One of the largest lifestyle studies in the history of medical research was recently completed. It was sponsored jointly by the US National Cancer Institute (a government agency) and the Association for the Advancement of Retired Persons (commonly known as AARP). It involved over half a million Americans who completed surveys and were followed for 9 years.
The results showed that higher consumption of whole grains correlated with a lower risk of dying- from all causes- including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and even respiratory diseases- in both men and women. Overall, men who ate whole grains regularly had a 23% lower risk of dying than men who avoided whole grains, and women had a 20% lower risk concomitantly. But concerning cardiovascular disease by itself, men saw a risk reduction of up to 56%, while women saw up to 59% less risk.
The authors attributed the results mainly to whole grain fiber, and they even found that whole grain fiber was more protective against colon cancer than other kinds of fiber, including fruit and vegetable fiber.
They also made note of the high antioxidant content of whole grains, particularly their sky-high polyphenol content. Polyphenols are protective compounds found in plant foods. They contribute much more antioxidant activity than the more familiar vitamins, such as C and E.
The researchers said that their study offered superior statistical integrity, noting that previous studies suffered from small sample sizes, narrow ranges of dietary fiber intakes, and inadequate controls for confounding factors.
I just finished reading a biography of Howard Hughes, and I would like to comment about the health aspects of his life. Unfortunately for him, the health aspects of his life are what people remember most about him- his becoming an eccentric, deranged recluse, obsessed about germs (while paradoxically neglecting his own personal hygiene) and sinking into ever-worsening mental illness. The medical consensus is that he suffered from severe Obsessive/Compulsive disorder, but that medical term did not exist during his lifetime. And towards the end of his life, he may have become paranoid schizophrenic. But rather than labeling him, it’s more important to figure out why he sank into such severe mental illness.
Some of it began early. The obsession about germs he inherited from his mother. She would frantically remove him from a school or summer camp because of sudden fear of his contracting polio or other disease. Some of his early obsessions seemed peculiar, but relatively harmless. For instance, peas were one of the few vegetables he would eat, but he only liked small ones. Large peas he considered inedible, and he invented a device by which he could measure the size of peas and separate the larger ones from the smaller ones, and he carried it with him always. However, the same obsessive/compulsive nature that sparked his early quirks and eccentricities also drove his larger ambitions: to become the greatest aviator, the greatest industrialist, the greatest film mogul, and the richest man in the world. He succeeded on the grandest scale in becoming one of the most influential and impactful figures of the 20th century, not only in spite of his obsessive/compulsive nature but probably because of it. A normal person would never even have conceived of doing the things that he did.
Howard Hughes was gifted. I would say that he was one in a million, but that would be a gross understatement. He was one in a hundred million, and I am speaking of his ability to grasp and learn and get things done. Formally, he had little education beyond high school. He took a few classes at a Rice University in Houston, and he sat in on some classes at Cal State Poly, but once his father died when Howard was 18, he took control of the Hughes Tool Company and that was the end of his formal education. Yet, he was intricately involved in the technical aspects of his many inventions- as much so as the scientists and engineers he employed. He was truly a genius and a visionary- as much so as Thomas Edison and Nicholas Tesla. And if his mental illness had not advanced, his productivity would probably have continued for many more years- to his and the world’s benefit.
So, the question is why did he deteriorate mentally and so badly? Here are the reasons.
First, as a young man, he contracted syphilis. It’s not known for sure how he got it, but he did consort with a lot of prostitutes early on. And it wasn’t the usual kind of dalliance. He hired them, not so much for his gratification, but to teach him sexual techniques. He decided that he wanted to become the greatest lover of all time and bed every beautiful Hollywood star and starlet, and he very nearly did it. But, without wanting to go off on a tangent, I have to say that syphilis is rather like AIDS in that the exact nature of the disease is controversial. And the treatment of syphilis, even during Howard Hughes’ time, was extremely harsh. Howard Hughes was treated with mercury and arsenic! Can you imagine? I have to wonder to what extent his brain damage was due to syphilis and to what extent it was due to the treatment he received for syphilis. One thing is for sure: the treatment did not help him.
Second, he suffered a total of 14 crashes, and that's including automobile and airplane. We could add a 15th head injury- the time that Ava Gardner clobbered him over the head with a heavy metal statuette, which landed him in the hospital. His worst accident was the crash of the experimental XF-11 spy plane. That time, a head concussion left him in a coma for days, and he very nearly died. He broke almost all his ribs and had other fractures, including a skull fracture, plus a collapsed lung, and he was badly burned over much of his body.
Third, as a direct result of the above accident, he started taking opiates and other drugs for pain, particularly codeine. He resisted it at first. He prided himself on being a clean liver. He never smoked, and he abhorred smoking, even among his women, including Katherine Hepburn. He drank alcohol socially, but he was never an alcoholic, and he eventually gave up alcohol completely. He never used recreational drugs, such as marijuana and cocaine, which were popular in Hollywood, even then. In the end, codeine addiction debilitated him as much or more than anything else.
Fourth, he was a lifelong insomniac. At first, he did not take drugs for it; he just stayed up. But eventually, he began taking Seconal (which is a harsh barbiturate, no longer in common medical use) and Librium (which was the very first benzodiazepine). Howard Hughes is another good example of the fact that, as bad as insomnia is, it’s better to live with it than to take drugs for it.
Fifth, and finally, Howard Hughes deteriorated because of subterfuge and chicanery. He came to rely on one William Gay who put together the so-called “Mormon Mafia” which comprised Hughes’ inner circle in his final years. They kept him dangerously plied with Codeine, Librium, and Valium all the time, precisely to control him and his vast empire to their own benefit. After Hughes' death in 1976, criminal charges were filed against members of the Mormon Mafia by the government of Mexico (where Hughes was living at the time of his death) and by at least one state government (Nevada). But nothing came of it other than some fines. No one did any jail time. The final coroner’s report revealed that Hughes died of: codeine poisoning (there was enough codeine in his system to kill 5 people) starvation (he was well over 6 feet tall and weighed only 90 pounds) and kidney failure (which was undoubtedly caused by the drugs).
So, what are the health lessons to be learned from the life of Howard Hughes? One, pick your parents wisely because his mother, like him, suffered with mental illness; Two, stay away from prostitutes and unsafe sex; Three, protect your noggin; Four, don't rely on drugs for sleep no matter how bad it gets; Fifth, be wary of doctors, because the fact is that the Mormon Mafia could not have laced Hughes with drugs without prescriptions; licensed medical doctors were involved, just as in the cases of Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Judy Garland, Anna Nicole Smith, Heath Ledger, and so many others. And finally, don’t trust anybody with your health. Always be in charge of your own health. Some things you delegate. Your health, you don’t.
This time I will complete my review of Dr. Donald Miller’s personal supplement program.
Vinpocetine- This is an herbal extract that increases cerebral blood flow. It also has other protective effects on the brain. Typically, people take 20 mg/day. Dr. Miller takes 40 mg/day. I have not been taking any lately, but only because of C&T. I don’t dispute that it is beneficial.
Chlorella- Dr. Miller takes 1000 mg/day. I have taken green products in the past, including Blue Green Algae and Chlorella, but lately I have not been taking any, and it’s partly because I have fresh greens from my own garden.
IP-6- It’s interesting that he takes this because it is actually a form of phytic acid that occurs in whole grains and legumes. Some pundits, such as Dr. Mercola, condemn soy because it is high in phytic acid, and here Dr. Miller is taking phytic acid (1020 mg/day) as a supplement. I don’t take it, but I do eat whole grains and legumes without fear.
Curcumin- This is the active ingredient from turmeric, and Dr. Miller takes 1500 mg/day. I take 500 mg of our optimized turmeric supplement called Longvida. Turmeric may be the most broadly beneficial herbal substance in the world. It has vast, proven benefits to prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes, brain aging, and more. That’s why it’s on my Daily Supplements page.
Quercetin- This is a valuable bioflavinoid that occurs in fresh produce. Besides having powerful antioxidant effects, it strongly inhibits allergic reactions without any adverse effects. Dr. Miller takes 500 mg/day. I am not taking any quercetin at this time, but only because of C&T. I am all for quercetin. Note that white-fleshed foods are high in it, such as apples and white onions.
Grapefruit seed extract – Dr. Miller takes 125 mg/day for its anti-microbial properties. I do not take it. I suppose I might if I had microbial issues.
Horsetail- Dr. Miller takes 440 mg/day. I know we put it in our Vein Support Formula because it helps build collagen and strengthen the walls of blood vessels. I don’t take it only because I don't particularly need it.
Hesperidin- Dr. Miller takes 250 mg/day to increase capillary strength. I don’t take it. It’s abundant in citrus, and I eat plenty of citrus.
Goldenseal- Dr. Miller takes 470 mg a day for its immune-boosting effect. I do not take it. Again, you can’t take everything.
Saw Palmetto and other prostate herbs- Dr. Miller takes them and so do I. I take our ProstaCol formula which was designed by Dr. Ward Dean.
Probiotics- These, of course, are the beneficial intestinal bacteria. Dr. Miller takes them every day- a 20 billion cell formula. I only take them occasionally, perhaps once or twice a week. I don’t think I need to take it every single day because I’m not doing anything to hurt my intestinal flora, such as eating refined carbs or drinking alcohol.
Fucodin-This is a brown seaweed which is taken mainly as an immune booster. It has other health benefits, and we do offer it, but I have not been taking it. Dr. Miller takes it in liquid form, 1 oz daily.
Lithium- Dr. Miller takes lithium aspartate in an amount that delivers 20 mg of elemental lithium. Lithium, a mineral, is a mood elevator and nerve stabilizer. And it’s very possible that lithium is a required mineral for humans. We offer it in the form of lithium orotate, which is very safe and effective, but I have not been taking it.
Amygdalin or Laetrele- This is so-called Vitamin B-17 derived from apricot pits. It has a small dose of cyanide, which supposedly targets cancer cells. Despite the cyanide, it is not known to be harmful to humans, and I believe that. Cyanide occurs in other foods as well, particularly lima beans. An apricot kernel is like a bitter almond, to which it is related. Dr. Miller takes 100 mg/day. I don’t take it.
Melatonin- Dr. Miller takes 6 mg/night of this nighttime hormone. I typically take 1.5 mg/night, by taking two of VRP’s .75 capsules. The health benefits of melatonin go far beyond helping with sleep.
And that does it! Thank you for your patience. You can see that Dr. Miller is most definitely a nutritional supplement enthusiast. I realize that it’s more than most people would be willing to take, and not just because of cost but because it’s a lot of pills and capsules to swallow. But, believe it or not, there is actually one supplement that I take that Dr. Miller does not take, and that is benfotiamine. Benfotiamine is the fat-soluble form of thiamine, which is Vitamin B-1. Benfotiamine is known for being an anti-glycation agent. For at least 20 years, it has been used widely in Europe to both treat and prevent diabetes. Diabetes runs on both sides of my family. My paternal grandfather had it so bad that before dying in his 60s, he went completely blind and lost both his legs. So, I take one benfotiamine capsule a day. But, it’s the only thing I take that is not also on Dr. Miller’s list.
Thank you again for reading this. We will go on to a new subject next time, which will be by reader’s request: back pain.
You probably realize that back pain is one of the most ubiquitous complaints, provoking more doctor visits than any other symptom. I have been asked to comment about the role of diet and nutrition in back pain. But first, I want to emphasize the major role of biomechanics in the origin of back pain. The spinal column is a machine, a very complex machine, and like all machines, it has to be used correctly. Unfortunately, there is very little awareness of the proper use of the back, even among health care professionals. I was fortunate to be introduced to the Alexander Technique when I was in my 30s, and I feel that it has helped me greatly in my life. I am now 60, and I have no back problems at all- not the slightest bit of pain. And I am very active, exerting myself in both work and play. So, getting the biomechanics right is the first requirement for a healthy back, and I know of nothing better than the Alexander Technique.
But in regard to diet and nutrition, there are two effects to consider. First is the whole issue of weight. It’s easy to see how excess body weight can strain the knee joints and lead to premature degeneration of that joint. Well, it’s the same for the back. So, the role of a healthy diet in maintaining a healthy weight becomes paramount.
And the second issue relating to diet pertains to the quality of the circulation. Intervertebral disc degeneration is very common. We hear about “slipped discs” but that is a euphemism. There is no way for a disc to slip out of place. It doesn't slip, rather, it crumbles, much how a rotten tree stump crumbles. It “slips” only because its tissues have degenerated. You might say that the disc is dying. Why is it dying? It relates to the fact that there is very poor circulation in a spinal disc. It gets most of its nutrition and drainage by diffusion. The number of blood vessels is so few that as soon as arterial disease sets in, nutrition to the discs suffers greatly. What I am saying is that just as it is said that impotence may be the first sign of heart disease in a man (even though it is far removed from the heart), likewise intervertebral disc disease may be a sign of cardiovascular disease as well. It’s easy to see why smokers have a very high incidence of spinal disc disease that is 3X greater than non-smokers. They choke off the circulation to their discs with every drag of their cigarettes.
So, if you want to avoid back problems, first, learn how to use your back correctly, and the state-of-the-art method for doing that is the Alexander Technique. Second, get lean and stay lean because it reduces pressure on your back. Third, don’t smoke. Fourth, eat a diet that keeps your arteries clear and your blood flowing, which, to my mind, means a plant-based diet emphasizing fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes, and not much of anything else. And let’s face it: if you eat an ample amount of all of the above-mentioned foods, you are not going to have much room left (in your stomach) for anything else. After all, how much food can you eat? Maybe occasionally eat a good piece of fish- if you can get it. Maybe, occasionally, have a free-range, organic egg. But these, and all other animal foods, should be limited. Make plant foods the vast bulk of what you eat. That’s what I do. And my back is strong. Strong like bull.
We continue our review of Dr. Donald Miller’s personal supplement program. I must admit, he takes a lot of supplements.
Vitamin E- Dr. Miller takes 800 IUs a day of full-spectrum Vitamin E, which includes alpha tocopherol, mixed tocopherols, and the tocotrienols. I take a similar product from VRP called E Team, which provides 240 IUs/day, also full-spectrum. Again, I will point out that my personal supplement decisions are affected by cost and tolerance for taking pills, and I’m sure that’s true for most people.
B-Complex- Dr. Miller takes a “B-Complex 50” which provides 50 mgs each of the various B vitamins, that is, most of them. My Extend Core Multi provides B vitamins in much smaller doses, but still multiples of the RDA. His B-Complex formula also contains 400 mcg of standard Folic Acid, but in addition, he takes 1 mg of methyltetrahydrofolate (MTHF). I prefer to take just MTHF because it is the only truly natural form of folic acid. It’s found in my Extend Core Multi in the amount of 400 mcg.
Vitamin B-12- Dr. Miller takes 1000 mcg of Sublingual Methylcobalamin every day. I use the exact same product, but not every day. I take it, on average, about 3X a week. Methylcobalamin is definitely the best form of Vitamin B12 because it is better utilized by the brain than any other form.
Vitamin C- Dr. Miller takes 3000 mgs/day in buffered form. I take only 400 mg as contained in my Extend Core multi. However, I also eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, and I figure that between diet and supplements, I am getting at least 1000 mg/day of Vitamin C, which is still over 10X the RDA. I’m content to get that much Vitamin C on a regular basis, and I am confident that it’s giving me the lion’s share of the benefits from Vitamin C.
Calcium - Dr. Miller takes 562 mg calcium per day from coral calcium. I am getting just 150 mgs from my Extend Core multi. And that’s all I want in supplement form. I’m wary of taking too much calcium. For one thing, we know that calcium turns off the activation of Vitamin D, and I want my Vitamin D activated. For two, we know that calcium often winds up in the wrong places, such as in the joints and in the arteries. It’s calcium that makes hardened arteries hard. Of course, I do want strong bones. But, I assume I am doing well enough in that respect, and I base that on two observations: 1) I’m doing well with my teeth, which are just specialized bones, and 2) I’m retaining my height. If I’ve lost any height at all, it’s no more than a small fraction of an inch, and that’s not bad for a 60 year old. And, I would rather err on the side of less then more when it comes to calcium. Of course, I am a strong, solidly built man. If I were a tiny, petite little woman, I’d be inclined to take somewhat more calcium, perhaps up to 500 mg/day.
Potassium- Dr. Miller takes 2 grams of potassium a day, but I don’t take any, and I don’t get any from my Extend Core Multi either. I presume I am getting enough potassium from the plethora of fruits and vegetables that I eat.
Strontium- Dr. Miller takes a 340 mg tablet of the mineral strontium every day. I have never done that although I have suggested it to women concerned about osteoporosis. For myself, I just haven’t been that worried about it. But strontium is safe, and it does strengthen bones. And if osteoporosis becomes a concern of mine in the future, I will definitely take strontium.
Zinc- Dr. Miller takes 30 mg/day of zinc. I get just 15 mg from my Extend Core Multi. However, I also make a point of eating zinc-rich foods, particularly pecans, which I eat almost daily. It’s interesting how nuts are such extraordinary sources of minerals: brazil nuts for selenium, almonds for calcium and magnesium, and pecans for zinc. Pecans are my zinc fix, and what a delicious way to get it.
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)- NAC is a powerful detoxicant and precursor to glutathione. Dr. Miller takes 1000 to 2000 mg of NAC daily. For me, NAC is something that I take sporadically. I keep it around, and I take 600 mg/day about twice a week.
Idebenone- This is an analog of CoQ10 which enters the brain more readily than regular CoQ10. Idebenone is a powerful antioxidant. When they extract organs for transplanting, they soak them in Idebenone to preserve them. Dr. Miller takes 90 mg of Idebenone every day. I have taken Idebenone at times in the past, but I have not been taking it lately, and mainly just due to C&T (cost and tolerance).
Arginine- This is the vasodilating amino acid that is abundant in nuts. Because of its ability to dilate blood vessels through nitric oxide release, it is often included in male potency formulas. Dr. Miller takes 2000 mgs of arginine daily. I don’t take any, but I do eat plenty of nuts.
Conjugated linoleic acid- Linoleic acid is abundant in plants, but the conjugated form of linoleic acid occurs only in animal products. CLA is alleged to have an anti-cancer effect, but most people take it to lose weight, as it is supposed to help reduce bodily fat deposits. I have never taken CLA as a supplement, but Dr. Miller takes 2000 mgs a day.
Gingko biloba – Dr. Miller takes 240 mg/ day. I have taken it at times in the past, but I am not currently taking any.
Pycnogenol- This is the trade name for the proanthocyanidine in grape seed and pine bark. It is a powerful antioxidant. Dr. Miller takes 200 mg/day of Pycnogenol, and I take 100 mg of Grape Seed Extract.
Silymarin- Dr. Miller takes 1000 mg of Silymarin from milk thistle. I don’t take any, but I would if I thought I had liver problems.
Aged Garlic- Dr. Miller takes 600 mg of aged garlic daily. I don’t take any garlic, but I do use garlic in my cooking quite regularly.
Lycopene- Dr. Miller takes 10 mg Lycopene daily. I have not been taking any, but I do make a point of eating watermelon, tomatoes, and red grapefruit.
Mushroom Blend- Dr. Miller takes 2 capsules a day of a mushroom blend containing Cordyceps, Reishi, Shiitake, Tremella, and Maitake, among others. I have not been taking any mushrooms in supplement form, but, I do like eating Shiitake mushrooms.
Well, that does it for today, but we’re not finished yet. As I said, Dr. Miller takes a lot of supplements, and we’re working through the list. So stay tuned.