The rationale for supplements
I have been taking supplements for nearly 30 years. I started down the path after I experienced my father dying of lymphoma, my mother getting bladder cancer and my brother getting another form of cancer. This didn’t happen all at one time but more evidence built as each incident occurred.
I realized I was not blessed with the best genes.
My father and mother also had heart attacks and about 25 years ago I learned that I had a very low HDL in the low 20s and my Cholesterol was over 200, so my ratio was 11:1 instead of the much more desirable 3:1 ratio.
I worked very hard like a lot of people do and got sick all the time. If a cold went around I got it and usually as bad or worse than others. My immune system was not good.
After I discovered that my Chol/HDL ratio was so out of wack I realized I was on track for a heart attack possibly. I decided to be proactive. I knew that we didn’t know enough to be sure to prevent cancer or heart disease but I decided I would at least make an attempt to change the outcome my family had gotten.
HDL and Heart Disease
I started researching ways to raise HDL. From what I read there were 4 ways to raise HDL and lower my chol/HDL ratio.
- Plant Sterols
Niacin is by far the most powerful way to raise HDL. That is true today. While the drug companies have produced some drugs which can raise HDL to my knowledge the most effective oral method is still niacin. It is certainly the cheapest.
There are several ways to ingest niacin and not all of them work the same. I have discovered this through trial and error and reading about the issue. For a while I took a lot of Inositol niacin which is a form bound to the chemical inositol. Unfortunately, what I found and read is that this prevents this form of niacin from getting into the blood stream and liver. There is also slow release niacin marketed by several companies. This form of niacin avoids the dreaded “flushing effect” but it also is very ineffective compared to good ole Niacin B3 – nicotinic acid. I could see this in my blood test results.
In the end I have been taking nicotinic acid for the last 20 years and it works awesome. I don’t know the exact number but it has probably doubled my HDL number. Further use of 2,3,4 above has added another 30% so that overall I now have a 3:1 ratio of chol/HDL. My HDL has tripled through this effort.
If you decide to go down this route contact your doctor. Also, slowly build up the niacin level. Then be consistent. Your body adjusts and the flushing effect goes away if you consistently take it. If you stop then you will face acclimation again.
This is the most direct proof that my supplements work. I get blood tested 2 times a year and vary my recipe 3 times a year. I study the blood results and recipes to determine if things are working staying in line.
I must note that for many years my liver enzymes were elevated because of the niacin. After a few years I discovered that silymarin was associated with helping the liver. After I started taking silymarin my liver enzymes restored to completely normal. Proof again that the supplements do actually have real effects.
How did I feel?
I have noticed that I feel a lot better. This is obviously subjective but I felt like I was healthier. I actually seemed to feel a sort of heaviness in my arteries before I started taking supplements like this. After taking these supplements I felt a lightness, like my blood was flowing freely. I realize this sounds fake but there is a sense of healthiness.
It is important to note that because of the effects on the liver you should be getting regular blood tests if you take niacin. You should do this anyway if, like me, you want to be proactive about your health.
Since there is such a predominance of cancer in my family I determined this was another area I would focus.
The problem is that there are no blood tests I can get other than say PSA which detect anything about cancer. I get colorectal screenings of course but essentially cancer is tricky and it is unclear what if anything can prevent or cause it.
There are many theories how cancer gets started. One theory says that repeated infections causes inflammation which damages the DNA in cells affected by this inflammation. It has been determined that inflammation is a strong marker of cancer and heart disease.
The HPV virus for instance infecting women’s ovaries eventually causes cancer it is believed from the repeated inflammations and fights the body undergoes. I don’t understand exactly how inflammation damages DNA but apparently it does because of the clear association.
One way to target Cancer: Aspirin also works for Heart disease
Many studies have shown that Aspirin is good for reducing the incidence of cancer. Aspirin among it’s affects reduces inflammation. You need to take > 250mg of Aspirin to get a anti-inflammatory effect. Most suggest 325mg.
Similarly heart disease also has been shown to be greatly affected by aspirin. There are at least 2 reasons for this. One is that aspirin thins the blood which means that when a blockage happens less thick blood is less likely to be impeded by such blockage.
The more important effect of aspirin is likely its anti-inflammatory effect. The reason is that we figured out that most heart attacks happen because an infection in the arteries or other blood paths causes inflammation which causes the plak on the walls of the arteries to be disrupted. This plak might not be a problem ever but when the blood vessel wall is inflamed and distorted the plak flakes off sometimes in big enough chunks to cause a heart attack. This is why gum health has been associated with heart disease too because many infections of the blood happen from the mouth area.
Thus Aspirin is a powerful effect on both heart disease and cancer the two biggest killers of Americans. The effect is so great that I believe aspirin is a good idea for almost everybody. The AMA agrees that when you consider both the benefits for cancer and heart disease aspirin may be a generally good idea for almost everyone who has any risk of these things. It’s important to consider other things so don’t take my advice alone but consider what your doctor has to say. Generally I think they wouldn’t have a problem taking aspirin.
It is important to know that if you take aspirin for its blood thinning, anti-inflammatory effects you should not take Advil or ibuprofen. Any day you take ibuprofen will neutralize the aspirin benefits for 2 or 3 days. This has been shown in studies pretty clearly. If you take ibuprofen there is no point in taking aspirin.
Other Cancer Prevention Ideas
Several other things seem to have good evidence at helping with cancer prevention.
Vitamin D3 has been shown in studies to reduce cancer incidence and recivitism dramatically. Up to 30% reduction. It is the single most significant thing you can do besides aspirin to keep cancer at bay. D3 has numerous positive effects.
One theory of how D3 might help with cancer is it boosts the immune system. The immune system does detect cancer at times. If the body has experienced a certain cancer then clearly a stronger immune system would boost your ability to resist recitivism.
In any case D3 is something many people in America are probably low on because of our avoidance of the sun. Even in California I rarely get a lot of sun. I avoid it because the sun has negative effects on the skin. So, it is likely if you try to keep your skin healthy you are getting insufficient D3. D3 in large quantities can be a problem so I take a moderate dose of between 1,000-2,000 mcg.
Another well studied supplement is EGCG (Green Tea.). Several studies have been shown that Green tea taken at about 10 cups a day or more inhibits cancer along the entire gastrointestinal tract including mouth, throat, stomach, colon cancer. A good dosage of Green Tea is about 240mg/day.
After these the evidence is sketchy.
With heart disease there are tests of various types. With cancer this is really scary because there is no real way to know if what you are doing will work. I look forward to more and more tests coming out to detect cancer earlier through simple blood tests.
The purpose of supplementation
It’s important to note that my idea of why supplementation may be different than yours.
I believe the body has a lot of repair mechanisms to keep itself in good working order. At the same time there is also clearly a program that seeks to kill you. 🙂
Frankly, from a human evolution point of view there is no good reason for you to stay around much long after your children reach adulthood. For evolution to work and improve the species it needs humans to die off and the new variants to try to survive. Having you hanging around consuming resources of the tribe after your kids can fend for themselves is pointless.
The body has at least one mechanism for doing this. The telomere caps on all your DNA decrease by one every time your normal cells divide. This effectively is a life counter and measures the age of the cells. As the telomeres fall off this seems to trigger different programming in the DNA.
The DNA is composed of tightly wrapped spools of base pairs. Much of our DNA is inactive. A lot of our DNA (98%) is not genes but is another form of coding recently discovered called epigenetic programming. This programming tells when to activate different proteins to be produced from the gene blueprints.
We don’t understand precisely but much of our DNA is dormant. After all a lot of DNA is used to build a human in the first place. We wouldn’t want that DNA functioning forever. Yet it must be there to be replicated and delivered to a new baby so it can repeat the programming. So, when the DNA is activated and why it is activated is a mystery. Somehow the body knows when to activate some genes and produce certain proteins.
Some parts are inactive early in life and become active as we get older. Clearly there seems to be some program that eventually kills us. It might be very specific thing the DNA does or it could be as the telomeres fall off that the DNA replication process during the cell division process becomes more error prone. The errors then lead to cancer or other bad copying that results in poorer functioning.
In general the DNA is incredibly accurate in its replication process. Numerous DNA repair mechanisms are documented. It is incredibly sophisticated. It is clearly not that somehow the cell tires of reproducing or that it can’t do it. We can take old cells and turn them into stem cells which do not lose telomeres and they keep functioning and reproducing ultra accurate copies over and over. So, the cell and the body does not have to degrade. But it does.
Keeping your telomeres at a certain length may prevent cancer or even extend life. Recent research leads us to think that cancer is a dysfunction of stem cells. We have seen in stem cell research that stem cells we play with become cancerous easily. This has prevented stem cell research from making the big gains many people originally desired and believed would happen.
Stem cells are magic cells that can become many different types of cells and reproduce infinitely without error (generally). They are what goes into producing a new baby so they are able to create a new human being as good as the previous generation and new as if it was a million years ago. This is remarkable.
What we know:
When a baby is born it is given a pristine set of DNA. What is amazing is that the animals such as us evolve in a positive direction. It seems quite possible that errors in the DNA and random combinations could lead to lots of problems and that over time the number of errors and problems would multiply but in fact the opposite occurs. Even after thousands of generations and all the radiation and other harmful effects from the environment and the errors of division process the new babies DNA is as good as the DNA of a baby 1 million years ago. Just think about that.
I am not sure we fundamentally know why this is but it is remarkable that a kid is born and has this DNA that produces effectively a highly perfected creature who can run and swim and learn things generation after generation with no obvious degradation of the species over time.
Apparently there are error correction algorithms that are quite sophisticated and lots of repair mechanisms built into the DNA coding to allow people to essentially be perfectly functioning for a long time. For some reason as we age our DNA doesn’t seem to work as effectively.
The aging process
Somehow after age 25 approximately the body seems to go downhill. There is no obvious reason why this has to be the case. The body clearly had the ability to build the body to the age of 25 to the level of operation and capability that it has. So, why would it start erroring? Is it an accumulation of errors, but if that is the case why wouldn’t our progeny suffer degradation from generation to generation?
The body seems to have the mechanisms to keep itself in top shape and similar to a 25 year old but after a certain point seems to have decided to stop doing this. It is a slow process of degradation and it could be a subtle combination of purposeful DNA programming and accumulation of debris between cells.
If the process of aging is essentially a natural process literally encoded in our genetic code then we are likely screwed. If we can trick the body into thinking we are 25 by artificially somehow extending telomeres that is one way that might have of circumventing the program.
Another approach is that we have found not everyone seems to age the same. If there is this program it doesn’t work the same in everyone. Some people live to 100 or more. Others die in childhood.
The people who live long have had their DNA studied and so far one of the main things we’ve noticed is that genes that get activated by drinking red wine are the same genes we see that are active in old people > 100. In other words these genes (called the sirtuin genes) are very active in healthy people who live long lives.
People who live long lives are extraordinary. Many times these people have exercised no obvious care of their bodies. Some may even smoke, eat red meat etc. It’s apparent that their DNA is able to repair the damage from the insults of normal day to day living better than other people.
This means there is coding in the DNA to fix a lot of things. It’s apparent that these people may have special genes or that these genes are activated in different way than other people so that these repair mechanisms are invoked all the time.
Look at Donald Trump. He is typical actually of a lot of people like this who were born with good genes. People like him can eat terrible food, smoke, drink, never exercise and they still live to 90. Nothing seems to make a difference. Their bodies simply repair whatever insult they throw at them.
Their genetic code can differ from other people in only minor ways. So, it must be the case that most of us have the programming to invoke the same repair mechanisms.
So, the good news is that our bodies have the ability to repair almost any insult. The question is do we know how to trigger the right genes and do we supply ourselves with nutrients needed to perform the repair processes. Our genetic code may not automatically trigger the right genes but we may be able to force those genes to be activated.
Vitamin D might fall into the latter category of raw material needed. It may provide some chemical help for immune cell function. Red wine or Resveratrol may trigger gene activity that causes repair operations to proceed. Or it may be the case that if your genes don’t have the programming to repair or maintain you are screwed and no amount of activation will work.
What does all this mean?
I have known all this for a long time. What this all says is that the body has repair mechanisms built in but may need certain chemicals to facilitate repair. We also may need to supply chemicals that trigger activation of certain genes that trigger repair. But the good news is the body can produce a highly functioning 25 year old body that can run a mile in 4 minutes or figure out the structure of the universe. Fooling the body to keep repairing and keep the body always repairing is something we don’t know but we can experiment and learn. The goal is to figure out what the genes do that repair and see if we can fool the body into thinking it is younger.
Day to day consistency is critical
Every day the body undergoes massive damage. We have invaders trying to suck off us. We have chemicals that have bad and positive effects. We suffer injury just going around and doing things. The body can fix all this as I’ve shown. In order to do that it has to have any chemicals it might need.
This is more than Vitamins. Vitamins are chemicals we have found that if you don’t ingest them regularly will kill you. The body can’t make them and they are mandatory to function. That is an incredibly small percentage of all the chemicals the body uses and we don’t know what all the things the body needs to make all the chemicals it needs. There are nearly 100,000 chemicals in the body and we don’t understand what they all do, how they are made, what you need of each one and when. That is what the genetic epigenetic code must do.
If your body doesn’t have some core elements it may not have enough to do what it needs and repair may not happen today. That’s one of the central premises. If you want repair to work it has to have what it needs. It may in some cases be able to manufacture those chemicals but in doing so sacrifice some other function. We just don’t know. The presumption I have is that we give the body a plethora of chemicals in hopes it will have what it needs.
Consistency and Disease
That is why consistency is important. A disease is the accumulation of damage to the point that you recognize it at a macro level. By the time the damage is enough for you to notice it the damage must be very severe. The repair of that damage may be beyond the ability of the body to repair.
Medicine therefore is the application of technology to arrest the damage but not repair the damage fully. This is rare that the damage can be fully repaired by medicine. Usually by the time you notice the damage it is so great that you will never fully recover. Medicine is the application of technology to limit the damage but it doesn’t prevent the damage from occurring in the first place which is the most important thing. That’s the problem with western medicine today.
So, the idea of prevention is to prevent the damage from ever getting to the point you notice it. Yet, not noticing it means you can’t tell if you are helping or hurting. It’s a conundrum that determining what is good steady state and what is on a path to disease is not clear. If you could tell it would mean it’s probably already caused too much damage.
Let me say this more simply. We want to keep the body repairing and in balance. The problem is we don’t have the tools to detect if we are in balance and if the repair mechanism is working until the process is so far out of kilter that massive damage has occured and is almost never completely repairable anymore.
Medicine traditionally therefore is not intended to really prevent disease but to save you after you have sustained massive damage. It would be vastly better to keep the body from getting so much damage.
Therefore, repairing damage every day is critical because a day the body doesn’t repair is a day your body has aged another day or proceeded to disease and you didn’t know it. That’s why I believe consistency is important.
If anything we are doing is going to work it has to be consistent and daily. You can’t take something for a month and think I’m doing good. Unlikely you have done anything with any short term thing. Be consistent. Do it everyday or don’t bother.
What will keep the body repairing?
I think this is what eastern medicine is trying to do. In some cases eastern medicine is used like regular doctors in trying to solve a disease but in general the idea seems to be that over the last 5,000 years we think people who ate this did better. It is about keeping and restoring balance which to me translates to the body is repairing.
That’s the kind of information we are looking for. So, my recipe is designed to be providing my body with nutrients so it can repair or to activate genes which trigger repair mechanisms. I use these for long periods of time unless I see studies or evidence they don’t work or are negative.
I applaud the effort of Eastern Medicine but without a scientific methodical process it is impossible for this to advance and it might take 5,000 years for eastern medicine to make any advance. So, it’s not good enough and much of it may be crap but we should consider if something in there could be good advice.
Other evidence – Immune System
Numerous studies have been done on a lot of supplements. A lot of them are low quality but we can say affirmatively that supplements have an effect. As I have shown with niacin what you eat absolutely affects the way your body operates.
I have other evidence. I am 100% certain my body’s immune system functions vastly better than it did 25 years ago. I cannot be entirely certain what is doing this but I can be certain of this because I did seem to get sick all the time and I no longer do. This could be related unfortunately to any number of supplements or even exercise.
I have tried to eliminate this down to a set of supplements. There have been times when I have reduced my supplements. During these times I notice that I get sick again. So, I can definitely say it is supplements boosting my immune system. My main candidates that boost it:
Pycnogenol (Pine bark)
Resveratrol or Pterostilbene
These are the supplements longest on my recipe lists. Other supplements may have added to the effect but they aren’t the main reason because I added them more recently or I have stopped other things and started them and there was no change in resistance. So they didn’t affect it.
Overall, there are supplements that have a profound effect that you can feel or see in blood tests or for which there might be strong evidence.
For instance, I have recently found the amazing substance of baking soda. Studies have shown that it has a dramatic effect on testosterone. Testosterone supplements are the most expensive supplements out there and in my experience the most problematic. It is extremely hard to get a consistent boost in testosterone. You can pay for a hyped testosterone booster that costs $3/day and have no effect.
Baking soda on the other hand is virtually free. It boosts testosterone consistently and reliably. I get little empty pills from Amazon and pour the baking soda about 1.5g / pill and take 2 a day to get about a 30% boost. I have also just poured a teaspoon full roughly into a palm and downed it. It works and boosts libido in men and women. Why would such a thing be a secret? Why wasn’t this known a long time ago.
Other Good ideas
There are supplements I am taking now which don’t fall into that category. It is harder to identify the exact day to day benefit.
One I have a lot of confidence in is Omega3. Many many studies show Omega3’s have impact on heart health, mental function and other things, even immune system.
Another supplement I can highly recommend is: Ginko Biloba. I have tested this over and over and I definitely find my memory and mental function is better when taking Ginko. You need to take at least 240mg of it. That’s the dose I take.
I highly recommend soluble fiber especially from oats. Oat fiber in particular raises HDL and lowers cholesterol and improves function throughout the digestive tract. I take 4-6g of fiber in pills everyday.
More speculative stuff
I also take stuff after I’ve read about them and the science.
These things I cannot identify a specific benefit I feel today or can document in blood tests.
Garlic has been associated with a lot of positive things. It is cheap and easy to take.
Elysium – Basis – NAD+ – NAD+ is associated and been shown to increase precursors to mitochondrial function. It is widely believed and makes a lot of sense that as we age our mitochondria might not function as well or even be programmed to not function as well. Since this is the source of the energy for almost all cell functions there is logic to say that mitochondrial function would be critical to keeping the body repaired.
Unfortunately, I cannot say definitely I have noticed anything. The only thing I have noticed recently that is very positive is that I have generally a predisposition in my family to some auto-immune disease. My father had it and all my brothers have arthritis progressing in some way. Since my brothers are older it is instructive to ask them what is happening. (Sorry guys but I am just lucky to be the youngest.)
Since taking Basis I have noticed the arresting of some joint pain I was having in my fingers that was very arthritis like. Since taking it my finger flexibility has climbed and I feel no aching or pain. It’s quite a positive development. It could be related to Garlic which I also started taking at the same time which I don’t believe or the Ashwaganda which I also have been taking.
Here is another idea: Circubrain – Longvida. Numerous studies have come out on Tumeric. I started taking it several years ago but the Longvida form is 7 times more bioavailable. I highly recommend this but I can’t ascribe any known benefit. Yet studies show lots of benefits.
I do take Glucossamin / Chronditon for joints. That seems to work and I have stopped and started and it does seem to make a difference for me.
I have also been taking PQQ based on some studies. I can’t say I find it is doing anything yet.
Here is my recipe. It is a Google spreadsheet.
The following sheets are accessible:
Recipe: This is my actual recipe with number of pills taken when.
Supplements: These are the supplements I have studied or tracking my dosage of.
Products: This is a laundry list of the various supplements I have tried at different times (I don’t take many of these anymore.)
How do I do this? The mechanics of taking supplements regularly.
In order to make taking these things consistent I use a regimen. Every 4 months I produce containers that have a morning and evening recipe. It is important to put supplements which provide energy into the morning recipe or you won’t get to sleep at night. 🙂
First, I go through my recipe and make any adjustments I feel are appropriate. I usually concentrate my studying of the latest science around this time. This may happen a month or so before I am going to run out of the last recipe.
I analyze what I am currently taking and consider alternative suppliers. I look at the market and then purchase the supplements needed after looking to see what I currently have in stock and what i need. I try not to have more than a little beyond what I need for this period because they do degrade. Some people may feel 4 months is a long time but I think it works fine in my experience.
With Amazon you can frequently setup subscribe and save with a 4 month schedule for supplements and get a 15% additional discount. If you get an Amazon credit card you get an additional 5% discount.
I do this in advance so the vitamins arrive around the time I am going to run out of premade recipes. Using this system I have all my supplements ready when I run out.
I get these 1″ x 2″ clear plastic bags from Amazon that hold a morning or evening recipe. Since it is hard to make a lot of these baggies I also use pill containers that are moisture and air sealed.
You can find such containers on Amazon with from 3 to 21 or more pill containers. It is important that they be moisture and air sealed because many vitamins will degrade faster if exposed to those conditions. I also save the moisture packets from the supplement bottles. I put these in the baggies and the pill containers in each receptacle. This seems to preserve the supplements very well.
The baggies are for when I go out to eat or when traveling. You don’t want to take a big pill container thing that might spill open or be inconvenient. Baggies are much easier to keep around for this purpose but for daily morning or evening the sealed pill containers are better and easier to load.
My recipe costs over $1000/year. Is this exorbitant? In my opinion that’s a ridiculous question. We spend vastly more to take care of our cars than our health. My medical insurance is hugely more than this.
Even if the effects are speculative in many cases it is worth it in my opinion.
There is a well known financial idea that you invest a little into highly speculative investments because if those hit you make huge benefits for small cost. A similar theory holds here. I don’t know if these things are going to save me from cancer or a heart attack but if they do then for a small fraction of the cost of these diseases and with the benefit of having all those years of disease free health there is no other payback even a million dollars that would be comparable.
Some people might argue that the supplements themselves could cause problems. There is evidence some supplements contain contaminants. Some may actually work against us. I keep up with the research and eliminate things that are shown to be ineffective or negative. Vitamin A was one such supplement. Many years ago it was found that people who took vitamin A and were smokers had a higher incidence of lung cancer.
To prevent problems with the supplements themselves being contaminated I use and subscribe to Consumer Labs. I highly recommend anyone sign up for this service as they test supplements and provide lots of useful information.