David Clancy, a biogerontologist, studies the biology of aging.
He takes six supplements each day to prevent health issues as he ages.
These include ginkgo biloba, fish oil, and folate.
An aging expert shared the six supplements he takes daily, which he hopes will help him live a long and healthy life.
Most experts agree it's best to get the nutrients you need from food rather than supplements. Still, supplements are helpful if a person is deficient in particular nutrients or if they can't get enough from their diet.
But some people in the antiaging space are willing to throw caution to the wind and supplement with relatively low-risk pills such as vitamin D and rapamycin, a medicine generally used for kidney transplants and some cancers, in the hope they'll boost their longevity while they await concrete evidence.
David Clancy, who's in his 50s and studies the biology of aging at Lancaster University, UK, told Business Insider he takes six supplements — some because of the supposed benefits he's read about in scientific research and others because a blood test identified nutrient deficiencies.
"I take fish oil for fatty acids because I don't like fish," he said. "Taking magnesium and vitamin D makes sense for everyone around my age. The folate and B12 make sense for me to take because of the blood test and the ginkgo — well, why not?"
Here's what to know about the supplements Clancy takes.
Ginkgo biloba is a supplement made from the leaves of the tree of the same name, which contain antioxidants and have long been used in traditional medicine.
There's no conclusive evidence to suggest it can help any health condition, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
But Clancy has been taking the supplement for four years, after he saw a small study suggesting it might be useful for modest weight loss in overweight men and another on its potential impact on the cognitive performance of people with dementia.
In Clancy's eyes, it's worth a go because it's widely taken and well tolerated. "It's been taken by lots of people throughout history, so I'm willing to throw the dice and give it a shot because it's not expensive. It can't really hurt," he said.
Ginkgo is thought to be safe in moderate amounts, but side effects can include an upset stomach, headaches, skin reactions, and dizziness.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish have been linked to various health benefits, including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, improving eye health, easing inflammation, and aiding joint health. But it's unclear whether those benefits come from the omega-3s specifically or from other parts of the fish in combination with them.
One large 2018 study, for instance, found that supplementing with one gram of fish oil a day didn't reduce the average risk of cardiovascular events or cancer in 25,871 participants. But it did appear to lower the risk for those who didn't eat much fish.
Dr. Howard LeWine, the chief medical editor at Harvard Health Publishing, wrote in an article on whether to take fish-oil supplements that "if you don't eat fish or other seafood, you might benefit from a fish oil supplement" but added that "it's more than likely that you need the entire orchestra of fish fats, vitamins, minerals, and supporting molecules" that come from eating fish for the best results.
Human aging is often associated with a magnesium deficiency, Clancy says, so he takes a supplement in the hope of boosting his longevity and aiding his sleep.
A 2021 review of studies found that although there wasn't much long-term research on the effects of magnesium supplementation on aging and the development of certain diseases, it was possible that maintaining health levels throughout life could prevent chronic inflammation and lengthen the health span.
And a 2022 review of studies found that while magnesium played an essential role in sleep regulation, more research was needed to confirm whether it could improve sleep quality.
Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps make DNA and keep blood and nerve cells healthy. It naturally occurs in animal products, such as meat, eggs, and milk.
According to Cleveland Clinic, between 1.5% and 15% of people in the US are deficient in vitamin B12, which can cause weakness or tiredness; weight loss; nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea; yellowish skin; a sore mouth or tongue; and a loss of appetite.
Most people can get all the vitamin B12 they need from food, but taking supplements can be beneficial for people who have trouble absorbing it or who don't get enough in their diets, such as vegetarians or vegans, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements.
Folate, or vitamin B9, is important for cell growth and function, particularly during pregnancy, when it helps to reduce the risk of brain and spine defects. It's found in dark leafy greens, beans, peas, and nuts, as well as fruits such as oranges, bananas, melons, and strawberries.
Although folate deficiency is rare in the US, the Mayo Clinic recommends folic-acid supplements for those whose bodies struggle to absorb it due to poor diets or health conditions, as well as people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to become pregnant.
Vitamin D is necessary for bone health and strength and also supports the immune and nervous systems. But one in four people in the US are vitamin D deficient, according to the ODS.
Most people get vitamin D when their skin is exposed to the sun because very few foods contain it naturally. But if people don't get enough sun, have darker skin, or are older, they may not get enough from the sun alone, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
A deficiency in the nutrient can cause bone pain, fatigue, and mood changes, as well as muscle weakness, cramping, or aches in adults and rickets in children.
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