Anti-aging is very hot. Supplement companies capitalize on that trend today.
And yet, anti-aging goals are also as old as humanity. For centuries, people have not only been speculating about an alchemical process to transfer ordinary metals into gold but also on how to achieve eternal life. Different religious and spiritual backgrounds also have ideas about "eternal youth".
Today, hair coloring, creams, and powders promise that you look good into your 80s. But how about internal anti-aging?
Well, fortunately, as of late supplement companies have been offering stacks that purport to slow down the aging process.
You may think: "do these supplements live up to their hype?"
Let's find out:
In this blog post, I'll review a product called "Thrive Gold" that is specifically designed to affect the aging process.
I'm reviewing the following anti-aging supplement:
The bottle advertises vitality, longevity, and anti-aging.
And I fully get it: if you knew for sure that you'd be granted 3 or 8 years additional lifespan by taking this supplement, it's more than worth the price, right?
Let me explain:
Thrive Gold costs $125 per bottle and around $110 with a subscription (note, discount code FERGUS knocks 15% off these prices). So if you've got 50 years of life left, that's $66,000 over the course of a lifetime in USD, assuming you continue using the supplement.
$66k for living a couple of years longer is an absolute steal.
But should you?
Let's find out. I'll start
I'm a pretty young guy (33 years of age) so I'm not the best test subject to try Thrive Gold. Nonetheless, I did use this supplement for 2 weeks and I experienced... nothing.
Is that a feature or a bug?
Well, it's very hard to notice the effects of some of the ingredients at my age. Nicotinamide Mononucleotide, one of the primary ingredients in this stack, for instance, is most helpful once you get older.
Ubiquinol, a premium version co Coenzyme Q10, is recommended once people hit 30 years of age. But I may simply not have been deficient in this compound.
Other compounds like R-ALA and glutathione may affect detoxification processes but may have less of an effect if your toxic load is already very low (which it is in my case).
The bottom line?
I don't feel anything when using Thrive Gold. And yet, that's not necessarily a problem either as long as anti-aging benefits can be expected.
An analogy to understand that principle is taking a multivitamin. If you take a multivitamin, you may not perceive anything obvious either but if the ingredients are working then you are getting results. Same for anti-aging formulas!
So to consider that topic let's hop to the scientific review of this anti-aging stack's ingredients:
Below I've reviewed all 6 ingredients in Thrive Gold from a scientific perspective:
I've written a long guide on vitamin B3 a few months ago so fortunately I'm very well read up on this subject.
Since a few years, two different versions of that vitamin have created quite the hype in the health community. I'm talking about "nicotinamide riboside" (NR) and "nicotinamide mononucleotide" (NMN), which both are purported to slow down aging and increase your overall energy levels.
The main mechanism by which these vitamin B3 versions increase energy production is by affecting something that's called "NAD+".
Now, no longer think that it's not immediately clear whether NR or NMN is superior to the more regular vitamin B3 versions, nicotinic acid and niacinamide.
When I wrote the epic blog post on megadosing NR and NMN, I thought NR was superior. But a few months after publishing that blog post, new studies emerged questioning the superiority of NR (4; 5). Other NR studies, however, do show benefits (6; 7; 8; 9)
My conclusion now?
To get more clarity, much more research is needed.
How about NMN? I didn't think the form was any superior to the more regular vitamin B3 forms because it's not absorbed intact -- unlike NR (10).
But hey, even if you did think NMN was superior to NR and should be included in Thrive Gold, then there's another problem: dosing.
Only 125 milligrams of this vitamin B3 compound are included. Many studies do show additional benefits at much higher doses though, often approximating 1,000 milligrams. Yes, I'm fully aware that 100 - 150-milligram doses are frequently used in supplements. But the question is whether a 125 mg NMN dose is optimal.
I think the dosage is very far removed from optimal.
(One counterargument exists that I'll treat at the end of this section.)
Takeaway: including nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) instead of nicotinamide riboside (NR) is defensible based on the scientific literature in 2020. However, 125 milligrams of NMN is almost certainly underdosed if you're aiming at maximum effects.
Very interesting ingredient choice -- which I became accustomed to with Awakened Alchemy, the company producing Thrive Gold.
L-Ergothioneine is a variation on the far more regular L-histidine amino acid (11). Amino acids are building blocks of proteins.
The L-Ergothioneine compound does seem to protect against oxidative stress in several studies (11; 12; 13; 15). Oxidative stress signifies the production of "free radicals" that are produced as a byproduct of energy production.
Free radicals wreak havoc over time and are neutralized by antioxidants -- although free radicals also have important functions inside the body.
Most of the studies investigating L-Ergothioneine are carried out in foundational laboratory experiments or animal studies.
Some human studies do exist though (14; 15; 16; 17; 18). I'd like to see many more trials on this compound before including it into an anti-aging stack. I'd also like to see more justification as to why specifically a 2.5-milligram dose is the right one - as very little research exists on that topic.
Takeaway: L-Ergothioneine is a very interesting choice for an anti-aging supplement that's somewhat speculative. The compound is not clearly supported by the science yet, although potential anti-aging mechanisms do exist.
Glutathione is the "master antioxidant" in the human body. Recall that antioxidants protect your body against the damaging effects of (excess) free radicals. Free radical damage almost certainly speeds up the aging process and free radical damage is one of the prominent theories out there explaining why most organisms age.
Some evidence exists that "S-Acetyl Glutathione" is taken up better than regular Glutathione (19).
The more you need to rely on glutathione, the worse your overall health becomes. So if you're exposed to lots of air pollutants, chemicals from personal care products, are eating lots of processed foods, then your body is either unable to produce sufficient levels or needs to rely on glutathione too much.
I am still very skeptical of the beneficial effects of supplemental oral glutathione, even if it's the arguably better absorbed "S-Acetyl Glutathione" form. I strongly suspect that regular glutathione is not absorbed intact through the digestive system, for instance.
Takeaway: reasonable ingredient that has tons of scientific backing. However, the question is whether one should supplement with glutathione.
First of all: my compliments to Awakened Alchemy for including one of the best CoQ10 versions on the market today: Kaneka Ubiquinol. The reason for including this specific form and not the more inexpensive and lower quality ubiquinone is that the latter works less efficiently once you're over the age of 30.
CoQ10's application has best been demonstrated for its heart health benefits. Examples of such applications are preventing oxidative stress, improving the health of your blood vessels, reducing fatigue, and lowering blood pressure (26; 27; 28; 29; 30; 31; 32; 33).
You also need CoQ10 for helping create energy at the cellular level. Some CoQ10 is endogenously created by the human body but many people are also deficient in this nutrient.
Moreover, blood flow, sugar (or carbohydrate) metabolism, hormonal health, and even reproductive fitness may all be affected by CoQ10
The dose is also reasonable. One danger with very high doses is that people end up with an excess CoQ10 -- which is possible.
Takeaway: great ingredient that will help your overall health while simultaneously affecting the aging process.
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is a compound that affects energy metabolism in the mitochondria. ALA helps the body increases its own antioxidant capacity.
R-ALA is the superior form of ALA. Hence, the Awakened Alchemy's choice of ingredients is a great one here.
ALA's effects overlap somewhat with CoQ10 in that inflammation, blood sugar levels, blood flow, and overall oxidation are all affected (34; 35; 36; 37). ALA can also help "detox" (chelate in this case) heavy metals in your body.
Exercise and cold therapy are two modalities that achieve the same mitochondria-creating result.
A 50-milligram dose is low, even when taking into account that the R-ALA version is included here. Will I hold that dose against Awakened Alchemy? No, because I think it's highly probable that a negative feedback loop exists that has unintended consequences at very high doses.
Carnitine is frequently paired with the previous ingredient I considered: ALA. As the name already suggests, you mainly consume "carnitine" from animal products.
If you're not eating any animal products, then the body can also create carnitine (but at a cost of other nutrients).
"N-Acetyl L-Carnitine" (N-ALCAR) is once again the superior form of this supplement. N-ALCAR may have benefits for your nervous system over and above the benefits you're getting from regular carnitine (41; 42; 43).
One big benefit of both the regular carnitine as well as ALCAR is that it has benefits for elderly populations even though younger people may not always benefit. Why? Simple: a couple of steps in the energy-creation process in the mitochondria rely directly on carnitine as a nutrient.
More specifically, it's fatty acid metabolism that heavily relies on carnitine (together with magnesium).
Additionally, ALCAR may inhibit some of the mitochondrial dysfunction that occurs due to aging (44; 45; 46; 47). The compound may also improve memory, learning, health of nerve cells, and other areas of your health.
My opinion about including this ingredient?
The dosage may have been slightly higher though.
Takeaway: great ingredient that almost certainly has anti-aging effects.
So that's it, a review of the 6 ingredients included in this anti-aging stack. Let's take the 30,000-foot view now:
Looking at the collection of individual ingredients I must say that I'm impressed. Awakened Alchemy has chosen ingredients that are not obscure and all have at least some scientific backing.
My biggest issue is that some of the ingredients are underdosed. Underdosing is a shame because many people are paying reasonable sums of money for the product and are expecting results.
One counterargument against that claim is that increasing the dosage of several ingredients could cause side-effects:
Overall, I do love the minimalist product. I think other product lines in the anti-aging spaces are overshooting by including too many ingredients, some relatively obscure, such as several polyphenol products in Eternus.
(More on that comparison later!)
By now, you must be thinking: "all right, just tell me whether I should use Thrive Gold." Let's answer that question:
Honestly, the ingredient list of the supplement is reasonable. Would I rely on Thrive Gold to slow down my aging process? No...
But that doesn't mean you shouldn't either! Let me explain:
In my opinion, taking supplements should always be a supplement to an otherwise healthy lifestyle. Most people don't have a healthy lifestyle, however. Many people are almost never seeing any sunlight, are breathing in polluted air 24-7, don't exercise even though you can be finished in 15 minutes per week, and so forth.
So before should consider a $129 (without discounts) supplement it's smarter to first focus on the basics. 99.9% of people in today's society don't have these basics in place.
However, there are a few more considerations:
So that's it...
Convinced you're going to get Thrive Gold? -- or not?
Let's wrap up:
The anti-aging industry is a $200 billion market that's growing about 7% per year.
Of course, cosmetics and other "anti-aging" products still lead that market but I do think that tendency will shift over time.
For instance, many people are already getting enamored with red light therapy, for instance. Red light therapy can massively improve your skin quality and is in many ways far superior to many of the toxic cosmetics on the market today.
Anti-aging stacks such as Thrive Gold are similar in that they're trendsetters in an "internal" anti-aging trend -- beauty and agelessness from the inside instead of outside.
In that regard, I really respect Awakened Alchemy for putting this product on the market. Let's hope Thrive Gold is one product in a very long line of supplements that help humans overcome aging.
Well, I consider aging a big problem because it is one of the primary risk factors in getting almost any disease. You usually don't get chronically sick in your 20s. But avoiding chronic disease in your 80s, that's much more challenging. Age is the only differing variable in that case.
So let's end with some music: "forever young... I wanna be forever young"...
This is a post by Bart Wolbers. Bart finished degrees in Physical Therapy (B), Philosophy (BA and MA), Philosophy of Science and Technology (MS - Cum Laude), and Clinical Health Science (MS), and is currently the chief science writer at Alexfergus.com.
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