons research findings have been so varied and mixed. It is also the reason why people experience different effects with DHEA supplementation. Previous studies investigating DHEA effects in elderly men and women observed changes in IGF-I production, body composition, muscle strength, and immune response. Furthermore, some studies described an increased sense of well-being associated with DHEA treatment. Some studies suggest DHEA supplementation may be beneficial for cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, adrenal dysfunction, lupus, and depression. And just for a little kicker, there is new evidence on DHEA as a possible cancer fighter. However, this research is very new and still in its infancy.
There are a lot of different aspects that affect and alter your DHEA, as well as almost all your hormone levels. So here is my little disclaimer: DHEA supplementation MAY be beneficial for you depending on your current and day-to-day DHEA levels. If you happen to have low DHEA levels then you may see great results and benefits. However, if your DHEA levels haven’t dropped that much or don’t drop very much day to day, you might not notice as drastic results. DHEA appears to be one of those supplements with great variance from person to person and therefore, you should see how you personally respond and go from there. Another problem with DHEA supplements is that there has been a large incidence of mislabeling with some products containing very little DHEA or even none at all. So, as with all supplements it is important to ensure you go with reputable brands, preferably GMP certified brands with third party testing, to ensure quality and quantity. (Update: According to the Mayo Clinic: Safety information is lacking on the long-term effects of DHEA. DHEA may increase the risk of prostate, breast, and ovarian cancers. It is not suggested for regular use without a health professional’s care.)
Omega 3 fatty acids
One of the absolute greatest supplements anyone can take is fish oil. The reason fish oil is so great is because they contain high levels of omega 3 fatty acids. The primary ingredients in fish oil are the omega 3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Therefore, these are the main thing to look for on the labels when picking out a fish oil supplement. Be careful as there are tons of fish oil products out there, but the most beneficial ones are the ones with high levels of EPA and DHA. There is an abundance of research on omega 3 fatty acids showing immense benefits. One of the main reasons omega 3 fatty acids are so beneficial is due to their anti-inflammatory properties. This means that they help to fight inflammation inside the body. While there are times when inflammation is good, such as to help recover from injuries, we do not want to be walking around in a state of inflammation in our daily lives. With aging, as well as with poor diets, our level of inflammation increases which can lead to heart disease, stroke, and autoimmune disease. Omega 3 fatty acids can essentially act to fight this inflammation and/or prevent it. In fact, omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to do wonders for your heart and cardiovascular system. They help lower cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL (bad cholesterol) and blood pressure; all while increasing HDL (good cholesterol) and decreasing inflammation of blood vessels. Another great benefit is that neurons in your brain love omega 3 fatty acids. Research has shown they can improve memory (something else we see go with age), as well as increase recall, reasoning, and focus. I recommend taking at least 3 grams (that’s 3000mg for those that don’t know the metric system) of fish oil daily, preferably with high levels of EPA and DHA. Again, GMP certified brands with third party testing are your best bet.