Is Ergothioneine the Next Longevity Vitamin? How ErgoActive® May Promote Healthier Aging by Fighting Back on Internal Cellular Damage
As a potent and naturally occurring antioxidant, the compound ergothioneine is touted as the next “longevity vitamin” on the block. Due to its relatively low consumption in the typical American diet — we’re not exactly known for eating chicken liver, tempeh, and oyster mushrooms every day — several longevity-focused companies have bottled up this supposed anti-aging compound.
One such product is ErgoActive® by Sundita, a USA-made supplement company that independently validates and tests all of their products for potency and purity. Containing 10 milligrams of ergothioneine per two-capsule serving, ErgoActive® might be the newest supplement to consider adding to your anti-aging arsenal. Let’s take a closer look at how ergothioneine may be able to support healthy aging, from diminishing cellular damage to dulling inflammation to potentially delaying cognitive decline.
First Things First: What is Ergothioneine?
Ergothioneine is an amino acid — a building block to proteins — that is synthesized by bacteria and fungi, leading mushrooms to be the primary dietary source of ergothioneine. Although other commonly consumed foods contain the amino acid, like kidney beans and oat bran, the dietary consumption of foods rich in ergothioneine tends to be relatively low. Therefore, our intake of ergothioneine from foods is inadequate, as it’s estimated that Americans consume less than 1 mg per day of the compound. But, ergothioneine can also be produced through synthetic processes and consumed as a supplement.
Ergothioneine Eases Internal Cellular Damage
Ergothioneine’s leading claim to fame is its ability to fight oxidative stress — the buildup of inflammatory and damaging molecules called free radicals or reactive oxygen species (ROS). With its oxidation-fighting capacity, ergothioneine is classified as a powerful antioxidant that mitigates the damage that these molecules can cause to cells, DNA, and proteins.
Both oxidative stress and inflammation can make our cells age faster and our bodies more susceptible to age-related diseases, partly because these conditions shorten our telomeres — the protective endcaps on the tips of our chromosomes. Similar to how plastic casing protects the tips of a shoelace from fraying, telomeres protect our cells’ chromosomes from damage and dysfunction, but they do shorten with each cell division. With this gradual shortening that will eventually reach the end of its rope, so to speak, telomeres can be used as a proxy for biological age — a measure of how quickly your cells, organs, and tissues are aging.
One recent study using cells exposed to oxidative conditions found that ergothioneine treatment significantly lengthened telomeres and reduced the percentage of shortened telomeres after eight weeks. Treating the cells with this longevity vitamin also boosted the activity of telomerase — the only enzyme that maintains telomere length.
As studies have shown that people with shorter telomeres have both shorter lifespans and an increased risk of chronic diseases, many longevity researchers search for ways to protect telomere length with age — and one such method may be with ErgoActive® ergothioneine.
The Health-Enhancing Effects of Ergothioneine
Ergothioneine may also promote longer healthspans — the years of life lived without developing chronic disease — through its antioxidant and inflammation-fighting abilities. As oxidative damage from ROS and free radicals has been implicated in many age-related diseases, it’s thought that ergothioneine’s strong antioxidant capacity may be able to mitigate some of this internal dysfunction.
One study found that not only do blood ergothioneine levels tend to decline in humans with age, but they drop more rapidly in people with cognitive impairment. As ergothioneine is known to pass through the restrictive and protective blood-brain barrier, it’s thought that low blood levels of the compound are a risk factor for developing neurodegenerative diseases.
Other research has looked at how ergothioneine levels relate to mortality. In a study looking at levels of 112 compounds in the blood of 3,200 Swedish adults, ergothioneine exhibited the strongest connection with reduced mortality — higher levels of the compound markedly reduced the risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular-related mortality, or developing heart disease at all. As oxidative stress and inflammation are driving forces of cardiovascular disease — the number one killer in our country — higher levels of ergothioneine could be a protective mechanism against this exceedingly prevalent condition.
The Future of Ergothioneine in Healthy Aging
From attenuating telomere loss to alleviating oxidative damage, ergothioneine’s potent antioxidant abilities have led researchers to coin the compound as the next “longevity vitamin.” With high purity standards, ErgoActive® by Sundita provides a simple way to boost your circulating ergothioneine levels. Although clinical trials in humans are needed to definitively state if supplemental ergothioneine can promote longevity or reduce the risk of age-related disorders, the preliminary cell-based and correlational studies show promise for this amino acid’s role in healthy aging.
Beelman RB, Kalaras MD, Phillips AT, Richie JP Jr. Is ergothioneine a 'longevity vitamin' limited in the American diet?. J Nutr Sci. 2020;9:e52. Published 2020 Nov 11. doi:10.1017/jns.2020.44
Samuel P, Tsapekos M, de Pedro N, Liu AG, Casey Lippmeier J, Chen S. Ergothioneine Mitigates Telomere Shortening under Oxidative Stress Conditions [published online ahead of print, 2020 Dec 7]. J Diet Suppl. 2020;1-14. doi:10.1080/19390211.2020.1854919
Smith E, Ottosson F, Hellstrand S, et al. Ergothioneine is associated with reduced mortality and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Heart. 2020;106(9):691-697. doi:10.1136/heartjnl-2019-315485