By Lisa Turner
Supercharge stamina, stay sharp, boost mood, preserve your youthful glow: six science-backed supplements for skin, brain, joints, energy and all-around ageless vitality.
- EGCG: heal sun damage, defend skin, repair DNA, safeguard cells.
Found primarily in green tea, this potent antioxidant (called epigallocatechin gallate) inhibits the body's release of inflammatory chemicals, repairs DNA and shields cells from damage that can heighten the risk of cancer. It's especially protective against skin cancer, and research shows EGCG suppresses the initiation and growth of melanoma, the most aggressive and dangerous kind of skin cancer. EGCG also mitigates UV sun damage that manifests in fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation—brown patches, known as age spots. In studies, even small doses significantly lessened inflammation, healed injury after prolonged sun exposure. Other research suggests EGCG inhibits growth and triggers apoptosis (cancer cell death) in cancers of the colon, kidney, breast and brain, as well as leukemia.
- EPA and DHA: maintain your brain, support joints and mood, upgrade immunity.
The primary biologically active forms of omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA have powerful neuroprotective properties, shielding the brain from inflammation and age-related changes. They're key structural components of cell membranes, keeping neurons healthy and protecting against brain shrinkage common in aging. Low levels of EPA and DHA are linked with accelerated cognitive decline and impairment, and studies suggest supplementing with EPA and DHA improves cognitive function and decreases the risk of neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer's. EPA and DHA also play a role in overall disposition; in research, higher intakes lessened depression and mood disorders. Other studies show EPA and DHA support immunity, ease joint pain and minimize stiffness and symptoms of arthritis.
- B vitamins: maximize youthful energy, cognitive clarity and sunny mood.
The primary B vitamins are responsible for a wide variety of physiological operations, including cellular energy production, nervous system function, red blood cell formation and the synthesis of neurotransmitters. They're also crucial for brain health, blunting inflammation that contributes to cognitive decline, enhancing DNA repair and slowing brain shrinkage. But as we age, compromised gut actions and drugs like acid reflux medications interfere with their absorption, depleting blood levels—linked with fatigue, impaired concentration and alertness, diminished physical and mental stamina, and mood alterations. Research shows supplementing with B vitamins improves brain function, encourages positive mood and lowers the risk of cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer's. Other studies suggest correcting deficiencies can fight fatigue, boost mental clarity and alertness.
- Collagen: strengthen joints and blood vessels, recapture skin's supple glow.
As the most abundant protein in the body, collagen adds structural support, strength and elasticity to skin. It's also a component of connective tissue, found in cartilage, ligaments, tendons and bones, and plays a key role in blood vessel health, maintaining strong, flexible arteries. But collagen production naturally declines with age, and the sun's UV rays speed its breakdown. Lacking collagen, the skin loses firmness and resilience; cartilage, ligaments and tendons become less flexible and more brittle, and joints suffer. Collagen degradation is also involved in arterial stiffening, linked with hypertension, diabetes, atherosclerosis and other diseases. Studies show collagen supplements upgrade skin's firmness and elasticity, minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. In other research, taking collagen reduced joint pain and improved symptoms of osteoarthritis, and some studies suggest supplements can prevent and treat atherosclerosis.
- Probiotics: uplevel mood and energy, preserve lucidity, bolster immunity.
Your microbiome—the community of organisms that live in your intestines—has a profound effect on immunity, cognitive function and outlook on life. Gut bacteria also produce important brain chemicals, including serotonin, known to impact mood, behavior and sleep. But intestinal structure and efficient operation declines with age, and studies link alterations in the microbiome with a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders, including mood disorders, Parkinson's disease and cognitive deficits. In other research, disruptions in gut function and the microbiome are associated with fatigue, low energy and impaired immune response, and probiotic supplements have been shown to heighten mood, improve brain health and cognition, enhance stamina and support a robust immune response.
- Vitamin C: firm and smooth skin, reinforce joints, protect your peepers.
This versatile antioxidant regulates the synthesis of collagen, necessary for strong, vital joints and smooth, supple skin. Vitamin C also dampens inflammation, protects against free radical damage and speeds healing of soft tissue and tendon injuries. Studies show supplementing with vitamin C reverses UV damage, enhancing skin's firmness and elasticity, minimizing wrinkles and fine lines, and reducing visible signs of aging; in other research, vitamin C significantly lessened hyperpigmentation, especially when applied topically. Vitamin C also supports the integrity of blood vessels in the eye, shielding them from the sun's destructive rays; studies suggest supplements help maintain visual acuity, decrease the risk of cataracts and hamper the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Is a chef, nutritionist, researcher and book author with more than 25 years of experience in the field of food, health and nutrition. After earning her master's degree in journalism, she worked for the Los Angeles Times and other leading dailies and weeklies. She is the author of five books on health and nutrition. She is also a second-degree black belt and instructor in Ninjutsu martial arts, and is developing a national program to train young women in self-protection. You can reach Lisa at: inspiredeating.com or follow her on Facebook @inspiredeatingnutrition or Instagram: @inspiredeating