Healthy aging. To many, the phrase is an oxymoron, like ‘working vacation’ or ‘instant classic.’ How can the process of aging, with its mental and physical declines and indignities—wrinkles and gray hair and weight gain and increasing frailty—be considered healthy?

Well, there’s over $200 billion invested in proving the oxymoron true. According to a report from Orbis Research, the global anti-aging market was worth $250 billion in 2016, and could reach more than $331 billion by 2021.

Fueling this market is the growing number of seniors in the U.S. and around the globe. The World Health Organization states that seniors currently account for 12% of the world’s population. By 2050, that percentage is expected to double to over 22%. And this demo is concerned with a lot more than wrinkles.

Topping the list of concerns for today’s older Americans is the development of chronic health conditions, according to a survey from Texas A&M University Health Science Center (1). As reported by the National Council on Aging, about 92% of seniors have at least one chronic disease and 77% have at least two (2). Heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes are among the most common and costly chronic health conditions causing two-thirds of deaths each year. Fortunately, there are ways to ward off the negative health aspects associated with aging—and even improve health to feel better with every birthday!

Warding off diseases of aging The right nutrients are key to overall health as we age. In the Vitamin Connection column published in the February issue of WholeFoods, Dr. Richard A. Passwater and Professor Bruce Ames discussed the “triage theory” proposed by Dr. Ames. As was explained, the body has developed a rationing response to shortages of vitamins and minerals. When one’s diet does not deliver adequate amounts of a vitamin or mineral, the body shifts its distribution or allotment of scarce micronutrients to processes essential for short-term survival. Processes needed for long-term health, including those that protect DNA, lose out and become disabled—and this leads to diseases of aging (3).

As Dr. Passwater explained, “Historical emphasis in nutrition has focused on primarily the nutrients essential for short-term events such as growth and prevention of the classical diseases of malnutrition. Dr. Ames makes the point that we should focus more on what he calls ‘longevity vitamins,’ a class of nutrients that exist mostly to prevent degenerative diseases of aging as well as the survival essential vitamins and minerals.” Among those nutrients:
  • Choline
  • Taurine
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • Pyrroloquinoline Quinone (PQQ)
  • Lutein
  • Zeaxanthin
  • Lycopene
  • Beta-carotene and -cryptoxanthin
  • Astaxanthin
More information on the science supporting these nutrients can be found in the article “Prolonging healthy aging: Longevity vitamins and protein” by Dr. Ames, available free online (4). And the good news for consumers who walk into your store is that these many of these products are widely available from brands including Solgar, NOW Foods, Jarrow Formulas and Bluebonnet, to name just a few.

Though most people coming to your store for information on “aging” may be older, the real way to tackle aging is to target the young and old, says Matt D’Addio, nutritionist for Dean’s Natural Food Market, which earned WholeFoods Magazine Retailer of the Year Award in 2017 and has four locations in New Jersey. D’Addio generally suggests the same products for younger and older demographics—only in different dosages—because the root cause of aging is the same.

“The root cause of aging is when cellular insults/stressors, for example toxins, oxidation/free radicals, inflammation, glycation—exceed your cell’s natural defenses and cause damage to your cell’s membrane and mitochondria, which is the power-house of the cell,” D’Addio says. “Damage to cell membranes and mitochondria causes cells to replicate and repair slower, die faster, and cause negative genetic expression.” And that in turn creates a cascade effect that gradually leads to those tell-tale signs of aging, from wrinkled skin to cataracts, cognitive decline, joint damage, and more.

“I make the analogy that the cellular insults are like an invading army sieging your castle, which is your cell,” D’Addio says. “If you have great defenses—antioxidants like glutathione—you can fight back the army without them harming your castle or the people inside, which in this analogy is your mitochondria and genes.” He explains that if the invading army is too strong (unhealthy lifestyle) or your defenses are weak (nutrient deficiencies or bad genes) your castle gets overrun and destroyed. “If enough castles get overrun, the kingdom collapses.”

The two-pronged strategy for healthy aging suggested by D’Addio: First, reduce the assault on the body by living a healthy lifestyle. Second, increase cellular defenses. This is where supplements come in. Some that have been shown to increase cellular defense systems and enhance mitochondrial function include broccoli seed extract, turmeric and R-Lipoic Acid. And, he notes, “It is really important that people rule out any nutrient deficiencies they may have and supplement if needed, especially vitamin D3, omega-3 and magnesium, as they are very common deficiencies.”

There’s also CBD oil, which comes with a popularity and list of benefits that seem to increase by the day. It’s a hot product among Baby Boomers, according to reporting by AARP (5).

“The unique thing about CBD and other phytocannabinoids is that they activate a system in your body called the ‘endocannabinoid system,’” says D’Addio. He notes that the endocannabinoid system is essentially the “Master Adaptation System” of the body—its goal is to bring the body to homeostasis.

“Every system in your body has cannabinoid receptors and are affected by the endocannabinoid system,” D’Addio says. “That is why CBD seems to have almost limitless potential benefits. Everything from being anti-stress, anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, sleep promoting, anti-seizure, anti-oxidant, and the list goes on. I especially like CBD’s ability to help people just unwind and recover after a long hard day. I find it really helps people to switch their nervous system from Fight-or-Flight mode back to Rest-and-Digest mode, which is pivotal for stress management and allowing the body to repair itself.”

Millennials & the Anti-aging Market

Sorry Kim and Kylie. According to an article in Longevity Magazine, Millennials are turning the tables on aging by starting preventative treatment at a younger age (12). But they’re not necessarily seeking the Kardashians’ advice. Instead of following celebrity endorsements for beauty products, millennials are seeking advice from trust-worthy sources on how to actually ward off signs of aging. Then they are sharing this information with their personal followers on social media, creating a community of young, proactive agers (12).

This, combined with the overall consumer trend toward clean products, suggests an opportunity for natural products retailers. Social media posts that target millennials with an anti-aging message may end up helping spread the word about the benefits of the natural options in your store. As WholeFoods columnist Jay Jacobowitz pointed out in his Tip of the Month in our February issue, his talks with retailers indicate that there is a clear trend that those gaining new, younger-generation shoppers were reaching out on social media platforms (13). “The most popular platform appeared to be Facebook, and its subsidiary, the photo- and video-sharing website, Instagram,” Jacobowitz noted. “While it takes planning and time to think of and post fresh content online, the rewards appear to be fairly direct and immediate.”

What are Millennials looking for? Longevity reported that they are rejecting fillers and other plastic, invasive treatments for more natural remedies that help them to stay young on the inside. They are reading the ingredient labels of beauty products and are willing to pay more for products that meet their standards. Products that contain probiotics and superfoods such as chia and kale, as well as vegan and gluten-free ingredients, are a draw.
Looking good, feeling strong Physical deterioration and frailty are other top concerns of the aging. Every 15 seconds, an older adult is admitted to the emergency room for a fall. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), a senior dies from falling every 19 minutes, making it the leading cause of injury to the elderly (6). Because aging causes bones to shrink and muscle to lose strength and flexibility, seniors are more susceptible to losing their balance, bruising and fracturing a bone. Two diseases that contribute to frailty are osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.

Collagen may help ward off these concerns. “Many of our ancestors used to get collagen from their diet when they ate bone marrow and the connective tissue of animals; now it is rarely found in the diet unless you take a collagen supplement or drink bone broth,” says D’Addio. “The unique part about collagen is that it has very high levels of the amino acids glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline, which are very hard to find significant amounts of from other foods.  Collagen production usually starts to decline by age 30 so young people can take it to preserve what they have while older people can take it to try to rebuild some of what they’ve lost.”

As WholeFoods columnist Jonny Bowden explained in his Nutrition MythBuster column, everyone can benefit, and in numerous ways (7). “When you don’t have enough collagen your muscles and skin start to sag,” Bowden explained. “Your bones can lose mineral density. Cartilage starts to thin out and becomes weaker. The skin thins and becomes wrinkled. A decreased amount of collagen in the bones is one of the underlying causes of bone problems.”

Reserveage Nutrition, Boca Raton, FL, offers a collagen-based supplement designed to help sustain health and vitality. “Our collagen products were inspired by the beauty practices of women in Asian cultures where food naturally rich in collagen is consumed for skin health and radiance,” says Melissa Zawada, VP of Reserveage. “Collagen-infused foods and beverages are a growing health and beauty trend as awareness of the benefits of collagen increase. In the calorie-and-fat-conscious U.S., where we remove the natural goodness of collagen from food, we don’t consume enough collagen, so it was it was a no-brainer for us to also pioneer this category.”

Another nutrient to help us feel good while warding off physical signs of aging: resveratrol. “The term resveratrol wasn’t even in consumers’ vocabulary a decade ago, but it was what Reserveage was founded on,” says Zawada. “The fascination with the French Paradox inspired us to uncover the secrets to female health and beauty. Why do the French, who enjoy a rich diet filled with wine, pastries and cheese, also maintain good health and slim figures? The answer, many theorized, may be their daily consumption of red wine, which contains resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant that has been shown in studies to help support the ‘longevity gene.’”

Instead of seeking a way to reverse aging, which Zawada notes is an unrealistic goal, “we sought to ‘reserve’ a woman’s ‘age’ by increasing the ability to maintain the best years of her life, for a longer period of time—naturally. Additionally, older demographics have shown interest in the use of resveratrol for promoting cardiovascular health.” The company has several resveratrol-based products targeted to different age groups, with the milligrams of resveratrol in each increasing for older groups.

Safeguarding cognitive health Diminishing cognitive function is a concern, and not just for the elderly. In the West Health Institute/NORC Survey on Aging in America, more than 70% of people who were 30 or older listed cognitive loss as their primary concern as they aged (8).

In recent reporting by WholeFoods, Trisha Sugarek MacDonald, senior director of research and development and national educator for Bluebonnet Nutrition Corp., Sugar Land, TX, shared an interesting fact: “A poll in 2013 by Trending Machine found that millennials are more likely than seniors over 55 to forget what day it is, where they put their keys, to bathe or shower, and to bring a lunch.”

Various levels of cognitive loss, including Alzheimer’s, currently affect 5.7 million Americans, according to the Alzheimer’s Association (9). This number is set to rise to 16 million by 2050. In 2017 alone, Americans spent $259 billion caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Decades of research has gone into identifying the cause and a cure. Last year Bill Gates revealed that his father had the disease, and that he would donate $100 million of his money to find a cure (10).

In a promising study published in The Journal of Nutrition, higher amounts of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids were determined to be beneficial to cognitive health during aging (11). The study examined intake of unsaturated fatty acids and cognitive performance among middle-aged adults. Total mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids were positively associated with cognitive function, while n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids showed positive associations among supplemented subjects.

Other nutrients to benefit brain health include curcumin, as in Sabinsa’s Curcumin C3 Complex or NOW’s CurcuBrain. AIDP’s Magtein is a studied, patented form of magnesium. Bluebonnet also offers magnesium, including Simple Calm Magnesium Powder, which the company says is a highly absorbable form. Lonza has L-Optizinc, a highly absorbable form of zinc shown to promote memory.

All of this is important because we don’t just want to live longer, we want to live longer and healthier. And as consumers see that many of the tools they need to do that can be found at your store, you’ll have a dedicated customer for many, many years to come! WF

216th Birthday: Science Fiction or Solid Science?

Dave Asprey expects to live to be 180.

Just a few months ago, the founder of Bulletproof Coffee underwent an intensive, invasive stem cell procedure. As reported in Men’s Health, the entrepreneur had a surgeon harvest half a liter of bone marrow from his hips, filter out the stem cells, and inject them into every joint in his body. The surgeon then threaded a cannula along Asprey’s spinal column and injected stem cells inside his spinal cord and into his cerebral fluid (14). Stem cells are regarded as the future for treating injuries including the spinal cord, stroke, and macular degeneration. The thing is, Asprey is 45 and healthy.

It was the latest step Asprey was taking in his quest to beat the odds and extend the average life span. Asprey started the “Biohacking movement” (or biological experimentation movement) and is said to take over 100 supplements a day, follow a strict diet, bathe in infrared light, and wear yellow-tinted glasses to block blue light. Asprey admits to spending at least a million dollars hacking his own biology; he could very well spend twice that if he lives to 180.

Asprey is by no means alone in trying to find the Fountain of Youth. Silicon Valley bigwigs like Oracle’s Larry Ellison, Alphabet’s Larry Page, billionaire investor Peter Thiel, and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos are among those pouring money and resources into drugs and therapies that are trying to slow the effects of aging and its related illnesses, as reported by CNBC (15). If they are successful, then the average life span of 79 years could be a thing of the past.

Start-ups targeting anti-aging drugs and therapies raised $523 million between 2012 and 2016. In recent years, Silicon Valley-backed anti-aging ventures have ranged from growing new organs from your own DNA to charging older people $8,000 to have their veins pumped with blood plasma from teenagers and young adults (16).

But staying young doesn’t have to require such expensive, invasive tactics. In fact, it could be as simple as increasing vitamin C intake. As Richard A. Passwater, Ph.D., explained in a recent Vitamin Connection column in WholeFoods (titled “The Amazing Health and Substantial Longevity Benefits of Restoring the Grossly Inadequate Levels of Vitamin C in Humans to Normal Mammalian Levels”), maintaining adequate C levels could improve quality of life and increase life span (17). Dr. Passwater’s guest Bill Sardi explained, “It has become clear that a vitamin C blood level above 60 µmol/L is necessary to optimize well-being and longevity; anything less than that is a deficiency that directly leads to shortened lifespan and increased disease.”

In fact, Sardi refers to American biochemist, chemical engineer, and author Irwin Stone’s research, which shows that animals that naturally secrete vitamin C live 8 to 12 times beyond their age of physical maturity. If vitamin C synthesis could be naturally restored, using these figures, humans would then be expected to live to 144 to 216 years.

That’s even longer than Dave Asprey expects to live.
  1. Suzannah Smith, “10 Common Elderly Health Issues,” Vital Record. Posted 2/11/16. Accessed 2/1/19.
  2. “Healthy Aging Facts,” National Council on Aging. Accessed 2/1/19.
  3. Richard Passwater, “Prolonging Healthy Aging,” Posted 01/25/19. Accessed 2/1/19.
  4. Bruce Ames, “Prolonging healthy aging: Longevity vitamins and proteins,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(43), 10836-10844(2018).
  5. Garrett Schaffel, “Boomers Fuel Boom in Popularity of CBD,” Posted 6/7/18. Accessed 2/1/19.
  6. “Healthy Aging Facts,” National Council on Aging. Accessed 2/1/19.
  7. Jonny Bowden, “Collagen: It’s Not Just for Women!” Posted 3/2/17. Accessed 2/1/19.
  8. “West Health Institute/NORC Survey on Aging in America,” Accessed 2/1/19.
  9. Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. Accessed 2/1/19.
  10. Robert Powell and Gina Vivinetto, “Bill Gates reveals personal reason he’s helping fight Alzheimer’s disease,” Posted 1/30/18. Accessed 2/1/
  11. Karen E Assmann et al., “Unsaturated Fatty Acid Intakes During Midlife Are Positively Associated with Later Cognitive Function in Older Adults with Modulating Effects of Antioxidant Supplementation,” The Journal of Nutrition, 148(12), 1938-1945(2018).
  12. “Millennials: What Is Their Approach To Staying Youthful?” Posted 1/8/18. Accessed 2/1/19.
  13. Jay Jacobowitz, “How will you compete in 2019?” Posted 1/25/19. Accessed 2/1/19.
  14. 14) Rachel Monroe, “The Bulletproof Coffee Founder Has Spent $1 Million in his Quest to Live to 180,” Posted 1/23/19. Accessed 2/1/19.
  15. Josh Lipton, “Tech searches for fountain of youth,” Posted 11/22/16. Accessed 2/1/19.
  16. Amy Maxmen, “Questionable “Young Blood” Transfusions Offered in U.S. as Anti-Aging Remedy,” Posted 1/13/17. Accessed 2/1/19.
  17. Richard Passwater, “The Amazing Health and Substantial Longevity Benefits of Restoring the Grossly Inadequate Levels of Vitamin C in Humans to Normal Mammalian Levels,” Posted 11/26/18. Accessed 2/1/19.