By Don Webber
Length of Days and Long Life
From time immemorial Homo sapiens has always yearned for the proverbial “length of days and long life” perhaps because it’s hard-wired in the human psyche by virtue of our God-given, genetic imprint known in Western culture as the Imago Dei—Image of God. Yes, our traditional birthday prayer and fervent hope for those we love has always been Ad Multos Annos—For Many Years.
Some scientific studies in the burgeoning field of epigenetics (nutrient control and modulation of genetic expression), however, suggest that the secret to length of days and long life may not be exclusively attributable to one’s genes after all. Longevity, it has been reasoned, is more the result of our cultural modus vivendi generally referred to as a “healthy lifestyle,” ideally characterized by such distinctives as a Mediterranean-like diet, caloric restriction, adequate hydration, sound sleep, sunshine exposure, periodic physical activity (e.g., walking, if nothing else), drug avoidance, sound mind, emotional balance, meditation, and dietary supplementation.
Well, so much for genetics alone as an excuse for mainstream medicine’s anti-aging antagonism and unreasonable rejection of “preventive medicine” in favor of “early detection,” rejuvenation research and nutritional/herbal therapies for longevity and life extension.
Seniors and Senility at Sixty
In January 2006 an estimated 77 million American “baby boomers” (1946 – 1964) turned sixty. This generational milestone begs the question whether these senescent seniors will succumb to early senility. Speculation has it that these well-heeled, sixty-something seniors will seek to delay “the way of all the earth” by taking their healthcare into their own hands. Many healthcare “experts” so-called, however, predict the proliferation of a “longevity for sale” mentality and marketplace in today’s internet-savvy, consumer-driven healthcare era.
Also expected is a veritable explosion of increasingly popular “nutraceuticals” so-called including natural (organic and raw) foods, food-sourced vitamin/mineral multiples, and a seemingly infinite number of discrete dietary supplements from astaxanthin to zinc. In brief, the proverbial “Fountain of Youth” has never been sought after so seriously as by today’s 21st century boomer generation. Will it prove to be a boom or bust?
Nutrient Depleted Diets
Ten years ago a popular book, provocatively titled Death by Diet, and many others since that time have made the case for diet-induced, boomer deterioration as evidenced by their bad eyes, bad ears, bad teeth, bad hair, bad breath, bad hearts, bad bones, bad nails, bad backs, “bad” cholesterol, low to no libido, and ultimately untimely death. Yes, common sense informs us that we most certainly are what we eat and metabolize. To think and act otherwise does not make for a happy and long life as evidenced by our increasingly deplorable healthcare statistics.
Make no mistake about it, nutrient insufficiency or even worse frank deficiency will eventually trigger physiological dysfunction, disease and death in the end. The Standard American Diet, aptly tagged with the acronym SAD, and its resultant obesity epidemic especially with the youngest among us is in fact America’s saddest running “healthcare” story.
That diets loaded with junk or ersatz food, processed and promoted by Big Ag for the past 60 years plus, are altogether nutrient-negative is simply a no-brainer. But even healthy diets devoted to otherwise nourishing fruits, vegetables and grass-raised meats—sorry PETA and vegans—are no longer what they used to be given their source, viz., mineral and trace element depleted soil and their chemicalized fertilizer and pesticide environment.
Contrary to contemporary evolutionary theory, the biblical narrative presents the human being as having emerged from the humus, that vital organic component of the soil, which is also required to sustain human life by the vital and plentiful plant life it provides. Another no-brainer?
Nutrient Depleting Drugs
An equally, if not an even more insidious detriment to a senior’s health and well-being, is allopathic medicine’s FDA approved and physician assisted, “standard of care” practice of polypharmacy—pharmaceutical drugs for every diagnosis and disease. While some drugs—think man-made, alien molecular entities—may admittedly sometimes deliver some in extremis seniors from death’s door, there should be no place for an ever increasing and life-threatening drugging of our seniors, especially those in “assisted living” facilities, which for all intents and purposes are sadly tantamount to what could be called “assisted dying” homes.
Consult the Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook (and Dr. Ray Strand’s Death by Prescription) for a comprehensive “Beta-Carotene to Zinc” listing of nature’s nutrients known to be nuked by man’s medicines. Those vital substances include: bifidobacteria, biotin, carnitine, chromium, coenzyme Q10, iodine, lactobacillus acidophilus, magnesium, molybdenum, potassium, silicon, vanadium, and all the fat-soluble (A,D,E,K) as well as the water-soluble B (1,2,3,5,6,12) vitamins, not to mention good old vitamin C. Good God! No wonder our seniors are dying before their time. And we dare call it “healthcare” instead of what it really is—drug care? Whatever happened to the popular mantra “Just say no to [pharmaceutical] drugs”?
Nutrient Defining Diseases
Despite the many scientific and technological advances in conventional allopathic medicine in recent years, there is today perhaps no other factor as demoralizing and utterly devastating to baby boomers than autoimmunity more commonly referred to as “autoimmune disease”—the number one enemy of longevity and anti-aging healthcare. As its name suggests, this malicious malady for which there is no conventional “cure” causes the body’s immune system to betray the boomer by launching and sustaining a self-destructing assault upon the body chemistry with usually crippling results.
For many seniors any autoimmunity disease such as Alzheimer’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Celiac Disease, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Crohn’s Disease and Lupus Erythematosis to name only a few can become a merciless killer. Dietary and clinical nutrition alone offer hope for the prevention and “cure” of these nutrient defining or related conditions. Thankfully, both the ancients and today’s naturopathic-minded physicians and clinicians subscribe to the timeless principle of Vis Medicatrix Naturae—The Healing Power of Nature, and prescribe accordingly.
On-going research and clinical trials have repeatedly proven the therapeutic efficacy of sunshine and its supplemental substitute, Vitamin D, in the prevention and treatment of innumerable diseases including those of an autoimmune nature such as MS, the debilitating neuromuscular disease on the rise in the Western world. Other substances shown to be effective in preventing and/or ameliorating this condition and others include: proteolytic (protein digesting) enzymes such as bromelain and papain, essential fatty acids such as EPA and DHA, minerals such as magnesium and iodine, polyphenols such as curcumin and resveratrol, and the B vitamins especially B12 in its active, methylcobalamin form.
Herbal therapy for MS often includes such notable medicinal botanicals as ginkgo, green tea extract (ECGC), olive leaf, and milk thistle, while dietary therapy often includes such well-known Omega 3 & 6 essential fatty acid oils as fish, flax, and evening primrose.
Antioxidants for Anti-Aging
According to current scientific research, boosting the body’s levels of natural antioxidants such as enzymes could be the anti-aging key to “length of days.” The proven and potent life-extension properties of the antioxidant enzyme catalase, for example, functioning in concert with another important endogenous enzyme called superoxide dismutase (SOD for short), work together to scavenge and neutralize so-called free radicals—highly destructive “rusting” agents (technically known as “reactive oxygen species” or ROS for short), responsible for accelerated aging especially within the graying boomer community. Don’t old folk often look like they’re rusted?
Innumerable foods and herbs function as amazing antioxidants including ashwaganda, astragalus, bee propolis, colorful, carotenoid-rich berries, garlic, ginsengs, oregano, spirulina, and turmeric not to mention—believe it or not—dark beer and red wine (as well as black coffee and green tea) for stress reduction and a longer and happier life. As a matter of fact, the feisty and beloved internet doc, William Campbell Douglass II (MD), recently praised beer as a “health food” because of its bona fide health benefits.
This author’s youngest son, himself a new MDeity (thank you Charlie Brown) in Preventive Medicine with the USAF, commenting on the Douglass report, confirmed: “He’s right. Study after study shows that moderate alcohol consumption decreases all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. And it doesn’t matter which type of alcohol. It’s probably the anti-coagulant and cholesterol modification effects of the alcohol itself that helps. If you want more proof, check out the . . . graph from a meta-analysis of 34 articles published in Archives of Internal Medicine in 2006.” Some doctors get it.
The take home message for seniors (and juniors too): take anti-aging antioxidants for promoting the proverbial “length of days and long life.”
Rejuvenation and Renewal
Our culture’s seemingly relentless progression from discomfort, distress, dysfunction, disease and decay to an ultimately untimely demise is simply the result of an unhealthy lifestyle and its devastating effect on both body and soul—bigness of body and smallness of soul. Indeed, physical and metaphysical malnutrition is most certainly an increasingly deadly combination especially for seniors.
To reverse direction, to recover from this death-dealing syndrome, to rejuvenate our dead-tired bodies, and to renew our lives we must get back to the basics of diet and dietary supplements as needed. In short, a broad-spectrum, applied clinical nutrition solution is required to maximize our immune response to the wide variety of acute and chronic challenges that plague our 21st century boomer community.
As an old wholistic doctor friend and mentor has long emphasized, “The road to [healthcare] success is always under construction—and always a toll road. Nutritional modulators are required to fix, patch, repair and mend the road more traveled.” And for seniors the most cost effective preventative for keeping on the road and out of the ditch is by nutritional supplementation with a broad-spectrum, food-based, vitamin/mineral multiple—daily.
Science and Supplements
Research out of UC Berkley in late 2007 validated what nutritionally-minded healthcare professionals have been clinically proving and demonstrating to be true around the country and abroad for much of the 20th century, namely, that nutrition works, just as the research paper’s title assures us and all those with healthcare ears to hear and minds to believe—the “Use of Multiple Nutritional Supplements Found to Be Beneficial to Health.” Duh!
Just before the turn of the millennium, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition echoed the Hippocratic dictum delivered some 2,500 years earlier: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food” by stating unequivocally that “vegetables and fruit and their constituents are potent effectors of biological systems in humans.” Yes, sometimes science does make some sense, believe it or not, and confirms what has been known for millennia.
Seniors and Supplements
To begin with, it must be emphasized that dietary supplements are intended to supplement the diet—another no-brainer for sure. As famously mandated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), they are not in and of themselves intended “to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.” Amazingly to its credit, the government’s Department of Health and Human Services supports dietary supplementation by asking this simple question: “Even if you eat a wide variety of foods, how can you be sure you are getting all the vitamins and minerals, and other nutrients you need as you get older? Supplements and fortified foods may also help you get appropriate amounts of nutrients [emphasis added].” Imagine that!
In the interest of full disclosure on the other hand, the conventional medical establishment is also well-known for its traditional and relentless trashing of dietary supplements “. . . widely used by older adults, even though the effectiveness of these supplements in preventing illness is questionable” according to a recent “Best Evidence Review” of the subject in terms of “Mortality Rates in Older Women” reported by Medscape just last month.
Senior Multi-Vitamin/Mineral Supplementation
As noted earlier, in addition to a healthy balanced diet, a daily, food-based, broad-spectrum, vitamin/mineral multiple will serve seniors well in their pursuit of a disease-free, active life well beyond their sixties and seventies.
Conventional multi-vitamin/mineral products, however, comprised in the main if not entirely of synthetic isolates, are not food-based, and therefore cannot deliver the health benefits of a whole food supplement—naturally. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts in terms of the synergy and potency of whole foods and food-based supplements such as those manufactured by highly respected companies such as Garden of Life, MegaFood, and New Chapter, to mention only three among many.
Whole food-based supplements can be described as “phytonutrient complexes” typically comprised of probiotic-cultured vegetables, fruits, whole herbs, and herbal extracts of organic origin to the extent possible. Only such natural products provide genuine dietary supplementation, not to say, however, that vitamin and mineral isolates have no place in applied clinical nutrition for targeting specific nutrient deficiencies associated with any number of common physiological dysfunctions and diseases. Foods are complex organic entities comprised of both known and unknown factors; food supplements should be too. One of the early 20th century nutritional pioneers, Dr. Royal Lee, employed this accommodated use of Scripture to explain the infinitely complex nature of food: “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” It’s another no-brainer!
Seniors who take care of themselves by “living out” all or most of the basic lifestyle principles can truly benefit from whole-food supplementation for general as well as for specific healthcare objectives. Such plant-based formulations provide not only the major minerals and vitamins, but also the many trace elements and other substances of innumerable categories in their proper bioactive forms for optimum absorption and metabolic utilization including but not limited to: an array of amino acids, co-enzyme B vitamins, cholecalciferol D3, methylcobalamin B12, methylfolate, bioflavonoid complexed vitamin C, vitamin E tocopherols and tocotrienols, chelated minerals and little known trace elements.
PubMed Central of the National Library of Medicine offers a treasure trove of scientific research including randomized blinded studies and human clinical trials which validate the therapeutic efficacy of dietary supplementation for senior men and women. Aging seniors need not worry about the health of their bones, breasts, eyes, hearts, memories, prostates—or cholesterol. Why? Medicus Curat, Natura Sanat—The Doctor Cares, but Nature Heals.