Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a magic pill we could take to help slow the aging process or at least buy us more time in life? Well, that magic pill hasn’t been invented yet, but there is something out there that shows promise toward getting there. It’s called fisetin (FISS-uh-tin), and it’s a plant pigment. There’s evidence it’s also an anti-aging compound with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immune-supporting effects—all good things. Many clinical studies are underway to see if it can help in a variety of ways beyond aging, from stroke prevention to cancer treatment. But all those studies are still underway, so it’s hard to say where it will lead. For now, what little research has been done makes it worth a deeper look.
Fisetin is a flavonol. It gives color to many different fruits and vegetables. In recent years, it’s grown in popularity, with researchers investigating its medicinal potential. Among other things, they’re interested in its ability to slow the aging process and extend lifespan, in what are called “senolytic” effects. Confused? I was, too.
Essentially, aging happens when there’s a buildup of senescent cells. They stop dividing and become damaged, then start releasing inflammatory molecules. Those attack healthy tissue and contribute to age-related diseases like osteoporosis, cancer, and strokes. Getting rid of the senescent cells calms inflammation, improves physical function, and increases lifespan in animals.
Researchers know certain plant compounds can destroy bad cells without harming healthy ones. Of those compounds, studies show fisetin as the most effective. It increases antioxidant defense. So much so, in fact, in old mice, fisetin cleared senescent cells and increased their lifespan by over 10%. In other research, fisetin extended the lifespan of yeast by more than 50%. Still, more research showed it added to the lifespan of fruit flies by more than 20%. Impressive. So impressive that these results have led to more research, including a clinical trial now underway to see if it can reduce inflammation and improve frailty and bone health in older adults. Explaining it all can get a lot more complicated, but that’s the big takeaway in my book.
Well, the easiest way to get more fisetin in your body is to increase your intake of various fruits and vegetables. Scientists measure its concentration in those foods, then express that in micrograms per gram (the list below is in freeze-dried food, so keep in mind the amounts may vary in fresh fruits and veggies, depending on their growing conditions).
By far, strawberries are the best source, as you can see in the list below.
Smaller amounts can be found in mangoes and cucumbers as well.
There are also now supplements on the market that are packed with fisetin, but more on that later.
So far, scientists have not found evidence of any side effects or toxicity, even when given in high doses. Keep in mind that those were animal studies, and clinical studies would still need to be conducted to confirm its safety.
Fisetin is also being studied for several other purposes, including diabetes and cancer treatments. Brain protection and mental health studies are also underway, along with treatment for depression and anxiety. Research is even underway for neurodegenerative diseases, along with protection against strokes and seizures. But we’re focusing on anti-aging here, which is a miracle enough to some of us.
The study on mice incorporated the natural product of fisetin found in fruits and vegetables. The results showed it could extend lifespan and improve health, even when given late in life. The fisetin reduced the level of damaged cells in the body (the same damaged cells that cause inflammation and release enzymes that degrade the tissue). By treating the mice with the compound, their health was improved, along with their lifespan.
The researchers said the results suggest we can extend life with this compound but also pointed out there are many questions to address, including the proper dosage. Those researchers, led by aging expert and professor Paul D. Robbins, found that the mice exposed to fisetin lived two and a half months longer than normal, or 10% longer, and experienced fewer age-related issues than the control group, even at an older age. The old mice who were given fisetin were better at making their way through a maze and recognizing objects, which translates into improved cognition and memory. The results were so positive that they drove the Mayo Clinic to sponsor a clinical trial examining the direct effects of fisetin supplementation in humans and age-related dysfunction.
In one clinical study of colon cancer patients, participants took 100 mg/day to reduce inflammation, and that amount was effective. In another ongoing clinical trial evaluating its impact on inflammation, bone health, and frailty in the elderly, a high dosage of about 1,400 mg a day for two consecutive days is being administered to people weighing about 155 pounds. That high of a dosage is not yet recommended until the study results are shared.
Strawberries are the very best food source for fisetin, with apples and persimmons following. As we mentioned earlier, supplements are an option, though they may not be the best idea at this point. Researchers are skeptical about their benefits in supplement form since it’s poorly absorbed when taken orally. That said, researchers say absorption may be increased if taken with fats, like fish oil. And the supplement users do report improvements in focus, memory, and mood.
Fisetin is promising when it comes to anti-aging and extending life. Research shows it may also have other benefits, though its effects are still unclear. There are still many questions that need to be answered, and the most important is whether the findings will show the impact on animals is the same on humans. Another deals with dosage, as stated earlier. So, before you step up your intake of supplements, be sure to talk with your physician about their potential impact. However, eating more strawberries certainly can’t hurt.