YOUR HEALTH: Could a simple supplement be a Fountain of Youth?

Research on a supplement could help slow the deterioration of arteries, a leading cause of death for Americans.

BOULDER, Colorado – A Fountain of Youth?

Aging is the single biggest risk factor for heart disease.

"As you age, there's more oxidative stress. That stress can damage how well your blood vessels work and increase the risk for cardiovascular disease," explained Daniel Craighead, a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Integrative Physiology of Aging Laboratory at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

He and fellow physiologist Tom LaRocca say our bodies start aging far sooner than we realize.

"Things start happening in your cells as early as your early 30's that slow down things throughout your body," said LaRocca.

The number of Americans 65 and older will more than double from about 48 million today to more than 98 million by the year 2060.

They're now looking at ways to mimic the effects of exercise and healthy eating.

Even just eating fewer calories, can clear harmful free radicals from aging cells

"It's thought that many of those free radicals come from the mitochondria and that that gets worse as we age," said LaRocca.

In a recent study, MitoQ, a nutraceutical, or food with medicinal benefits, targets the mitochondria, and improved vascular health by 42%.

"In participants that started the study with higher arterial stiffness, they saw a reduction, so their blood vessels got less stiff with MitoQ," said Craighead.

It actually made blood vessels look 15 to 20 years younger.

MitoQ:   As we age, the way our body makes power slows down because the mitochondria - one of the most important components of the cell - decline in performance by 10% per decade after we turn 30.   When we are young, our mitochondria work at maximum efficiency, processing food and oxygen, converting it into energy, but this changes while we age.   Although we do not notice these changes immediately, we begin to have less energy, which is why it is important to make sure our mitochondria are healthy.   This supplement is absorbed through the membrane of the mitochondria and it is used to re-line the membrane, which helps maintain its structural integrity and support the defensive barrier.

Craighead said slashing calorie intake can also improve heart health.

"An issue with older adults though sometimes losing weight can be bad for them. It results in a loss of muscle mass and a decrease in bone density."

Another study showed nicotinomide riboside, a supplement that mimics caloric restriction, decreases blood pressure and decreases arterial stiffness.

"People are certainly interested in anything that can help you age more successfully," according to LaRocca.

"We're not quite at the point where people should go out and start buying these, but the research is very promising," added Craighead.

Both MitoQ and nicotinomide riboside are available over the counter, but researchers say it's still too early to recommend them to the aging population.

They say for people who exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet, there is no need for any of these supplements because they're already getting the anti-aging benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.