The risks of taking supplements and medications for longevity, from bleeding to kidney failure

The risks of taking supplements and medications for longevity, from bleeding to kidney failure
  • Supplements have become popular among longevity experts and biohackers looking to extend their lives.

  • But taking supplements isn't always safe and could harm your health.

  • Here are four things to be wary of before trying a new longevity supplement or medication.

In the race against time, some biohackers are turning to supplements in a bid to stay younger for longer. Supplements for longevity, such as vitamin D, magnesium, omega-3s, and NAD+ boosters, have become increasingly popular among the antiaging crowd.

The longevity doctor Peter Attia takes 9 supplements each morning to extend his youth. Meanwhile, the tech exec and multimillionaire Bryan Johnson says he takes 111 supplements daily.

But when it comes to supplements and medications, including those touted for longevity, more is not always better — and sometimes the risks outweigh potential benefits.

Here are four risks to watch out for before trying any new supplement or longevity medication.

1. You could risk a drug interaction

Supplements can interact with other supplements and prescription medications in potentially dangerous ways.

Bill Gurley, the principal scientist at the National Center for Natural Products Research, previously told Insider that taking supplements that have more than one ingredient was like opening a "pharmacological pandora's box."

The more ingredients a supplement has, or the more supplements you take simultaneously, the greater the risk for an adverse interaction.

Additionally, supplements can interact with your prescription medications in potentially harmful ways.

For example, magnesium can interact with antibiotics, as well as some blood-pressure medications, according to WebMD.

Omega-3 supplements may interact with blood-thinning medications and cause potentially lethal bleeding during an injury.

That's why Dr. Andrea Maier, a codirector of the Centre for Healthy Longevity at the National University of Singapore, previously told Business Insider she would only introduce one new supplement into her patients' routine at a time.

"What we do in chemistry has effects and has side effects," Maier told the reporter Hilary Brueck.

2. Supplements could be contaminated

Supplements are not regulated as strictly as prescription medications, which means what you're actually getting might be different than what's listed on the bottle.

As a result, some supplements may be contaminated with other ingredients — a problem called adulteration.

"You'll be shocked at how many weight-loss and dietary and bodybuilding supplements are adulterated with conventional medications," Gurley told Insider previously.

Additionally, the dose of ingredients listed on the bottle could be different from what's actually in the capsule.

3. Accidental overdose

When it comes to both medications and supplements, taking too much can be dangerous.

Popular longevity supplements such as magnesium can be toxic if too much is taken. Signs of magnesium toxicity can include muscle weakness, low blood pressure, and confusion.

Too much omega-3 has been linked to bleeding gums, low blood pressure, and stomach upset.

Even too much vitamin D could lead to a buildup of calcium in the heart, blood, kidneys, and lungs. In extreme cases, it has been reported to cause kidney failure.

4. Beware of side effects

Technically a medication and not a supplement, metformin is typically prescribed for diabetes but has become popular as a potential longevity drug.

But for people under the age of 40, experts say the risks of taking Metformin outweigh the benefits.

"I am horrified to learn that young people (<40) without diabetes would consider taking metformin for longevity," Nir Barzilai, the founding director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, posted on X (formerly known as Twitter).

Like most medications, metformin has side effects. In some people, it can lower testosterone and prevent muscle growth. One 2022 study also found that it harmed men's sperm in a way that could increase the likelihood of birth defects.

Correction: December 8, 2023 — An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that supplements are not regulated. They are subject to some regulation. This article has also been updated to reflect that metformin is a medication, not a supplement.

Read the original article on Insider