4 Natural Supplements That May Increase Life Span and Health
Publication of a new study on how a natural supplement was found to increase life span in an animal model triggered the question, which other natural supplements reportedly have the same quality? Here’s a look at four natural supplements that may increase life span and improve health in humans.
Did you know worms and flies are like people?
When scientists do studies on life span, they use animal models, especially worms and flies. Why? Because the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) has metabolic processes similar to those in humans, as well as some genetic and biochemical similarities. Fruit flies share 75 percent of the genes that cause disease with people.
When scientists say they have found evidence that certain supplements or other substances may increase life span, they are basing their statements on research typically done in worms and flies. Therefore, it is uncertain how much their findings can be extrapolated to humans, but it’s a start.
With that introduction, here are four supplements that have shown evidence that they increase life span in animals.
Ashwagandha: A new report published in the Annals of Neurosciences covers an evaluation of use of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract and its purified components on life span in C. elegans. Ashwagandha is an herb highly valued in Ayurvedic medicine for its anti-stress, anti-inflammatory, and antiaging properties.
In the new study, the scientists discovered that worms treated with purified components of ashwagandha lived about 20 percent longer than worms not treated with the herb. The authors noted that while ashwagandha has been valued for its antiaging qualities in Ayurvedic medicine, there has been “no concrete evidence for the same,” but that this study adds “credence” to this belief.
Cinnamon Bark: At the University of Maryland, Baltimore, researchers evaluated the effect of two traditional Chinese herbal formulas, both of which contained cinnamon bark, on the life span of C. elegans (average life span, 20 days). The investigators grew the worms in containers that held either one of the supplements, as well as each of the individual ingredients.
They discovered that cinnamon bark was the one ingredient that significantly extended the life span of the worms to 22.3 days, an increase of 11.7 percent.
Rhodiola rosea: Fruit flies were the subjects in a study from the University of California, Irvine, where researchers evaluated the use of Rhodiola rosea on longevity. Rhodiola rosea is an herb perhaps best known for relieving stress and aiding the body’s response to stress.
In the study, fruit flies that consumed a diet rich with Rhodiola rosea lived an average of 10 percent longer than flies that did not eat the herb. Specifically, male flies that ate R. rosea survived an average of 3.5 days longer while females lived an average of 3.2 days longer. Fruit flies typically live about 2 months.
Royal Jelly: Honey bees secrete a substance called royal jelly, which is used to feed adult queens and larvae. Royal jelly is rich in nutrients and is valued as a supplement for its antiaging properties.
In a study published in PLoS One, researchers reported on the ability of royal jelly to extend the life span of C. elegans as well as the mechanism by which it occurred. The authors concluded that royal jelly “may contain longevity-promoting factors,” and that further research of royal jelly “may broaden our understanding of the gene network involved in longevity regulation in diverse species and may lead to the development of nutraceutical interventions in the aging process.”
Although the research conducted thus far on the life extension properties of natural supplements is far from conclusive, it does present some intriguing possibilities for extending the life span of humans.
Honda Y et al. Lifespan-extending effects of royal jelly and its related substances on the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. PLoS ONE 2011; 6(8): e23527
Kumar R et al. Withania somnifera root extract extends lifespan of Caenorhabditis elegans. Annals of Neurosciences 2013; 20(1): 13-16
Yu YB et al. Cinnamomum cassia bark in two herbal formulas increases life span in Caenorhabditis elegans via insulin signaling and stress response pathways. PLoS ONE 2010; 5(2): 9339