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Vitamin cocktail found to extend youthfulness in mice

Feb. 15, 2010
Courtesy McMaster University
and World Science staff

A com­plex cock­tail of in­gre­di­ents avail­a­ble in many drug stores helps keep mice youth­ful in­to old age, judg­ing by their phys­i­cal ac­ti­vity and other mea­sures, scientists are re­port­ing.

The same cock­tail has been as­so­ci­at­ed in past stud­ies with a “mod­est” ex­ten­sion of mouse life­span, the re­search­ers said. But their new­est stu­dy on the cock­tail fo­cused on ex­ten­sion of youth­ful func­tion rath­er than of life­span it­self. 

The 30 read­i­ly avail­a­ble vit­a­min and sup­ple­ment in­gre­di­ents used in the "cock­tail" tested on mice. In­gre­di­ents are list­ed along with the near­ly ex­act per­cent­ages in which they were in­clud­ed, high­est first. Mice received about 70 mg per day of the cock­tail. This par­tic­u­lar cock­tail is not avail­a­ble on the mar­ket, al­though re­search­ers are in­ves­ti­gat­ing de­vel­op­ing new sup­ple­ments based on the re­search. Note that many of these sub­stances are not gov­ern­ment re­gu­lated and that qual­ity and pur­ity are not always guar­ant­eed with com­merc­ially avai­lable pre­par­ations.


Some oth­er past re­search has claimed more dra­mat­ic life ex­ten­sion in an­i­mals fed oth­er sub­stances, pe­r­haps most not­ably the red wine in­gre­di­ent res­ver­a­trol.

The “cock­tail” fed to the mice in­clud­ed vi­ta­mins B1, C, D, E, acetyl­sal­i­cylic ac­id, be­ta car­o­tene, fo­lic ac­id, gar­lic, gin­ger root, gink­go biloba, gin­seng, green tea ex­tract, mag­ne­si­um, mel­a­to­nin, po­tas­si­um, cod liv­er oil, and flax seed oil. The in­gre­di­ents were com­bined based on their abil­ity to off­set five mech­a­nisms in­volved in age­ing, said the re­search­ers, from Mc­Mas­ter Uni­vers­ity in Can­a­da.

“De­clin­ing phys­i­cal ac­ti­vity… is one of the most re­li­a­ble ex­pres­sions of age­ing and is al­so a good in­di­ca­tor of obes­ity and gen­er­al mor­tal­ity risk,” said Mc­Mas­ter bi­ol­o­gist Da­vid Rol­lo, a co-athor of the stu­dy, pub­lished in the cur­rent is­sue of the re­search jour­nal Ex­pe­ri­men­tal Bi­ol­o­gy and Med­i­cine.

The study found that the cock­tail pow­er­fully off­sets this key symp­tom of age­ing in old mice by in­creas­ing the ac­ti­vity of the cel­lu­lar fur­naces that supply en­er­gy—or mi­to­chon­dria—and by re­duc­ing emis­sions from these fur­naces. Called free rad­i­cals, these sub­stances are con­sid­ered by many bio­lo­gists as the bas­ic cause of age­ing.

Most of the pri­ma­ry causes of hu­man mor­tal­ity and de­cline are strongly cor­re­lat­ed with age and free-radical pro­cesses, in­clud­ing heart dis­ease, stroke, Type II di­a­be­tes, many can­cers, neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases, and in­flam­ma­to­ry and au­to­im­mune con­di­tions, said Rol­lo and col­leagues.

Us­ing ba­gel bits soaked in the sup­ple­ment to en­sure con­sist­ent and ac­cu­rate dos­ing, the for­mu­la main­tained youth­ful lev­els of move­ment in­to old age, the re­search­ers said. In con­trast, old mice that were not giv­en the sup­ple­ment showed a 50 per cent loss in daily move­ment, a si­m­i­lar dra­mat­ic loss in the ac­ti­vity of the cel­lu­lar fur­naces that make our en­er­gy, and de­clines in brain sig­nal­ing chem­i­cals rel­e­vant to lo­co­mo­tion. 

The team had al­so pre­vi­ously re­ported that the sup­ple­ment pre­vents cog­ni­tive de­clines and pro­tects mice from radia­t­ion.

“For age­ing hu­mans, main­tain­ing zest­ful liv­ing in­to lat­er years may pro­vide great­er so­cial and eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits than simply ex­tend­ing years of likely de­crepi­tude,” Rol­lo said. “This study ob­tained a truly re­mark­a­ble ex­ten­sion of phys­i­cal func­tion in old mice… This holds great prom­ise for ex­tend­ing the qual­ity of life of 'health span' of hu­mans.” De­vel­op­ment of new and hope­fully more ef­fec­tive sup­ple­ments is on­go­ing, Rol­lo added.


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A complex cocktail of ingredients available in many drug stores helps keep mice youthful into old age, judging by their physical activity levels, a study has found. The same cocktail was associated in previous studies with a “modest” extension of mouse lifespan, the researchers said. But the new study focused on youthful function rather than extension of lifespan itself. Some other past research has claimed more dramatic life extension in animals fed other substances, perhaps most promisingly the red wine ingredient resveratrol. The “cocktail” fed to the mice included vitamins B1, C, D, E, acetylsalicylic acid, beta carotene, folic acid, garlic, ginger root, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, green tea extract, magnesium, melatonin, potassium, cod liver oil, and flax seed oil. The ingredients were combined based on their ability to offset five mechanisms involved in ageing, said the researchers, from McMaster University in Canada. “Declining physical activity… is one of the most reliable expressions of ageing and is also a good indicator of obesity and general mortality risk,” said McMaster biologist David Rollo, a co-athor of the study, published in the current issue of the research journal Experimental Biology and Medicine. The research found that the cocktail powerfully offsets this key symptom of ageing in old mice by increasing the activity of the cellular furnaces that supply energy—or mitochondria—and by reducing emissions from these furnaces, called free radicals, which many scientists consider the basic cause of ageing. Most of the primary causes of human mortality and decline are strongly correlated with age and free-radical processes, including heart disease, stroke, Type II diabetes, many cancers, neurodegenerative diseases, and inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, said Rollo and colleagues. Using bagel bits soaked in the supplement to ensure consistent and accurate dosing, the formula maintained youthful levels of locomotor activity into old age whereas old mice that were not given the supplement showed a 50 per cent loss in daily movement, a similar dramatic loss in the activity of the cellular furnaces that make our energy, and declines in brain signaling chemicals relevant to locomotion. The team had also previously reported that the supplement extends longevity, prevents cognitive declines, and protects mice from radiation. “For ageing humans maintaining zestful living into later years may provide greater social and economic benefits than simply extending years of likely decrepitude,” Rollo. “This study obtained a truly remarkable extension of physical function in old mice… This holds great promise for extending the quality of life of “health span” of humans.” Development of new and hopefully more effective supplements is ongoing, Rollo added.