Phytonutrients: Nature’s Prescription for Longevity

In a nutshell

Colorful plants are rich in phytonutrients, which offer many health benefits—from antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to potential anti-aging effects—making them essential components to be aware of for long-term health and well-being.

  • Sulforaphane: Found in cruciferous vegetables, it has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s been researched for its potential to fight cancer and improve brain health.
  • Quercetin: Abundant in onions and apples, this flavonoid is praised for its anti-inflammatory and antiviral benefits. It’s also thought to protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
  • Resveratrol: Commonly found in red wine and grapes, resveratrol is known for its heart-protective benefits. It may help prevent cardiovascular diseases and has potential anti-aging properties.
  • Astaxanthin: A powerful antioxidant found in algae, astaxanthin is reputed for its skin-protective and anti-aging benefits.
  • Fisetin: This polyphenol, mostly found in strawberries, has the potential to remove dysfunctional cells that contribute to aging, thus promoting overall health.
  • Spermidine: Present in wheat germ soybeans, and mushrooms spermidine has demonstrated the ability to extend lifespan in simpler organisms and is being studied for its potential benefits in humans.
  • Anthocyanins: These compounds give berries and other fruits their vibrant colors and have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and potential cancer-fighting properties.

The quest for a long, healthy life is not new, but advances in science and nutrition have shed light on some compelling natural resources. One such treasure trove comes in the form of phytonutrients—bioactive compounds found predominantly in fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods. Not only are these compounds essential for optimal health, but they may also contribute to longevity.

Phytonutrients, the bioactive compounds found in plant-based foods, have been widely celebrated for their cancer-fighting properties.1 Ranjan, Alok et al. “Role of Phytochemicals in Cancer Prevention.” International journal of molecular sciences vol. 20,20 4981. 9 Oct. 2019, doi:10.3390/ijms20204981 PubMed Source However, their benefits extend far beyond that. For instance, quercetin, a phytonutrient found in onions and apples, has been shown to improve cardiovascular health by reducing blood pressure and arterial plaque.2 Garelnabi, Mahdi et al. “Quercetin intake with exercise modulates lipoprotein metabolism and reduces atherosclerosis plaque formation.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 11 22. 27 May. 2014, doi:10.1186/1550-2783-11-22 PubMed Source

These compounds offer a multi-faceted approach to health and longevity, combating a range of issues from chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes to improving mental well-being.

In this article, we’ll explore specific phytonutrients and their potential to extend longevity across multiple dimensions of health.


1. Sulforaphane

What is this? Sulforaphane is an organic compound that belongs to a group known as isothiocyanates. These are powerful substances mostly found in cruciferous veggies. What sets sulforaphane apart is its impressive range of health benefits—from antioxidant properties to potential cancer-fighting abilities.3 Mangla, Bharti et al. “Sulforaphane: A review of its therapeutic potentials, advances in its nanodelivery, recent patents, and clinical trials.” Phytotherapy research : PTR vol. 35,10 (2021): 5440-5458. doi:10.1002/ptr.7176 PubMed Source 4Houghton, Christine A. “Sulforaphane: Its “Coming of Age” as a Clinically Relevant Nutraceutical in the Prevention and Treatment of Chronic Disease.” Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity vol. 2019 2716870. 14 Oct. 2019, doi:10.1155/2019/2716870 PubMed Source

Health benefits: The research on sulforaphane is compelling. Studies show it may act as an antioxidant, combat tumor growth, inhibit harmful blood vessel development (anti-angiogenic), and reduce inflammation. Best of all, it appears to be well-tolerated when consumed, making it a prime candidate for more extensive clinical trials.

One of the appealing aspects of sulforaphane is its safety profile. Unlike some other compounds that might have adverse effects or deteriorate quickly, sulforaphane is stable and less likely to cause side effects, making it a convenient option for those looking to enhance their health naturally.

Life Extension Info: Animal studies have shown sulforaphane can increase lifespan by reducing age-related cellular damage.5 Qi, Zhimin et al. “Sulforaphane promotes C. elegans longevity and healthspan via DAF-16/DAF-2 insulin/IGF-1 signaling.” Aging vol. 13,2 (2021): 1649-1670. doi:10.18632/aging.202512 PubMed Source

Most Rich Food Sources: Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower.

Recommended Dose: Around 100–140 mg of sulforaphane per day.


2. Quercetin

What is this? Quercetin is a natural compound found in fruits, vegetables, and grains that’s becoming increasingly recognized for its potential health benefits. One area where quercetin is showing great promise is in the fight against brain inflammation and related diseases.

Health Benefits: Quercetin, a type of flavonoid, is gaining attention for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Studies have shown that quercetin not only helps reduce inflammation but also offers neuroprotective benefits—that means it can help protect your brain from damage.6 Chiang, Ming-Chang et al. “The Potential Benefits of Quercetin for Brain Health: A Review of Anti-Inflammatory and Neuroprotective Mechanisms.” International journal of molecular sciences vol. 24,7 6328. 28 Mar. 2023, doi:10.3390/ijms24076328 PubMed Source

What sets quercetin apart is its ability to cross the Blood-Brain Barrier—a protective layer around the brain. This feature allows it to guard against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

One way quercetin works is by activating a cellular pathway known as the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) pathway, which is one of the longevity pathways. This plays a role in reducing inflammation and stress in cells, making it a potentially valuable tool in fighting brain disorders.

Researchers are keenly interested in quercetin’s potential for treating neurodegenerative conditions. By helping control inflammation through specific pathways in cells (like NF-κB and NLRP3 inflammasomes), quercetin offers a promising, natural approach to managing and even preventing certain diseases.

Quercetin is a versatile player in the health arena, it also boasts antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. 7 Deepika, and Pawan Kumar Maurya. “Health Benefits of Quercetin in Age-Related Diseases.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 27,8 2498. 13 Apr. 2022, doi:10.3390/molecules27082498 PubMed Source

Life Extension Info: Animal studies suggest that quercetin can extend lifespan by improving mitochondrial function in cells.8 Pietsch, Kerstin et al. “Quercetin mediated lifespan extension in Caenorhabditis elegans is modulated by age-1, daf-2, sek-1 and unc-43.” Biogerontology vol. 10,5 (2009): 565-78. doi:10.1007/s10522-008-9199-6 PubMed Source

Most Rich Food Sources: Onions, apples, and grapes.

Recommended Dose: 500–1000 mg per day.



3. Resveratrol


What is this? Resveratrol is a polyphenolic compound known to interact with certain enzymes and signaling pathways in the body. It is found in grapes, red wine, and various berries.

Health Benefits: Resveratrol has shown various therapeutic effects, such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties. Studies have confirmed its role in improving cardiovascular health by enhancing endothelial function and reducing LDL cholesterol levels. 9Petrovski, Goran et al. “Resveratrol in cardiovascular health and disease.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences vol. 1215 (2011): 22-33. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2010.05843.x PubMed Source 10Cao, Xinyi et al. “The Effect of Resveratrol on Blood Lipid Profile: A Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Nutrients vol. 14,18 3755. 11 Sep. 2022, doi:10.3390/nu14183755 PubMed Source

Life Extension Info: Research in animal models has found that resveratrol activates the SIRT1 gene, which is linked to longevity. It also improves mitochondrial function, thereby extending the lifespan of yeast, worms, and flies in scientific studies.11 Kulkarni, Sameer S, and Carles Cantó. “The molecular targets of resveratrol.” Biochimica et biophysica acta vol. 1852,6 (2015): 1114-23. doi:10.1016/j.bbadis.2014.10.005 Cao, Xinyi et al. “The Effect of Resveratrol on Blood Lipid Profile: A Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Nutrients vol. 14,18 3755. 11 Sep. 2022, doi:10.3390/nu14183755 PubMed Source 12 Cao, Xinyi et al. “The Effect of Resveratrol on Blood Lipid Profile: A Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Nutrients vol. 14,18 3755. 11 Sep. 2022, doi:10.3390/nu14183755 PubMed Source

Most Rich Food Sources: Red grapes, red wine, blueberries, cranberries, and peanuts are among the richest sources of resveratrol.

Recommended Dose: The dose varies, but 250 to 500 mg (up to 1000 mg) per day of resveratrol is generally considered safe and effective for most adults, according to clinical trials.

4. Astaxanthin


What is this? Astaxanthin is a naturally occurring carotenoid pigment. It is synthesized by plankton, algae, and certain plants and fungi.

Health Benefits: Astaxanthin has remarkable antioxidant capabilities, shown to be 10 times more potent than other carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin in combating oxidative stress. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and can help improve vision and skin health.13 Donoso, Andrea et al. “Therapeutic uses of natural astaxanthin: An evidence-based review focused on human clinical trials”.” Pharmacological research vol. 166 (2021): 105479. doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2021.105479 PubMed Source

Life Extension Info: Preliminary studies suggest that astaxanthin can combat oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction, two significant contributors to aging.14 Alugoju, Phaniendra et al. “Health benefits of astaxanthin against age-related diseases of multiple organs: A comprehensive review.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 1-66. 16 Jun. 2022, doi:10.1080/10408398.2022.2084600 PubMed Source

Most Rich Food Sources: Algae Haematococcus pluvialis is the primary source of this phytonutrient.

Recommended Dose: The recommended daily dosage based on current studies is around 4 to 12 mg.

5. Fisetin


What is this? Fisetin is a flavonoid present in fruits and vegetables. It belongs to the polyphenol group and has a similar structure to quercetin.

Health Benefits: Fisetin’s antioxidant capabilities help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. It also has anti-inflammatory effects and has been shown to have neuroprotective properties in various animal studies.15 Pal, Harish C et al. “Fisetin and Its Role in Chronic Diseases.” Advances in experimental medicine and biology vol. 928 (2016): 213-244. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-41334-1_10 PubMed Source

Life Extension Info: Fisetin activates various cellular pathways that remove damaged cells, known as senescent cells, from the body. In mouse studies, removing these cells led to a significant extension in lifespan. 16 Yousefzadeh, Matthew J et al. “Fisetin is a senotherapeutic that extends health and lifespan.” EBioMedicine vol. 36 (2018): 18-28. doi:10.1016/j.ebiom.2018.09.015 PubMed Source

Most Rich Food Sources: Strawberries contain the highest amount of fisetin, followed by apples and persimmons.

Recommended Dose: Clinical trials suggest that doses up to 1,500 mg are generally well-tolerated, although most studies have not yet established an optimal daily dosage for fisetin.

6. Spermidine


What is this? Spermidine is a polyamine compound found in a variety of foods like aged cheese, mushrooms, and whole grains. It’s gathering attention for its potential in cellular maintenance and anti-aging.

Health Benefits: Spermidine is known for activating autophagy, the cell’s cleaning process. This not only helps cells function better but also contributes to better brain health and reduced inflammation.17 Madeo, Frank et al. “Spermidine in health and disease.” Science (New York, N.Y.) vol. 359,6374 (2018): eaan2788. doi:10.1126/science.aan2788 PubMed Source

Life Extension Info: Studies have found a correlation between higher spermidine intake and longer lifespan in several organisms, suggesting it may help in extending human life as well.18 Eisenberg, Tobias et al. “Cardioprotection and lifespan extension by the natural polyamine spermidine.” Nature medicine vol. 22,12 (2016): 1428-1438. doi:10.1038/nm.4222 PubMed Source It enhances cell health by reinforcing the stability of DNA and RNA configurations.

Most Rich Food Sources: Aged cheese, mushrooms, soy products, and whole grains are excellent sources of spermidine.

Recommended Dose: There is no officially recommended dose for spermidine yet, but moderate dietary intake (up to 10 mg/daily) is considered beneficial for most people.

7. Anthocyanins


What Is It? Anthocyanins are pigments that give berries, grapes, and other fruits their vivid colors. These compounds are a sub-category of flavonoids.

Health Benefits: Known for their antioxidant properties, anthocyanins are effective in reducing inflammation, improving vision, regulating blood lipids level, and potentially preventing cancer.19 Khoo, Hock Eng et al. “Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: colored pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits.” Food & nutrition research vol. 61,1 1361779. 13 Aug. 2017, doi:10.1080/16546628.2017.1361779 PubMed Source

Life Extension Info: By reducing oxidative stress, anthocyanins could play a role in delaying the aging process and the onset of diseases associated with aging. In animal models, they also demonstrated life-extension properties. 20 Chen, Wei et al. “Anthocyanin-rich purple wheat prolongs the life span of Caenorhabditis elegans probably by activating the DAF-16/FOXO transcription factor.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry vol. 61,12 (2013): 3047-53. doi:10.1021/jf3054643 PubMed Source

Most Rich Food Sources: Blueberries, blackberries, cherries, and grapes are among the richest sources of anthocyanins.

Recommended Dose: No official guidelines exist; clinical trials use a dosage of up to 300 mg/day. Including berries in your diet would be beneficial.


Important note

If you’re considering starting or changing your supplement routine, it’s always a good idea to chat with your healthcare provider first. This is especially important if you’re managing health conditions or are already on medication. Your health is unique to you, so personalized advice is always the best way forward. Stay safe and healthy!

Recap and final thoughts

Phytonutrients like Sulforaphane, Quercetin, Resveratrol, Astaxanthin, Fisetin, Spermidine, and Anthocyanins offer a wealth of health benefits. From antioxidant properties to potential anti-aging effects, these natural compounds have shown promise in enhancing overall well-being and may play a role in disease prevention. Combined with other principles of nutrition for long-term health, phytonutrients are essential compounds that boost overall well-being and fortify the immune system. As research continues, the broad and impactful health benefits of these phytonutrients are becoming increasingly clear.

References

  • 1
    Ranjan, Alok et al. “Role of Phytochemicals in Cancer Prevention.” International journal of molecular sciences vol. 20,20 4981. 9 Oct. 2019, doi:10.3390/ijms20204981 PubMed Source
  • 2
    Garelnabi, Mahdi et al. “Quercetin intake with exercise modulates lipoprotein metabolism and reduces atherosclerosis plaque formation.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 11 22. 27 May. 2014, doi:10.1186/1550-2783-11-22 PubMed Source
  • 3
    Mangla, Bharti et al. “Sulforaphane: A review of its therapeutic potentials, advances in its nanodelivery, recent patents, and clinical trials.” Phytotherapy research : PTR vol. 35,10 (2021): 5440-5458. doi:10.1002/ptr.7176 PubMed Source
  • 4
    Houghton, Christine A. “Sulforaphane: Its “Coming of Age” as a Clinically Relevant Nutraceutical in the Prevention and Treatment of Chronic Disease.” Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity vol. 2019 2716870. 14 Oct. 2019, doi:10.1155/2019/2716870 PubMed Source
  • 5
    Qi, Zhimin et al. “Sulforaphane promotes C. elegans longevity and healthspan via DAF-16/DAF-2 insulin/IGF-1 signaling.” Aging vol. 13,2 (2021): 1649-1670. doi:10.18632/aging.202512 PubMed Source
  • 6
    Chiang, Ming-Chang et al. “The Potential Benefits of Quercetin for Brain Health: A Review of Anti-Inflammatory and Neuroprotective Mechanisms.” International journal of molecular sciences vol. 24,7 6328. 28 Mar. 2023, doi:10.3390/ijms24076328 PubMed Source
  • 7
    Deepika, and Pawan Kumar Maurya. “Health Benefits of Quercetin in Age-Related Diseases.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 27,8 2498. 13 Apr. 2022, doi:10.3390/molecules27082498 PubMed Source
  • 8
    Pietsch, Kerstin et al. “Quercetin mediated lifespan extension in Caenorhabditis elegans is modulated by age-1, daf-2, sek-1 and unc-43.” Biogerontology vol. 10,5 (2009): 565-78. doi:10.1007/s10522-008-9199-6 PubMed Source
  • 9
    Petrovski, Goran et al. “Resveratrol in cardiovascular health and disease.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences vol. 1215 (2011): 22-33. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2010.05843.x PubMed Source
  • 10
    Cao, Xinyi et al. “The Effect of Resveratrol on Blood Lipid Profile: A Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Nutrients vol. 14,18 3755. 11 Sep. 2022, doi:10.3390/nu14183755 PubMed Source
  • 11
    Kulkarni, Sameer S, and Carles Cantó. “The molecular targets of resveratrol.” Biochimica et biophysica acta vol. 1852,6 (2015): 1114-23. doi:10.1016/j.bbadis.2014.10.005 Cao, Xinyi et al. “The Effect of Resveratrol on Blood Lipid Profile: A Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Nutrients vol. 14,18 3755. 11 Sep. 2022, doi:10.3390/nu14183755 PubMed Source
  • 12
    Cao, Xinyi et al. “The Effect of Resveratrol on Blood Lipid Profile: A Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Nutrients vol. 14,18 3755. 11 Sep. 2022, doi:10.3390/nu14183755 PubMed Source
  • 13
    Donoso, Andrea et al. “Therapeutic uses of natural astaxanthin: An evidence-based review focused on human clinical trials”.” Pharmacological research vol. 166 (2021): 105479. doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2021.105479 PubMed Source
  • 14
    Alugoju, Phaniendra et al. “Health benefits of astaxanthin against age-related diseases of multiple organs: A comprehensive review.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 1-66. 16 Jun. 2022, doi:10.1080/10408398.2022.2084600 PubMed Source
  • 15
    Pal, Harish C et al. “Fisetin and Its Role in Chronic Diseases.” Advances in experimental medicine and biology vol. 928 (2016): 213-244. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-41334-1_10 PubMed Source
  • 16
    Yousefzadeh, Matthew J et al. “Fisetin is a senotherapeutic that extends health and lifespan.” EBioMedicine vol. 36 (2018): 18-28. doi:10.1016/j.ebiom.2018.09.015 PubMed Source
  • 17
    Madeo, Frank et al. “Spermidine in health and disease.” Science (New York, N.Y.) vol. 359,6374 (2018): eaan2788. doi:10.1126/science.aan2788 PubMed Source
  • 18
    Eisenberg, Tobias et al. “Cardioprotection and lifespan extension by the natural polyamine spermidine.” Nature medicine vol. 22,12 (2016): 1428-1438. doi:10.1038/nm.4222 PubMed Source
  • 19
    Khoo, Hock Eng et al. “Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: colored pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits.” Food & nutrition research vol. 61,1 1361779. 13 Aug. 2017, doi:10.1080/16546628.2017.1361779 PubMed Source
  • 20
    Chen, Wei et al. “Anthocyanin-rich purple wheat prolongs the life span of Caenorhabditis elegans probably by activating the DAF-16/FOXO transcription factor.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry vol. 61,12 (2013): 3047-53. doi:10.1021/jf3054643 PubMed Source
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