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How Does Your Age Affect Which Supplements You Should Take?



Many supplement products contain warnings or recommendations that aim the product at a specific demographic. Energy drinks tend to be marketed toward younger people, while joint pain supplements are primarily marketed at an older demographic.

There are two ways to think about age: biologically and chronologically.

Chronological age is the standard way of measuring time since birth. There’s no way to reduce chronological age, outside of science fiction, which is why so many marketers and news anchors focus on the other measurement: biological age.

Biological age refers to physical health, which can change with age. Losing weight, improving skin and hair quality, and elevated energy levels are all associated with a younger biological age.

Though biological age is essentially a correlation between your physical health and your chronological age, it is the most reliable way to tell what kind of effect a given supplement will have. Supplement effects are based on the current health of your body, rather than how long it’s been around. For example, many supplements aimed at older people are primarily supplements with restorative properties, meant to repair damaged tissue. These supplements would have no effect if taken by younger people, or by older people with no tissue damage. 

Effective supplements for older people

There are a lot of clichés surrounding age, so it’s not always clear what kind of health effects are actually associated with getting older.

Older people are more at risk for diseases and chronic conditions, since their lifestyle has had a chance to catch up to them. Older people are more likely to be at risk for metabolic syndrome and prediabetes, making berberine an effective supplement (though it is not as potent as prescribed pharmaceuticals, like Metformin).

Joint pain is another common complaint that manifests itself in later life. While people of all ages may experience joint pain, anti-inflammatory supplements like curcumin and Boswellia are particularly effective when supplemented by older people due to the greater severity of their symptoms.

The aging process also affects the brain. Supplements intended to improve focus and brain health, called nootropics, are more effective when supplemented by older people because many of these supplements work by repairing tissue or protecting it from toxins. If a person supplementing nootropics has very little brain tissue damage to begin with, either because they’re young or their healthy lifestyle has been paying dividends later in life, the supplement will not be very effective.

Nootropic supplements recommended for older demographics include cholinergics like CDP-choline and building blocks for neurotransmitters like fish oil and uridine. In fact, almost all noontropics, even blueberries, only tangibly exert their effects when supplemented by older people. The exception may be Bacopa monnieri, which has promising preliminary evidence for its effects. 

Effective supplements for younger people

Just like certain supplements are more effective when taken by older people, some supplements tend to be used by younger people because they are more effective or may be too potent for older demographics. These supplements include pre-workout stimulants and fat burners, as well as alcohol.

People with a low biological age tend to be able to handle alcohol with a lower risk of hangover, while older adults have to be more conservative to avoid a rough morning-after. This is true even when comparing people of different ages that are accustomed to drinking.

Older people are also more likely to experience side-effects from stimulants and pre-workout supplements. They may need to lower their dose to avoid discomfort, while younger people typically have no issues with an additional scoop of pre-workout.

For this reason, older people supplementing pre-workouts tend to prefer non-stimulatory compounds, like CPD-choline, or standard caloric options like sugar and protein. Young people, meanwhile, are more likely to use caffeine mixed with other stimulants, like yohimbine or synephrine. 

Know your limits

Age really is just a number. When it comes to supplementation, your overall health and risk of disease is a more reliable indicator of the effects of supplements like nootropics and pre-workout stimulants than how long you’ve been alive and kicking.