Top 12 Anti-Inflammatory Spices and Herbs

Holli Ryan RD, LD/N

Top Spices with Anti-Inflammatory PropertiesLike fruits and vegetables, many spices and herbs have been shown to have biologically active compounds that benefit human health. One major benefit is attributed to their ability to reduce inflammation. The inflammatory process is complex, but many health experts agree that chronic inflammation is a common denominator among many chronic diseases.

Cooking with Anti-Inflammatory Spices and Herbs

Since many spices and herbs have anti-inflammatory properties, the bioactive compounds found in plants are often included in dietary supplements and standardized to ensure an amount that has been researched to show benefit. Cooking with these same spices and herbs that are used as supplements, tinctures, teas, and oils can contribute to your overall intake of these healthful plants. There are probably some of these anti-inflammatory seasonings in your spice cabinet right now, but before you get cooking, we have outlined some information on this topic to help you learn more:

What are Spices?

A spice is a plant substance used for flavoring, coloring or preserving food. Turmeric is a spice that is commonly used in the condiment mustard and can play all of the roles just mentioned. Parts of the plant that are used as spices:

  • Seed
  • Fruit
  • Root
  • Bark

What is an Herb Versus a Spice?

Herbs are also plants, and like spices, they are also used for flavoring or as a garnish. Certain herbs such as rosemary are also used for preserving food because of their antioxidant properties. The terms ‘spices’ and ‘herbs’ are sometimes used interchangeably but are distinct botanically and in culinary use. Parts of the plant that are used as herbs:

  • Leaves
  • Flowers
  • Stems

3 Common Herbs with Anti-Inflammatory Properties:

1. Rosemary1
2. Basil2
3. Sage3

What are Anti-Inflammatory Spices?

Anti-inflammatory spices contain active compounds that have been shown to reduce one or more markers of inflammation. Some markers and mediators of inflammation used in research and diagnosis include:

TNF-α, NF-κB and interleukins are cytokines (signaling proteins involved in triggering the inflammatory response). For example: fat tissue, especially the type of abdominal visceral fat seen in obesity, can secrete pro-inflammatory cytokines leading to systemic inflammation in people with obesity.

9 Spices with Anti-Inflammatory Properties:
  1. Sesame has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties in preclinical and clinical studies.4,5 
  2. Turmeric (and its main bioactive constituent, curcumin) is a very popular anti-inflammatory spice with many studies demonstrating efficacy. Clinical and preclinical studies indicate that turmeric and curcuminoids like curcumin may help manage atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and more.6-8
  3. Ginger was shown to reduce CRP and inflammatory cytokines in participants with diabetes and osteoarthritis.9-11
  4. Saffron has demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects in preclinical studies.12 In participants with allergic asthma, saffron reduced CRP levels.13
  5. Garlic has anti-inflammatory activity in preclinical and clinical studies.14 In a study of overweight and obese women with osteoarthritis, garlic improved pain and reduced the pro-inflammatory adipocytokine (a cytokine produced by fat cells) called resistin.15
  6. Caraway has some data that it may be beneficial in inflammatory bowel conditions like colitis.16
  7. Cardamom has several clinical and preclinical studies demonstrating anti-inflammatory effects. In obese participants with fatty liver disease, cardamom reduced levels of CRP and inflammatory cytokines.17 In overweight and obese pre-diabetic women, cardamom reduced CRP.18 Cardamom may exert its anti-inflammatory effects through inhibiting the NF-κB pathway.19
  8. Nutmeg has some preclinical data indicating it may have potential as a pain reliever due to its inhibition of COX enzymes, a mechanism similar to some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.20,21
  9. Paprika prevented an inflammatory response from UV damage to skin in people.22 Paprika also suppressed TNF-α and resistin in adipocytes (fat cells).23

sesame anti-inflammatory spice
turmeric curcumin anti-inflammatory spice
ginger anti-inflammatory spice

caraway anti-inflammatory spice
garlic anti-inflammatory spice
saffron anti-inflammatory spice

paprika anti-inflammatory spice
cardamom anti-inflammatory spice
nutmeg anti-inflammatory spice

Cooking with spices and herbs is a great way to add flavor to your food and expand your palate beyond table salt. Different cultures often have a set of spices associated with the particular cuisine. In addition to isolated spices, you can find spice blends designed for seasoning specific types of cuisine or proteins in your grocery store, at your local farmers market, or even at dedicated spice stores.

About the Author: Holli Ryan is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist, health and wellness advocate, and blogger/writer based in South Florida. She is a Florida International University graduate and member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Her focus as a dietitian is disease prevention and management of health through nutrition education and customized suggestions. Holli believes that quality dietary supplements are an essential tool that have a variety of applications, from maintaining good health to managing chronic disease.

  1. de Oliveira JR, Camargo SEA, de Oliveira LD. Rosmarinus officinalis L. (rosemary) as therapeutic and prophylactic agent. J Biomed Sci. 2019;26(1):5.
  2. Li H, Ge Y, Luo Z, et al. Evaluation of the chemical composition, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of distillate and residue fractions of sweet basil essential oil. J Food Sci Technol. 2017;54(7):1882-1890.
  3. Poulios E, Giaginis C, Vasios GK. Current Advances on the Extraction and Identification of Bioactive Components of Sage (Salvia spp.). Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2019;20(10):845-857.
  4. Afroz M, Zihad S, Uddin SJ, et al. A systematic review on antioxidant and antiinflammatory activity of Sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) oil and further confirmation of antiinflammatory activity by chemical profiling and molecular docking. Phytotherapy research : PTR. 2019;33(10):2585-2608.
  5. Khadem Haghighian M, Alipoor B, Malek Mahdavi A, Eftekhar Sadat B, Asghari Jafarabadi M, Moghaddam A. Effects of sesame seed supplementation on inflammatory factors and oxidative stress biomarkers in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Acta Med Iran. 2015;53(4):207-213.
  6. Hay E, Lucariello A, Contieri M, et al. Therapeutic effects of turmeric in several diseases: An overview. Chemico-biological interactions. 2019;310:108729.
  7. Li C, Miao X, Li F, et al. Curcuminoids: Implication for inflammation and oxidative stress in cardiovascular diseases. Phytotherapy research : PTR. 2019.
  8. Kocaadam B, Sanlier N. Curcumin, an active component of turmeric (Curcuma longa), and its effects on health. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition. 2017;57(13):2889-2895.
  9. Shidfar F, Rajab A, Rahideh T, Khandouzi N, Hosseini S, Shidfar S. The effect of ginger (Zingiber officinale) on glycemic markers in patients with type 2 diabetes. J Complement Integr Med. 2015;12(2):165-170.
  10. Mohd Sahardi NFN, Makpol S. Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe) in the Prevention of Ageing and Degenerative Diseases: Review of Current Evidence. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM. 2019;2019:5054395.
  11. Mozaffari-Khosravi H, Naderi Z, Dehghan A, Nadjarzadeh A, Fallah Huseini H. Effect of Ginger Supplementation on Proinflammatory Cytokines in Older Patients with Osteoarthritis: Outcomes of a Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial. J Nutr Gerontol Geriatr. 2016;35(3):209-218.
  12. Zeinali M, Zirak MR, Rezaee SA, Karimi G, Hosseinzadeh H. Immunoregulatory and anti-inflammatory properties of Crocus sativus (Saffron) and its main active constituents: A review. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2019;22(4):334-344.
  13. Hosseini SA, Zilaee M, Shoushtari MH, Ghasemi Dehcheshmeh M. An evaluation of the effect of saffron supplementation on the antibody titer to heat-shock protein (HSP) 70, hsCRP and spirometry test in patients with mild and moderate persistent allergic asthma: A triple-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial. Respir Med. 2018;145:28-34.
  14. Shang A, Cao SY, Xu XY, et al. Bioactive Compounds and Biological Functions of Garlic (Allium sativum L.). Foods (Basel, Switzerland). 2019;8(7).
  15. Dehghani S, Alipoor E, Salimzadeh A, et al. The effect of a garlic supplement on the pro-inflammatory adipocytokines, resistin and tumor necrosis factor-alpha, and on pain severity, in overweight or obese women with knee osteoarthritis. Phytomedicine. 2018;48:70-75.
  16. Keshavarz A, Minaiyan M, Ghannadi A, Mahzouni P. Effects of Carum carvi L. (Caraway) extract and essential oil on TNBS-induced colitis in rats. Res Pharm Sci. 2013;8(1):1-8.
  17. Daneshi-Maskooni M, Keshavarz SA, Qorbani M, et al. Green cardamom increases Sirtuin-1 and reduces inflammation in overweight or obese patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. Nutrition & metabolism. 2018;15:63.
  18. Kazemi S, Yaghooblou F, Siassi F, et al. Cardamom supplementation improves inflammatory and oxidative stress biomarkers in hyperlipidemic, overweight, and obese pre-diabetic women: a randomized double-blind clinical trial. Journal of the science of food and agriculture. 2017;97(15):5296-5301.
  19. Souissi M, Azelmat J, Chaieb K, Grenier D. Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activities of cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) extracts: Potential therapeutic benefits for periodontal infections. Anaerobe. 2019:102089.
  20. Zhang WK, Tao SS, Li TT, et al. Nutmeg oil alleviates chronic inflammatory pain through inhibition of COX-2 expression and substance P release in vivo. Food & nutrition research. 2016;60:30849.
  21. Zhang CR, Jayashre E, Kumar PS, Nair MG. Antioxidant and Antiinflammatory Compounds in Nutmeg (Myristicafragrans) Pericarp as Determined by in vitro Assays. Nat Prod Commun. 2015;10(8):1399-1402.
  22. Nishino A, Sugimoto K, Sambe H, Ichihara T, Takaha T, Kuriki T. Effects of Dietary Paprika Xanthophylls on Ultraviolet Light-Induced Skin Damage: A Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study. J Oleo Sci. 2018;67(7):863-869.
  23. Maeda H, Saito S, Nakamura N, Maoka T. Paprika Pigments Attenuate Obesity-Induced Inflammation in 3T3-L1 Adipocytes. ISRN Inflamm. 2013;2013:763758.

Boosting Serotonin for Weight Loss

Juanita O. Enogieru MS, RD

When it comes to human body composition, there are multiple factors involved in weight loss, weight gain, weight management, and weight regain. And when it comes to nutrients for weight management, it is important to note that nutrients work on different pathways that may address dysfunction and promote weight loss. Let's explore:

Factors Involved in Weight Gain:

  • Slow metabolism
  • Underactive thyroid
  • Cravings/Increased appetite
  • Lack of exercise 
  • High blood glucose levels
  • Insulin resistance
  • Imbalanced sex hormones 
  • Depression

It can be overwhelming to select the best nutrients for your body type because there is no “universal” or “best product” for weight loss. Every person is biochemically unique and has distinct needs, and therefore, responds differently. So, it is essential first to pinpoint the cause(s) of your weight gain or difficulty losing weight, to create the best regimen. The best approach is to address the biochemical and behavioral factors that contribute to weight gain in your body. One common concern is emotional eating and a subsequent increase in weight. In this article, we will discuss how increasing serotonin levels, enhancing lean body mass and fat metabolism, and boosting insulin sensitivity are vital factors for promoting weight loss.

How Does Serotonin Influence Weight Loss?

Suboptimal levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin can lead to impulsive and emotional eating along with cravings for carbohydrates.

Neurotransmitters are brain-signaling chemicals that allow the brain and neurons to communicate throughout the body. Have you ever noticed that lack of sleep seems to lead to an increase in cravings? Interestingly, serotonin is eventually converted to melatonin, the sleep hormone, in the body. Serotonin has many functions in the body including regulation of circadian rhythms, neuroendocrine function, mental processes, mood, and cognition, and has an inhibitory effect on feeding behavior.1-4

All of these functions play crucial roles in supporting a healthy weight and promoting weight loss. Serotonin is a key brain chemical, and the signs of serotonin depletion can vary. They can include insomnia (or irregular circadian rhythms), cravings for sweets and other carbohydrates, frequent muscle aches and pains, impulsive behaviors, moodiness, especially sadness, anxiety, and irritability, feeling emotionally sensitive or vulnerable, feeling insecure, lacking self-confidence, and low-stress tolerance.

Why Supplement with Serotonin Precursors?

It is well known that we eat to live, but when the desire to eat is based on cravings, then obesity, eating disorders, and non-compliance with dietary restrictions can occur. Making it even more difficult is the inability to distinguish between nutritional needs and food cravings.5 Brain-derived serotonin (BDS) acts as a neurotransmitter, while gut-derived serotonin (GDS) acts as a hormone and regulates a wide variety of processes. While platelets, gastrointestinal cells, and other non-neurologic cells synthesize more than 98% of the body's total serotonin, that serotonin does not penetrate the blood–brain barrier.2 Supplementing with precursors such as L-tryptophan, 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), and/or nutrients shown to boost brain levels of serotonin like saffron may be ideal for mitigating symptoms and losing weight.

Promoting Weight Loss with L-Tryptophan, 5-Hydroxytryptophan, and Saffron

When the main building blocks for serotonin synthesis, 5-HTP and L-tryptophan, are removed, serotonin levels may drop significantly lower than normal ranges.5 Since serotonin is involved in regulating appetite and food intake, it makes sense that low serotonin levels are linked to weight gain.6

Treatment with 5-HTP, as well as preferential 5-HT(2C) receptor agonist mCPP, has been shown to produce weight loss in obese adults .7 Furthermore, 5‐HTP supplementation was shown to activate brain areas associated with healthy weight and preference for protein-rich foods, as opposed to carb and calorie-rich foods. It is also associated with decreased appetite, early satiety symptoms, and weight loss.5 5-HTP is a calming supplement that boosts serotonin levels and can support sleep so that you feel less stressed, which can also help with weight loss. A typical dosage of 5-HTP used is 50-100 mg up to three times daily.

When L-tryptophan was administered to healthy subjects in a small randomized controlled trial (RCT), it regulated appetite and modified plasma insulin levels.8 During conditions of metabolic dysfunction, several hormones secreted from fat cells, such as leptin and adiponectin, can become dysfunctional. Insulin resistance can lead to uncontrolled blood glucose levels and can impair leptin from signaling the brain that you are full. Therefore, optimizing fat cell signaling by increasing insulin sensitivity is another important aspect of any comprehensive weight loss strategy.9 Many people prefer using tryptophan combined with its essential cofactors lysine and niacinamide instead of 5-HTP. If 5-HTP converts to serotonin in the blood, this serotonin will not cross the blood-brain barrier. Tryptophan remains stable in the blood and crosses the blood-brain barrier, where it is converted to serotonin. Dosages of 500-1500 mg daily are suggested to encourage healthy neurotransmission and hunger signal responsiveness.

Saffron is used traditionally to flavor food, but it is ideal for individuals who crave carbs. In clinical research, two active constituents of saffron (safranal and crocin) reduced the desire to snack and enhanced mood. Saffron reduced snacking frequency in mildly overweight women and contributed to weight loss by increasing feelings of satiety and improving emotional well-being .10 Reductions in snacking can assist with supporting a healthy weight. Data pooled from 10 studies (662 participants) showed a significant effect of saffron on diastolic blood pressure, body weight, and waist circumference. Furthermore, a subgroup analysis of several studies showed a significant reduction in fasting plasma glucose levels.11 It is proposed that saffron increases the time that serotonin remains in the brain.12,13 Dosages of 176 mg of saffron daily are suggested to promote healthy hunger signal responsiveness.

Nutrients shown in research to promote healthy insulin sensitivity, manage carbohydrate cravings, encourage a balanced mood, and support a healthy sleep cycle are highly useful for promoting weight loss and preventing weight regain. Depending on your biochemical needs, think about including 5-HTP or L-tryptophan and saffron in your weight loss regimen.

For more information, please visit the Life Extension Weight Loss Protocol.

About the author: Juanita Enogieru is a Registered Dietitian and Life Extension wellness specialist working with the community to build healthy and balanced nutritional habits. While pursuing an education in medicine and attempting to help her body heal, it became apparent that there was a gap in medical practices with regard to nutrition and an abundance of misinformation about balanced nutritional practices. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Health Education from the University of Florida, she worked with non-profit organizations to deliver nutrition education to community members. Wanting to learn more about nutrition and how herbs could be used to help the body heal, she pursued a master’s degree in Dietetics and Nutrition and shortly began working with Life Extension. With the understanding that everyone has a unique biochemical individuality, it is vital to address each individual based on their specific needs and biochemical make-up. Her mission now is to offer guidance, support and education to individuals based on balanced nutritional insights that address the mind, body and spirit.

  1. Neuroscience. 2015 Aug 20;301:155-67.
  4. Behav Brain Res. 1996;73(1-2):37-42.
  5. Brain Behav. 2017 Jan; 7(1): e00594.
  6. Mol Cells. 2015 Dec;38(12):1023-8.
  7. Curr Drug Targets. 2005 Mar;6(2):201-13.
  8. Sci Rep. 2016 Oct 20;6:35727.
  9. Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2019 Mar 1;24:890-934.
  10. Nutr Res. 2010 May;30(5):305-13.
  11. Pharmacol Res. 2019 Jan;139:348-359.
  12. J Pharm Bioallied Sci. 2018 Oct-Dec; 10(4): 173–180.
  13. J Integr Med. 2013 Nov; 11(6): 377–383.

It’s That Time of The Year Again: Flu Season

Julia Dosik BS, MPH

It’s that time of year again! The congestion, sore throat, coughing (oh the coughing!), head and muscle aches, fatigue, and the list goes on. Not only does the flu cause missed days from work and school, it is all-around draining for its victims. In addition to lowered productivity from these missed days, the flu most commonly affects people around the holidays which contributes to less time spent with loved ones. But as debilitating as the flu can be, there is hope!

Getting Through Cold and Flu Season Months

Taking steps to help guard yourself from the flu can be very effective. Examples of such steps are vaccination and building up your immune system by taking powerful nutrients. Read on to educate yourself on the flu virus and nutraceutical approaches to help keep this nasty virus at bay.

What is the flu?

The flu is a common respiratory infection caused by the influenza virus. Influenza viruses can be classified as type A, B, or C, with numerous subtypes. Human influenza A and B viruses are the ones known to cause seasonal outbreaks. The flu infects the tissues of the nose, throat, and lungs. Although it can resolve on its own, it may progress to severe problems such as pneumonia, especially in the elderly or people with compromised immune systems. The various forms of the flu can be very debilitating when they strike, which is why it's so important to proactively take proper care of yourself.

What are the symptoms of the flu?

Unlike the common cold which has a gradual buildup of symptoms, flu symptoms often develop suddenly. Common symptoms include1:
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny/stuffed nose
  • Muscle, body, and headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (more often in children than in adults)

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is very important to see your doctor immediately to start treatment right away. The faster anti-viral medications (such as Tamiflu®) are started, the better your chances of lessening the amount of days you are sick. In fact, doctors recommend taking anti-viral medication within 48 hours of symptom onset.

When is the flu contagious?

The flu virus is continually mutating, wreaking havoc on healthy cells in the body. When a person is infected with the flu virus, they are contagious starting 1 day BEFORE symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days AFTER becoming sick. The most contagious time is within the first 4 days of illness.2 The tricky aspect about the flu is that people can transmit the illness to others before their symptoms even begin. Therefore, it is VITAL to always follow proper hand washing hygiene, which is: lather soap on the inside and backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds before rinsing.

How does the flu spread?

Now that we know the flu virus causes a person to be very contagious within the first 4 days of illness, how does that person spread the flu to others? The flu virus is spread from person to person mainly by droplets made when the infected person coughs, sneezes, or even talks! These droplets can then land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby, or they can possibly be inhaled into their lungs. Less often, a person may get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. Therefore, it is very important to make sure you ALWAYS sneeze or cough into a tissue or the inside crease of your elbow and then immediately wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, following the steps indicated above. Even if you are not sick you should still try and refrain from coughing straight into the air as you never know if the flu virus could be lingering, especially during flu season.

When is flu season?

Although the flu virus can make you sick at any time during the year, flu season generally peaks in the fall and winter months. Flu season usually starts in October and peaks between December and February; however, it can last until May!3 It is advisable to get the flu vaccine before the end of October since the vaccine requires 2 weeks before it provides protection. Although, getting vaccinated later can still be beneficial.4

Can vitamins help with flu?

Although getting the flu shot is the primary form of prevention against the full-on flu, there are natural approaches to strengthening the immune system which may help thwart the virus from infecting your healthy cells. Strengthening your immune system with daily supplementation of vitamin D, probiotics, and zinc may help lessen some of the symptoms and help the body recover faster.

Studies show that vitamin D plays a very important role in regulating the human immune system and may even reduce the risk of certain viral and bacterial infections.9-10 Zinc is required for many metabolic processes in the body and it also plays an integral role in maintaining a healthy and strong immune system.11 In addition to vitamin D and zinc, probiotics (or “good bacteria”) offer powerful immune system protection. Although most people correlate probiotics with digestive health, it’s important to note that most of the immune system resides in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Therefore, consistently supplementing with probiotics helps activate the body’s own immune response. Probiotics also help restore the balance of good bacteria in your GI tract, which can help strengthen its ability to interact favorably with your immune system.12 In fact, several probiotic strains have been clinically studied to help protect the delicate tissue of the GI tract, which in effect can help thwart the flu virus from replicating in the body.13 These strains include:

  • B. lactis BS01;
  • L. plantarum LP01
  • L. plantarum LP02
  • L. rhamnosus LR04
  • L. rhamnosus LR05

All in all, the combination of a balanced diet, exercise, supplementation with immune strengthening nutrients, consistently washing your hands (especially after coughing, sneezing, and using the bathroom), and getting the flu shot is an excellent path to lead you down a flu-free track these winter months!

About the Author: Julia Dosik, BS, MPH, is a clinical corporate trainer at Life Extension headquarters in South Florida. She holds a Bachelor of Science in biology and psychology as well as a Master of Public Health specializing in health education. Julia utilizes a mix of in-person, virtual and written training to educate employees and consumers on how the human body functions and the importance of supplementing with science-backed ingredients. It is her deepest belief that high-quality dietary supplements are fundamental to an individual’s physical and mental well-being.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu Symptoms & Complications. Accessed 11/18/2019.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How Flu Spreads. Accessed 11/18/2019.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Flu Season. Accessed 11/18/2019.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Who Needs a Flu Vaccine and When. Accessed 11/18/2019.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Misconceptions about Seasonal Flu and Flu Vaccines. Accessed 11/18/2019.
  6. Wilkinson K, Wei Y, Szwajcer A, et al. Efficacy and safety of high-dose influenza vaccine in elderly adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Vaccine. 2017;35(21):2775-2780.
  7. Sanchez L, Matsuoka O, Inoue S, et al. Immunogenicity and safety of high-dose quadrivalent influenza vaccine in Japanese adults ≥65 years of age: a randomized controlled clinical trial. Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2019 Nov 19:1-9.
  8. Panatto D, Haag M, Lai PL, et al. Enhanced Passive Safety Surveillance (EPSS) confirms an optimal safety profile of the use of MF59® -adjuvanted influenza vaccine in older adults: Results from three consecutive seasons. Influenza Other Respir Viruses. 2019 Oct 16.
  9. Beard JA, Bearden A, Striker R. Vitamin D and the anti-viral state. J ClinVirol. 2011;50(3):194-200.
  10. Grant WB, Goldstein M, Mascitelli L. Ample evidence exists from human studies that vitamin D reduces the risk of selected bacterial and viral infections. ExpBiol Med. 2010;235(12):1395-1396.
  11. Roxas M, Jurenka J. Colds and influenza: a review of diagnosis and conventional, botanical, and nutritional considerations. Altern Med Rev. 2007;12(1):25-48.
  12. Rauch M, Lynch SV. The potential for probiotic manipulation of the gastrointestinal microbiome. Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2012;23(2):192-201.
  13. Pregliasco F, Anselmi G, Fonte L, et al. A new chance of preventing winter diseases by the administration of synbiotic formulations. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2008;42 Suppl 3 Pt 2:S224-33.

Supercentenarian Secrets: Living to 110+ Years Old

Dayna Dye

Supercentenarians are men and women aged 110 or older. Although estimations of supercentenarians living today run as high as 600, the number who have been validated is significantly lower. Nevertheless, validation of the existence of supercentenarians—dead and living—proves that it is possible to survive for at least a decade beyond 100.1

“We have all heard stories of cigar-chomping hundred-year-olds who drink copious amounts of vodka (or other spirits) and can climb hills or swim laps faster than most fifty-year-olds,” write Bradley J. Willcox and colleagues in a review titled, “Secrets of Healthy Aging and Longevity From Exceptional Survivors Around the Globe.” “Such hardy, long-lived individuals have been a fascination of society since recorded history. Unfortunately, finding individuals who fit this robust description—and who possess valid birth certificates—has proven elusive.”2

What do supercentenarians have in common?

It’s a well-known fact that women tend to live longer than men, and among supercentenarians, the difference is even more pronounced. Of the 31 validated supercentenarians alive as of November 4, 2019, 30 are women. And among 49 supercentenarians whose current status could not be accounted for (the majority of whom reside in Japan), 48 are female.1

A study of 32 supercentenarians reported in 2006 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that while osteoporosis and cataracts were common, the group had a very low incidence of vascular diseases, including a history of heart attack and stroke.3 Seven subjects were being treated for high blood pressure and just eight had been treated (successfully) for cancer. Diabetes, which currently affects 9.4% of the U.S. population, affected only one subject (3% of the study population).4 The authors of the study noted that “A surprisingly substantial proportion of these individuals were still functionally independent or required minimal assistance.”3

A recent study that compared white blood cells known as lymphocytes and monocytes in seven supercentenarians and five healthy control subjects revealed a significantly higher amount of CD4 cytotoxic T lymphocytes among the supercentenarians. “Our study reveals that supercentenarians have unique characteristics in their circulating lymphocytes, which may represent an essential adaptation to achieve exceptional longevity by sustaining immune responses to infections and diseases,” authors Kosuke Hashimoto and colleagues conclude.5

Supercentenarians Diet

The intake of plant foods is evident in the lives of people who survive to 100 and older. In fact, many of them were farmers.6 In Okinawa, Japan, an area of the world known for exceptional longevity, root vegetables (mainly sweet potatoes), green and yellow vegetables, soybean-based foods and medicinal plants are traditional dietary staples. Characteristics of the Okinawan diet, including a high intake of unrefined carbohydrates, moderate protein intake and an intake of fat that consists of more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (particularly omega-3) and less saturated fat than typical Western diets, are shared with other healthy diet patterns, such as the Mediterranean, DASH and Portfolio diets.7

The significant number of Japanese individuals among supercentenarians suggests that regular intake of fish, which is a major protein source for many Japanese people, might be a factor contributing to their longevity. A meta-analysis of 12 prospective studies that included a total of 672,389 participants concluded that the intake of 60 grams of fish per day was associated with an average 12% reduction in the risk of mortality during the studies’ follow-up periods in comparison with never eating fish.8 And in a study that included 9,957 octogenarians, 9,925 nonagenarians and 8,908 centenarians, a high frequency of fish and seafood consumption was associated with a 26% lower risk of death during follow-up compared to having a low intake.9

The association between frequent fish consumption and long life may be due to the high amount of omega-3 fatty acids in many types of fish and their anti-inflammatory effect. A study that included participants in the Tokyo Oldest Old Survey on Total Health, Tokyo Centenarians Study and Japanese Semi-Supercentenarians Study that included a total of 684 centenarians and semi-supercentenarians (centenarians between the ages of 105 and 109 years), 167 pairs of centenarian offspring and spouses, and 536 community-living very old (aged 85 to 99 years) found that, out of many potential factors involved in successful aging, lower inflammation scores predicted capability and cognition in semi-supercentenarians better than chronologic age or gender.10

Okinawa, Loma Linda, California, Nicoya, Costa Rica, Sardinia, Italy and Ikaria, Greece have been named Blue Zones: areas of the world with the highest confirmed percentage of centenarians. Fava and black beans, soy or lentils form the basis of most Blue Zone diets. Eating in moderation is another Blue Zone dietary practice, which suggests that some supercentenarians may have benefitted from mild calorie restriction in addition to avoiding the negative health impact of obesity.11

Jeanne Calment, who lived to the age of 122, reportedly consumed a lot of olive oil, chocolate and red wine—all of which are high in polyphenol compounds.

However, there’s still significant variation in the diets reported by supercentenarians. Some consume less healthy diets, which indicates that other factors are also involved in longer life.

Supercentenarians’ Healthy Habits

A study conducted in 2,872 pairs of twins born during 1870 to 1900 determined that only 26% of male longevity and 23% of female longevity was due to genetic factors, suggesting that how well we live is mainly responsible for how long we live.12

Among shared factors, long-lived people of the world engage in lifestyles that require movement. They may garden and perform housework and yardwork. Maintenance of physical independence at 100 years of age is a strong predictor of becoming a supercentenarian.13

Supercentenarians have a sense a purpose, ways to manage stress, belong to a faith-based community, commit to their spouse, children, parents and other family members and have lifelong friends.11

How Many Supercentenarians in the US?

Of the 31 validated supercentenarians living at this time, seven reside in the U.S.1 Four hundred fifty-eight validated supercentenarians are deceased as of this post; 150 died in the U.S. Hundreds more have claimed supercentenarian status but did not have reliable documentation of their date of birth.

The fact that the U.S. has a significant share of supercentenarians could be attributed to a relatively higher standard of living and better medical care compared to many countries, but it could also be accounted for by an ability of investigators to more easily validate the ages claimed by those listed.

How can I Live Longer and Healthier?

Want to be in the 110 club? Many of the health habits discussed in this post have known protective associations with a lower risk of chronic diseases that are a major cause of death worldwide. Staying active, consuming plant foods, managing stress, maintaining social connections and having a sense of purpose can benefit anyone. Humans are fortunate to live during a time in which potentially beneficial medical discoveries are increasing at a rapid pace and may further extend healthy lifespan.

A study published in Science reports the conclusion of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and Sapienza University of Rome that the risk of death, which increases exponentially up to an approximate age of 80 years, appears to level off after the age of 105. The findings contradict speculation by some biologists and demographers that there’s a fixed natural limit to human life.

"These are the best data for extreme-age longevity yet assembled," announced senior author Kenneth Wachter, who is a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of demography and statistics. "Our data tell us that there is no fixed limit to the human lifespan yet in sight. Not only do we see mortality rates that stop getting worse with age, we see them getting slightly better over time."14

Bradley J. Willcox and colleagues, who were quoted in the introduction to this post, noted that, unlike many individuals of advanced age, supercentenarians maintained independence in their activities of daily living until late in life (an average age of 105), which supports an extended health span, rather than gaining more years of disability. The authors describe the work that needs to be done to understand healthy aging and longevity and predict that “It may not be long before today’s version of the ‘exceptional survivor’ will be tomorrow’s ‘typical’ senior citizen. If this happens, the cigar-chomping, mountain climbing supercentenarians of Shangri-La fame may not prove so elusive after all.”2

About the author: Dayna Dye has been a member of the staff of Life Extension® since shortly after its inception. She has served as the department head of Life Extension® Wellness Specialists, is the author of thousands of articles published during the past two decades in Life Extension® Update, Life Extension Magazine® and on, and has been interviewed on radio and TV and in newsprint. She is currently a member of Life Extension’s Education Department.


  1. “GRG World Supercentenarian Rankings List.” Gerontology Research Group. 4 Nov 2019.
  2. Willcox BJ et al. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2008 Nov;63(11):1181-5
  3. Schoenhofen EA et al. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2006 Aug;54(8):1237-40.
  4. “National Diabetes Statistics Report.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 24 Feb 2018.
  5. Hashimoto K et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Nov 12.
  6. Gavrilov LA et al. Biodemography Soc Biol. 2012;58(1):14–39.
  7. Willcox DC et al. Mech Ageing Dev. 2014 Mar-Apr;136-137:148-62.
  8. Zhao LG et al. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2016 Feb;70(2):155-61.
  9. Lv Y et al. Clin Nutr. 2019 Oct 25. pii: S0261-5614(19)33084-5.
  10. Arai Y et al. EBioMedicine. 2015 Jul 29;2(10):1549-58.
  11. Buettner D et al. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2016 Jul 7;10(5):318-321.
  12. Herskind AM et al. Hum Genet. 1996 Mar;97(3):319-23.
  13. Arai Y et al. Mech Ageing Dev. 2017 Jul;165(Pt B):80-85.
  14. Barbi E et al. Science. 2018 Jun 29;360(6396):1459-1461.

Run for Your Life: Running Safety Tips and How to Maximize Your Routine

Dayna Dye

Remember the exhilaration of running on the edge of breathlessness through an open field as a child? The time to recapture that feeling may be now.

If findings from a recent analysis are an indication, any amount of running could lower the risk of premature death. The report, published on November 4, 2019 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, concluded that “Increased rates of participation in running, regardless of its dose, would probably lead to substantial improvements in population health and longevity."1

Is Running Good for You?

In general, running is a healthy activity, but there are specific concerns that need to be addressed when considering embarking on a running program. The most important among them are one’s current state of health and safety when running.

Is Running Good for Your Heart?

Running is among the type of exercises labeled as “cardio” that elevate the heart rate and benefit long term cardiovascular health when engaged in regularly by fit individuals. The heart, like all muscles, is strengthened when it is exercised.

People need to be in relatively good health to engage in running or any other vigorous sport. It is important to have a relatively healthy cardiovascular system, which includes the heart, lungs, veins and arteries. Smokers, people who are morbidly obese and those who don’t exercise may find themselves out of breath quickly when running. Anyone who decides to engage in running should already be in relatively good shape. To get there, start by walking several times per week, and gradually increase speed and distance. Always check with a physician before starting any exercise program.

Consider whether your day-to-day nutrition is optimal. Protein helps provide the foundation to support healthy muscle function. Make sure your intake of this essential macronutrient is more than adequate. Whey or pea protein powder supplements added to a liquid are an easy way to boost protein intake.

Historically, it was believed that people with heart failure (a condition in which the heart fails to adequately pump blood) should rest and avoid strenuous exercise. However, more recent findings indicate that heart failure patients can benefit from a regular form of exercise, and staying physically active is recommended.2 In fact, a 2019 meta-analysis concluded that patients with heart failure experienced improved functional capacity with regular treadmill exercise.3 It should be emphasized that individuals with heart failure should discuss their exercise options with their cardiologist before starting any new exercise program.

Running Heart Rate

It’s recommended to stop to take one’s pulse periodically when running, especially when feeling out of breath to the extent that carrying on a conversation isn’t possible. Fitness trackers can measure heart rate and transmit the information to other devices. Or, wear a watch with a second hand and measure beats per minute the old-fashioned way.

Average maximum heart rate and target heart rate zone decrease every five years after the age of 20, according to the American Heart Association, which has a heart rate zone calculator on their website When starting a running program, aim for the lower end of the target zone, which is half of the maximum heart rate. If heart rate exceeds the target zone, try a slower pace. Regular running will help condition the body over time so that it’s possible to run faster and longer while staying within target zones.

Healthy people whose heart rate during exercise is lower than the target zone can try picking up the pace until the target zone is reached.

Is Running Good for Your Bones?

While running is a weight bearing exercise that helps increase bone density, people with osteoporosis are at risk of experiencing fractures during high impact activities such as running. The risk of being diagnosed with the disease can be lowered by engaging in regular physical activity throughout one’s life and maintaining optimal vitamin D and youthful hormone levels. Periodic testing for bone density, reproductive hormones and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D is suggested.

It’s necessary to be free of injuries that can be aggravated by running, such as those of the knees, ankles or feet. Painful conditions, such as arthritis, tendinitis or plantar fasciitis, may make running difficult. Milder forms of exercise may be better for these individuals. Runners should wear supportive footwear with good traction and an ability to reduce impact to the feet.

Related Article: Keep Your Joints Healthy During Exercise

Running on a track designed for the purpose is ideal, but not everyone has access to one. Running on city streets exposes runners to careless drivers, vehicle exhaust and hard surfaces that increase impact to the joints. Avoid major roads, slap on sunscreen, wear running shoes and a hat, and run with a buddy for added safety. Or, if your living space permits, invest in a treadmill.

Benefits of Running

Not only does running benefit the heart, bone and muscles, but like all exercise, it can benefit the brain. In fact, regular, vigorous exercise may help improve memory in older adults.5

In the analysis cited in the introduction to this post, researchers pooled the results of 14 studies that evaluated the association between running or jogging and the risk of mortality among a total of 232,149 individuals who had been followed for 5.5 to 35 years.1 They found that any amount of running was associated with a 27% reduction in the risk of death from all causes in comparison with no running, as well as a 30% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality and a 23% lower risk of death from cancer.

Benefits of Running in the Morning vs Night

While running during the evening or night may feel cooler and result in less damaging ultraviolet (UV) exposure than running during other times of the day, runners and other pedestrians are more difficult for drivers to see. Consider wearing bright colors, a reflector vest, and not running near major roads.

Additionally, some people find it hard to wind down before bed after engaging in vigorous exercise.

Benefits of Running in the Morning

Running in the early light of morning avoids the excessive UV light exposure that occurs later on and its positive effects on mood and ability to handle stress can make it a great way to start one’s day.

If you’re in good health and you haven’t tried running, it’s worth getting out there and trying it. The runner’s high, caused by the release of brain chemicals known as endorphins, is no myth.

“Push the limits,” advised Sanjay Gupta, MD, in his book, Chasing Life. “Chasing life is hard work. Challenge yourself with some strenuous exercise.”6

At the end of the chase, longer life could be your ultimate destination.

About the author: Dayna Dye has been a member of the staff of Life Extension® since shortly after its inception. She has served as the department head of Life Extension® Wellness Specialists, is the author of thousands of articles published during the past two decades in Life Extension® Update, Life Extension Magazine® and on, and has been interviewed on radio and TV and in newsprint. She is currently a member of Life Extension’s Education Department.


  1. Pedisic Z et al. Br J Sports Med. 2019 Nov 4.
  2. “Lifestyle Changes for Heart Failure,” American Heart Association. 2017 May 31.
  3. Gerlach S et al. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2019 Nov 15. pii: S0003-9993(19)31370-X.
  4. “Know Your Target Heart Rates for Exercise, Losing Weight and Health,” American Heart Association. 2015 Jan 4.
  5. Kovacevic A et al. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2019 Oct 30.

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