Healthy Aging & Longevity

Last Updated: August 16, 2023

Longevity is the length of one’s life, while healthy aging (or healthspan) is the process of getting older while remaining free of chronic disease and disability. In other words, longevity describes quantity of life and healthspan describes quality of life.

What is healthy aging and longevity?

Longevity, also known as lifespan, is the length of time spent alive. Human longevity varies depending on numerous factors, including socioeconomic status, sex, gender, and lifestyle, but in the United States the average person lives to be about 79 years old.[1]

Healthy aging is the process of maintaining good health and functional ability during older age. A related concept is healthspan, a term defined as the number of years of life spent in good health, free of the chronic diseases and disabilities associated with aging.[2]

How could diet affect healthy aging and longevity?

Diet and maintaining a healthy body weight seem to play a major role in healthy aging and longevity, with different foods and dietary patterns likely capable of increasing or decreasing the risk of various age-associated diseases. It is evident that overweight and obesity increase the risk of many chronic diseases that decrease lifespan and healthspan, including type 2 diabetes, stroke, and more.

Two diets frequently studied in the context of aging and lifespan are caloric restriction (CR) and intermittent fasting (IF). CR involves a (usually at least 10%) reduction in calorie intake relative to typical levels without inducing malnutrition, while IF involves alternating periods of normal food intake with extended periods (usually 16–48 hours) of low-to-no food intake.[3][4] CR and IF are often found to extend the lifespans of animals (particularly mice) as well as improve risk factors for age-related diseases (e.g, cardiovascular-disease, type-2-diabetes) in humans,[5][6] but ultimately the effect of these dietary approaches on human lifespan and healthspan has not been completely evaluated.

Which supplements are of most interest for healthy aging and longevity?

Supplements that may help reduce the risk of diseases known to shorten lifespan and/or healthspan include cocoa extract (for cardiovascular disease),[7] protein powder (for sarcopenia),[8] and certain B-vitamins (for cognitive decline),[9]. Outside of treating vitamin deficiencies, the evidence for many of these supplements is inconsistent or has important shortcomings.

Studies on animals (e.g., mice) have noted improvements to lifespan and/or healthspan from various supplements, including NAD+ precursors (e.g., nicotinamide riboside and nicotinamide mononucleotide),[10][11] glycine (sometimes in combination with N-acetyl cysteine),[12][13] and alpha-ketoglutarate.[14] Astragalus may be able to lengthen telomeres (the DNA sequences at the end of chromosomes that shorten with age). However, much of the research on these supplements has notable limitations, and there is currently very little quality evidence that they promote healthy aging or increase lifespan in humans.

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Update History
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  2. ^Kaeberlein MHow healthy is the healthspan concept?Geroscience.(2018-08)
  3. ^Bales CW, Kraus WECaloric restriction: implications for human cardiometabolic health.J Cardiopulm Rehabil Prev.(2013)
  4. ^Longo VD, Di Tano M, Mattson MP, Guidi NIntermittent and periodic fasting, longevity and disease.Nat Aging.(2021-Jan)
  5. ^Emily W Flanagan, Jasper Most, Jacob T Mey, Leanne M RedmanCalorie Restriction and Aging in HumansAnnu Rev Nutr.(2020 Sep 23)
  6. ^Patikorn C, Roubal K, Veettil SK, Chandran V, Pham T, Lee YY, Giovannucci EL, Varady KA, Chaiyakunapruk NIntermittent Fasting and Obesity-Related Health Outcomes: An Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses of Randomized Clinical Trials.JAMA Netw Open.(2021-12-01)
  7. ^Howard D Sesso, JoAnn E Manson, Aaron K Aragaki, Pamela M Rist, Lisa G Johnson, Georgina Friedenberg, Trisha Copeland, Allison Clar, Samia Mora, M Vinayaga Moorthy, Ara Sarkissian, William R Carrick, Garnet L Anderson, COSMOS Research GroupEffect of cocoa flavanol supplementation for prevention of cardiovascular disease events: The COSMOS randomized clinical trialAm J Clin Nutr.(2022 Mar 16)
  8. ^Christianto Putra, Nicolai Konow, Matthew Gage, Catherine G York, Kelsey M ManganoProtein Source and Muscle Health in Older Adults: A Literature ReviewNutrients.(2021 Feb 26)
  9. ^Zhibin Wang, Wei Zhu, Yi Xing, Jianping Jia, Yi TangB vitamins and prevention of cognitive decline and incident dementia: a systematic review and meta-analysisNutr Rev.(2021 Aug 25)
  10. ^Fang EF, Kassahun H, Croteau DL, Scheibye-Knudsen M, Marosi K, Lu H, Shamanna RA, Kalyanasundaram S, Bollineni RC, Wilson MA, Iser WB, Wollman BN, Morevati M, Li J, Kerr JS, Lu Q, Waltz TB, Tian J, Sinclair DA, Mattson MP, Nilsen H, Bohr VANAD Replenishment Improves Lifespan and Healthspan in Ataxia Telangiectasia Models via Mitophagy and DNA Repair.Cell Metab.(2016-10-11)
  11. ^Zhang H, Ryu D, Wu Y, Gariani K, Wang X, Luan P, D'Amico D, Ropelle ER, Lutolf MP, Aebersold R, Schoonjans K, Menzies KJ, Auwerx JNAD⁺ repletion improves mitochondrial and stem cell function and enhances life span in mice.Science.(2016-Jun-17)
  12. ^Miller RA, Harrison DE, Astle CM, Bogue MA, Brind J, Fernandez E, Flurkey K, Javors M, Ladiges W, Leeuwenburgh C, Macchiarini F, Nelson J, Ryazanov AG, Snyder J, Stearns TM, Vaughan DE, Strong RGlycine supplementation extends lifespan of male and female mice.Aging Cell.(2019-06)
  13. ^Kumar P, Osahon OW, Sekhar RVGlyNAC (Glycine and N-Acetylcysteine) Supplementation in Mice Increases Length of Life by Correcting Glutathione Deficiency, Oxidative Stress, Mitochondrial Dysfunction, Abnormalities in Mitophagy and Nutrient Sensing, and Genomic Damage.Nutrients.(2022-Mar-07)
  14. ^Azar Asadi Shahmirzadi, Daniel Edgar, Chen-Yu Liao, Yueh-Mei Hsu, Mark Lucanic, Arash Asadi Shahmirzadi, Christopher D Wiley, Garbo Gan, Dong Eun Kim, Herbert G Kasler, Chisaka Kuehnemann, Brian Kaplowitz, Dipa Bhaumik, Rebeccah R Riley, Brian K Kennedy, Gordon J LithgowAlpha-Ketoglutarate, an Endogenous Metabolite, Extends Lifespan and Compresses Morbidity in Aging MiceCell Metab.(2020 Sep 1)
  15. ^van Heemst D, Beekman M, Mooijaart SP, Heijmans BT, Brandt BW, Zwaan BJ, Slagboom PE, Westendorp RGReduced insulin/IGF-1 signalling and human longevityAging Cell.(2005 Apr)
  16. ^Blüher M, Kahn BB, Kahn CRExtended longevity in mice lacking the insulin receptor in adipose tissueScience.(2003 Jan 24)
  17. ^Kimura KD, Tissenbaum HA, Liu Y, Ruvkun Gdaf-2, an insulin receptor-like gene that regulates longevity and diapause in Caenorhabditis elegansScience.(1997 Aug 15)
  18. ^Li Z, Zhang Z, Ren Y, Wang Y, Fang J, Yue H, Ma S, Guan FAging and age-related diseases: from mechanisms to therapeutic strategies.Biogerontology.(2021-04)
  19. ^Fleckenstein M, Keenan TDL, Guymer RH, Chakravarthy U, Schmitz-Valckenberg S, Klaver CC, Wong WT, Chew EYAge-related macular degeneration.Nat Rev Dis Primers.(2021-05-06)
  20. ^Loeser RFThe Role of Aging in the Development of Osteoarthritis.Trans Am Clin Climatol Assoc.(2017)
  21. ^Chandra A, Rajawat JSkeletal Aging and Osteoporosis: Mechanisms and Therapeutics.Int J Mol Sci.(2021-Mar-29)