Anyone who has been paying attention knows that higher vitamin and mineral intakes are good for your health. They lower the risk of every major chronic and degenerative disease. Which, of course, adds up to a longer and healthier life.
But new research shows there’s another reason why vitamins and minerals may help you live longer. They may actually be able to slow down biological aging.
Researchers in South Korea followed nearly 2,000 middle-aged and older adults for 10 years. They found that higher consumption of potassium, vitamin C, and the B vitamin folate is associated with delayed biological aging.1
The researchers discovered that these specific vitamins and minerals influenced the length of cell telomeres, which studies have shown are linked to longevity.
Telomere length relates to the number of older cells that are replaced with newer, younger cells. Theoretically, we should be replacing old cells with new cells indefinitely. But that process is limited by telomeres, which get shorter as we get older—eventually leading to aging. So, in essence, the longer your telomeres, the longer your life.
The findings from this study show the importance of eating plenty of fruits and vegetables—particularly those high in vitamin C, folate, and potassium—during youth and middle age for long-lasting effects on longevity.
Vitamin C is abundant in many fruits, and also bell peppers, leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, and sweet and white potatoes. I also recommend taking 250 mg of vitamin C twice a day.
Potassium can be found in bananas, citrus fruit, leafy greens, carrots, and potatoes, as well as meat and seafood. One note of caution: Many blood pressure medications (diuretics) cause the kidneys to lose potassium. So if you are taking these drugs, I recommend supplementing with 90 mg of potassium per day. (And, of course, consider ways to lower your blood pressure naturally.)
Folate is hard to get from a plant-based diet alone, although some is found in leafy greens, asparagus, fruits, nuts, and legumes. A better source is dairy products, poultry, meat, eggs, and seafood—which is why a balanced diet with a full range of healthy foods is key. You can also supplement with a high-quality vitamin B complex that contains 200 mcg of folate.
I’ve always known that getting higher levels of vitamins and minerals is important for health and longevity—despite the mainstream medical skepticism. But now that research scientists can see how these micronutrients directly affect “anti-aging” telomere length, they may finally be ready to believe it.
1“Longitudinal associations between micronutrient consumption and leukocyte telomere length.” J Hum Nutr Diet. 2016 Aug 22.