The right supplements can help your heart, sharpen your immune system, and even improve your sex life. The wrong ones, however, can be ineffective or even harmful.
Problem: Brain drain
This amino acid converts fats to energy and boosts antioxidant activity in the body. In supplement form, it may protect gray matter from stress caused by alcohol and aging. In a 2006 study, people who received 1,000 milligrams (mg) of acetyl L-carnitine a day saw relief from mild chronic depression.
KOREAN RED PANAX GINSENG
Problem: Erectile dysfunction
Sixty percent of men with erectile dysfunction who took this supplement noticed improvement, according to a 2002 Korean study. The herb may also protect your heart—in a recent Canadian study, a daily dose reduced arterial stiffness.
Problem: High blood pressure
CoQ-10 can lower your blood pressure while boosting your levels of ecSOD, an enzyme thought to protect blood vessels from damage. CoQ-10 may also improve sperm quality, Italian researchers say. Japanese researchers found it can increase fat burning during exercise.
Problem: Bone weakness
Vitamin D is a hormone that helps your bones absorb calcium. That’s a critical benefit, but there’s also a steady stream of other compelling reasons to take it. For instance, Vitamin D has been linked to reduced levels of depression, reduced risk of colorectal cancer, and less chance of a heart attack.
Problem: Heart disease
Loaded with the essential omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, fish oil can reduce triglycerides, boost HDL cholesterol, and lower blood pressure. But your heart isn’t the only beneficiary: the healthy fats may also reduce inflammation and improve cognitive performance, and may lower your risk of colon and prostate cancers.
A drop in magnesium can be a major headache. “Blood vessels in your brain constrict, and receptors in the feel-good chemical serotonin malfunction,” says Alexander Mauskop, M.D., director of the New York Headache Center. Result: a migraine. The mineral also might help regulate blood pressure and could ward off stroke and diabetes.
This fibre is more than a colon clearer. In a recent Finnish study, the addition of psyllium to meals reduced participants’ blood sugar and insulin response. Paired with protein, it was also shown to suppress ghrelin, a hormone that makes you hungry. Psyllium is one of five soluble fibres approved by the FDA for lowering LDL cholesterol.
Problem: Upset stomach
Probiotics are healthy bacteria that crowd out the disease-causing bad bacteria in your gut. Some can reduce diarrhea caused by certain infections, antibiotics, chemotherapy, and irritable bowel syndrome. The encapsulated good guys may also boost your immune function.
Problem: Low endurance
Want to extend your cardio session? People who didn’t exercise regularly but took 500 mg of this antioxidant twice a day for a week were able to bicycle 13 percent longer than the placebo group, a University of South Carolina study found. It may help reduce the oxidation of LDL particles and reduce blood-vessel constriction.
Problem: Poor memory
This supplement’s antioxidants fight free-radical stress in your brain and stop the degradation of nitric oxide, which preserves neural connections. In a recent Australian study, it improved memory in elderly people. Pycnogenol also supports better blood flow, which helps fight joint pain and reduce muscle cramps.
Problem: Joint pain
Glucosamine, a building block of cartilage, can relieve pain and inflammation in joints, says Nicholas DiNubile, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon. In fact, a recent study found glucosamine is more effective than acetaminophen (a.k.a. Tylenol) at relieving symptoms of knee osteoarthritis, often caused in younger men by joint injury.
Sixty percent of adult men don’t get enough vitamin C in their diets, according to an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study. Vitamin C helps protect your cells from the tissue-damaging free radicals produced by exercise. It also helps heal wounds, and it’s key to production of the collagen found in ligaments and tendons.
Problem: Extra body fat
Men who took green-tea extract burned 17 percent more fat after moderate exercise than those taking placebos, according to one study. EGCG, the most active antioxidant in green tea, is thought to prolong exercise-induced boosts in metabolism. It has also been shown to help prevent cancer and can improve heart health.
Problem: Prostate-cancer risk
Found in tomatoes, this potent antioxidant may reduce your risk of prostate cancer, according to a recent University of Illinois study review. The researchers say it may work by altering hormone metabolism and by causing cancer cells to self-destruct.
RED YEAST RICE
It contains lovastatin—a prescription statin—as well as other compounds that may help manage cholesterol. In a recent Annals of Internal Medicine study, patients who took red yeast rice during a 12-week diet and exercise program cut their LDL by 27 percent, compared with 6 percent for those who only dieted and exercised.
Problem: Cancer risk
You can’t stop the clock, but you can slow it down. This chemical, found in the skin of grapes, seems to interact directly with genes that regulate aging. Resveratrol has been shown to promote DNA repair in animals, enhance blood flow to people’s brains, and halt the growth of prostate-cancer and colon-cancer cells.
Talk about head-to-toe relief: A synthetic form of a dietary amino acid, SAMe has been found to treat depression as effectively as prescription antidepressants, according to Canadian researchers. It has also been shown to reduce joint pain and inflammation, and it may aid cartilage repair.
Problem: Enlarged prostate
As you age, your risk rises for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a condition that makes you trickle at the toilet. Saw palmetto may help restore the flow. In a recent Korean study, men taking 320 mg of saw palmetto daily saw their BPH symptoms decrease by 50 percent after 1 year.