Let’s continue our analysis of Dr. Donald Miller’s personal supplement program.

Lipoic  Acid- Dr. Miller takes 600 mgs of Alpha Lipoic Acid and 400 mgs of R-Lipoic Acid. I only take R-Lipoic Acid. My understanding is that Alpha Lipoic Acid consists of S-Lipoic and R-Lipoic in equal amounts, but that only the R portion is usable by the human body. If that’s true, what then is the point of taking Alpha? Perhaps there is more to this than I know, but I will point out that the Life Extension Foundation, which used to recommend A-LA, now recommends only R-LA.   For a long time, there was no stable form of R-Lipoic Acid, but now there is. I honestly do not know why Dr. Miller, or anyone else, continues to take Alpha Lipoic Acid.

 

Coenzyme Q10- Dr. Miller takes 400 mgs of the Ubiquinol form of CoQ10, also known as CoQ10-H2. I also take the Ubiquinol form, but I have generally only been taking 100 mg a day.  Sometimes, I’ll take 200 mg in a day, but that is as high as I’ve gone. But, I’m all for higher dosing when there is a specific indication for it, such as with heart failure or Parkinson’s disease.  CoQ10 has become one of the most popular supplements in the world, and for good reason.  Nothing revs up your mitochondria like CoQ10.

 

Carnitine- Dr. Millers takes 660 mg of L-Carnitine and 2000 mg of Acetyl-L-Carnitine every day. I have only been taking Acetyl-L-Carnitine, 1000 mg. The difference is that the acetylated form of L-Carnitine gets into the brain more readily. Carnitine, like CoQ10, is very important to the heart, although the standard L-Carntine is just as effective there, Again, regarding dosing, it comes down to what you can afford and what your tolerance is for swallowing pills and capsules. There are no safety issues that I know of.  

 

Omega 3 fatty acids-  Dr. Miller is taking about 1000 mg each of EPA and DHA from fish oil. I have been taking about 2/3 as much, also from fish oil.  However, it’s interesting that Dr. Miller takes his in the form of Cod Liver Oil. CLO is different from standard fish  oil in that it is high in Vitamin A.  He is getting 23,000 IUs of Vitamin A from that cod liver oil, which is considered a very high dose. He is also getting 2500 IUs of Vitamin D, which brings his total Vitamin D intake to 7500 IUs. Dr. Miller says that in the form of Cod Liver Oil, and in combination with Vitamin D, that amount of Vitamin A is perfectly safe. There has been concern in recent years about toxicity from Vitamin A, and most vitamin companies have reduced the amount of pre-formed Vitamin A in their multis, including VRP. You probably know that the orange pigment beta-carotene is a precursor to Vitamin A. The body seems to be able to convert beta-carotene to Vitamin A without difficulty. Some have questioned whether we need any pre-formed Vitamin A at all, which is strictly an animal product. But, Dr. Miller believes that Vitamin A is safe and beneficial, but only when derived from cod liver oil.

We will continue looking at Dr. Miller’s program next time.

Let’s begin our analysis of Dr. Donald Miller's Optimum Supplements Program, which are the supplements that he takes, himself, every day. I will address them in the same order that he does.

Vitamin D 5000 IUs- It was Dr. Miller who prompted me to increase my Vitamin D intake to 5000 IUs. I had heard about others taking that much (over 10X the RDA), but I didn’t start doing it myself (which was a couple years ago) until I read what he had to say about it. He spoke of the immune support, the heart disease prevention (and remember, he is a cardiologist), cancer prevention, flu prevention, and more. Dr. Miller specifically recommended taking high-dose Vitamin D in lieu of a flu shot. It has worked out great for me. I sailed through the swine flu pandemic last year without so much as the sniffles. And now when they talk about it, it’s pretty much pure theater to me. I don’t worry the least bit about the flu.      

Iodine 12.5 mgs-There is much controversy about iodine.  The RDA of 150 micrograms is based entirely on the needs of the thyroid gland, but many doctors, including Dr. Miller, believe that the extra-thyroid functions of iodine in the body are just as important. These relate to immune support, breast health in women, prostate health in men, cancer prevention, and much more. Average iodine intake in Japan is 13 mgs, which is derived from all the seafood and seaweeds they eat. Dr. Miller takes one of the 12.5 mg Iodoral tablets each day. But, it’s a scored tablet, and I have been taking just half a day, hence 6.25 mgs.  Maybe it would be better to take 12.5 mg, but taking half is what I am doing right now because it suits my comfort level.   

Selenium as Selenomethionine 200 mcg- Dr. Miller has written extensively about selenium as an antioxidant, cancer preventive, glutathione precursor, immune booster, prostate protector, and more. I have not been taking selenium as a separate supplement, as he does, but the Extend Core Multi that I take from VRP provides 70 mcg of selenium, which is the current RDA. Also, I make a point of eating brazil nuts regularly. Each individual brazil nut provides about 25 mcg of selenium as selenomethionine. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that eating just 2 brazil nuts a day raised serum selenium and serum glutathione levels better than a 100 mcg selenium supplement.

Vitamin K2 as Menaquinone7-There is really no reason to take Vitamin K1 because it’s very abundant in vegetables. But, K2 is absent from vegetables and all other plant foods. Bacteria in our intestines manufacture some K2, but how reliable is it as a source? I don’t know, but it probably isn’t optimal. And K2 is very important because it controls the direction of calcium in the body- driving it into bone and keeping out of arteries and other soft tissues. Dr. Miller take 90 mcg of the highly potent MK-7 form of Vitamin K2. I have been taking VRP’s Vitamin K which provides 1 mg of K2- over 10X as much. However, it’s the weaker MK-4 form of K2, which Dr. Miller says is less effective. He may well be right because MK-7 is the most natural form of K2.  Bacteria in the gut make MK-7, not MK-4. As of now, VRP only offers MK-4, which is why I have been taking it. But, I am going to write to the head of VRP, Robert Watson, and ask him to carry MK-7.

Magnesium 900 mgs- This is a whopping dose of magnesium that he takes- about twice the RDA. From supplements, I have been getting just 150 mgs from my Extend Core Multi. Magnesium intake from food varies widely among people depending on diet. When you eat a lot of green vegetables (which have the magnesium in the green chlorophyll) plus nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes, as I do, you get a lot of magnesium. The main issue about taking 900 mgs is that it may have a laxative effect in some people. “Milk of Magnesia” is a magnesium laxative. So, as this point, I am not going to match what he is doing with magnesium. However, I am fully aware of its importance, and I do recommend high-dose magnesium to some people, for instance, those with high blood pressure.

That does it for now, but we’ll continue with Dr. Miller’s supplement list next time. Stay tuned.

For years, we have been told to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, but new research suggests that eight servings may be significantly better.  

The diet and lifestyles of more than 300,000 people across eight countries in Europe found that people who ate eight or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day had a 22% lower risk of dying from heart disease than those who ate five servings a day. But, as expected, those who ate 5 servings did significantly better than those who ate less.   

One portion or serving was considered to be 90 grams, equivalent to a medium banana, apple, or carrot.  

The average intake of fruits and vegetables in the various countries came to about 4 servings a day.

Spain, Greece, and Italy were the leaders in fruit and vegetable eating. Italian men enjoyed 7.5 portions a day, and Spanish women 6.7 portions.

Healthy eating tailed off the further north the researchers looked in Europe. UK men managed 3.9 portions a day, and UK women 4.2 portions.

Swedish men and women were the worst, with only 3.5 and 2.9 portions a day.

The researchers said that factors of cost and availability of fruits and vegetables most likely account for the differences in intake.

Stepping up from 5 servings to 8 servings a day might be seem like a lot, but lead researcher Francesca Crowe said, “Even if everyone increased their intake by just one portion a day, the impact on public health would be enormous.”

Unfortunately, the figures for the US are very poor. In 2005, only 30% of Americans consumed 2 or more pieces of fruit a day.  Regarding vegetables, only 32% of American women and 22% of American men ate 3 or more servings of vegetables a day (including both raw vegetable salad and cooked vegetables).

This scale of 2 fruits and 3 vegetables reflects the 5-a-day program. But, imagine if it were bumped up to 8. The percentage of Americans who eat 8 or more fruits and vegetables a day must be well below 10%.  And it’s trending lower because of rising food prices in the bad economy. Produce is expensive, though there is a wide spread. Bananas, for instance, are still quite cheap at fifty cents a pound. But, it wasn’t long ago that they were three pounds for a dollar. So, everything is going up.

But, I hope people will find other ways to economize than to reduce their consumption of fresh produce. It isn’t just about nutrition, as in fuel. It’s about nutritional therapeutics and disease prevention. It’s about avoiding the misery of the “medical phase of life.” It’s about staying alive. You can’t put a price on that. 

Dr. Donald Miller M.D. has just issued his annual list of nutritional supplements for optimum health. These are the supplements that he, himself, takes, every day.  I would like to go through his list, compare it to mine, and make comments along the way.

I have long been a fan of Dr. Miller. He is in a very unique position: He has one foot firmly planted in the conventional medical world and at the highest level of it, and he has another foot firmly planted in the alternative medical world.

Dr. Miller is a cardiac surgeon and a Professor of Surgery at the University of Washington Medical School in Seattle.  He is also affiliated with the Seattle VA Medical Center.  He is also involved with Doctors for Disaster Preparedness.  He is also a prolific writer, including a book on philosophy, metaphysics,  and morality entitled Heart in Hand.  Besides two textbooks on cardiac surgery, he is the author of a treatise on the management of gunshot and stab wounds of the heart which is considered state-of-the-art.  

But, in Alternative Medicine, he has been active in fighting the use of statin drugs, flu shots, vaccines in general, fluoridation, and even many of the practices and policies concerning AIDS.  And obviously, preventing heart disease is an impassioned interest of his, being a cardiac surgeon, and he has been fighting orthodoxy every step of the way.

I have never met Dr. Miller, but considering his diverse interests, vast knowledge, and his devotion to the cause of health truth "though the Heavens fall," he is someone I would prize meeting.  

But, before presenting Dr. Miller’s personal supplement list, I want to make some general comments about the use of nutritional supplements. We take supplements for several distinct reasons.

First, there are supplements we take because we know- for a fact- that we are not getting enough of them from our food alone.  Two such examples are Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D.  There is no Vitamin B12 at all in plant foods, and there are only small, variable amounts in animal foods, and there is simply no way to get an optimal amount of Vitamin B12 from diet alone.   And likewise, Vitamin D is absent from plants, and only minimally present in animal foods, and unless you live in place like Panama (or similar equatorial place) you can’t count on the sun for it either.  So you need these supplements like flowers need the rain.  And there are other supplements that, under some conditions, can come under this category.  For instance, a person with severe iron-deficiency anemia really needs iron supplements. It would take forever to get the blood count up relying on foods alone, and it may not be at all possible. But paradoxically, if you are not anemic, you have no need for iron supplements at all.     

Second, there are supplements that people take for therapeutic reasons: to get a specific and often rapid therapeutic effect.  Examples would be herbs for the prostate, melatonin for sleep, Vitamin C to fight infection, green tea to boost metabolism, and SAM-e to relieve depression.   

However, there are also many supplements that people take, and that I take, on a speculative basis.  We take them in the hope that they will help prevent disease and increase our lifespan.  There may be no immediate effect that we can discern from taking them, and we are, in fact, acting on faith. However, there is, presumably, a scientific rational for taking them that persuades us to do it. And evaluating that rational is where knowledge and judgment are needed. And that’s why I pay close attention to doctors like Dr. Miller.

Finally, I’ll point out that what we decide to take depends on several other factors besides our knowledge and judgment about what is good for us.  For instance, it depends on a thing called MONEY. Supplements cost money, and when you decide to take something on an ongoing basis, it becomes an added, ongoing expense.  There is also the factor of TOLERANCE. It’s not the most pleasant thing to swallow supplements.  As a practice, it is no different than taking drugs (although, it is, in fact, a lot safer than taking drugs).  But, a lot of people don’t like the act of swallowing pills and capsules- of any kind.  I have never heard  of Bill Gates or Warren Buffet being supplement enthusiasts, although obviously, money would not be a factor for them. But, I know that for myself, like most people, there is a limit on how much I can spend on supplements, and there is also a limit to how many I can take each day without feeling overwhelmed, and I operate within those limits.  And that is how it is for everybody.  To people who don’t take supplements at all, the amount that I take must seem like an awful lot. Yet, there are people like Dr. Miller who take much more than I do.

So, we are going to discuss all of this within the context of Dr. Miller’s recommendations, and I hope you find it interesting and valuable.  My next entry will start analyzing Dr. Miller’s list, and I suspect it will take 4 or 5 entries to cover it all. Maybe more. So stay tuned.    

I recently read: James Dean: Little Boy Lost, by his close friend, Hollywood columnist Joe Hyams.  My interest in James Dean stemmed not so much from his life, but his afterlife. He really had only one year in the spotlight, the last year of his life, 1955. That was the year he completed his three movies: East of Eden, Rebel Without A Cause, and Giant.  Yet, it has been said that his enduring afterlife has been exceeded by only two other stars: Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. James Dean has become a cult hero: the undying personification of rebellious youth.

James Dean certainly did affect people. When news of his sudden and untimely death reached Elizabeth Taylor, one of his co-stars in Giant, she collapsed and had to be hospitalized for 5 days.  And she barely knew him.

As I have done before in reviewing biographies, I want to focus on the health aspects of his life, since this is a health blog.  But, I want to start by sharing some amazing parallels between his life and that of another Hollywood legend, Clark Gable.  Both were an only child, born on a farm in rural Indiana.  Both had adoring mothers who died when they were young boys.  Both had fathers who gave them up to relatives who became their surrogate parents.  Both remained largely estranged from their fathers for life. Both were mediocre students in school, but both caught the acting bug from participating in school plays.  

However, there was one thing that distinguished James Dean’s early life from that of Clark Gable:  In high school, James Dean was molested by a trusted family friend, the local minister, Reverend James DeWeerd.  It was a sexual relationship that lasted for several years. If James Dean was traumatized by it, he never said so. And sporadically, he had other homosexual affairs after that, including a recurring one with Hollywood producer Rogers Brackett.  However, James Dean was also a ladies man, coveting some of the great beauties of his day, including Natalie Wood, Ursula Andress, and Pier Angeli.  And his romantic, emotional attachments were always with women, not men.  The times that he fell “in love” (and there were many) always involved women.  However, it does seem that bisexuality was deeply rooted in his nature.

After graduating from high school, James Dean moved to Southern California to live with father and step-mother. The plan was that he would study pre-law at Santa Monica City College, but he only did well in his theater classes. He switched to UCLA so as to major in theater, and there he did Shakespeare, taking on the role of Malcolm in Macbeth.  After that, he dropped out, hired an agent, and began his professional acting career.  

At first, he mainly did commercials (starting with a Pepsi commercial) and bit parts on television. He also got bit parts in movies, including a Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis comedy and a John Wayne war movie. However, none of these gigs paid very well, and he struggled to get by.  Then, his friend and fellow-actor James Whitmore urged him to move to New York to study at the Actors Studio, which he did. At first, he continued to be limited to television commercials and bit parts, but eventually, he starred in two Broadway shows: See the Jaguar and The Immortalist. Neither was a tremendous hit, but he, personally, received rave reviews.  

His big break came when Elia Kazan, the head of the Actors Studio, was chosen in 1954 to direct the movie, East of Eden, based on the celebrated novel by John Steinbeck. Kazan knew instantly that James Dean was perfect for the role of Cal Trask, and upon meeting him, John Steinbeck agreed.  Dean was, indeed, brilliant in it. You can’t watch that movie without reacting to the emotions of the troubled relationship between Cal and his father, and eerily, it very much resembled the relationship Dean had with his own father.  After that, Dean was a shoo-in for the role of Jim Stark in Rebel Without A Cause, his signature movie.   I, actually, did not appreciate Rebel very much. I thought his acting was fine, but I found the script and the dialogue to be cheesy and unrealistic, and the story was downright depressing.  Then came Giant, his last movie, which was still filming at the time of his death (although his scenes had been completed).  All of that happened in 1955, ending in a fatal collision on California Highway 466 on September 30.  Although James Dean was famous for his wild, reckless driving and received a speeding ticket earlier in the day, reports that he was speeding  at the time of the accident were later retracted.

But now, let’s take a look at the health aspects of James Dean’s life. First, he had good physical proportions, and he was actually very athletic.  Just think: he made the basketball team at Santa Monica College at a height of less than 5’8”.   In high school, he also played baseball and ran track. However, it was always a struggle for him to maintain his weight.  And the problem only got worse over time.  During the making of East of Eden, they had him drinking heavy cream by the quart in order to bolster his weight.  Why did he stay so thin? There were times, early in his career, that he missed meals  because of a lack of money, but that had little to do with it in the long run. And usually, there were people helping him, fronting him, and from what I can gather, he did most of his eating in restaurants.  And it was typical American food: steaks, burgers, spaghetti, etc.  So, why did his weight keep slipping?

For one, James Dean was a heavy smoker. He smoked unfiltered Chesterfields, which are up there with unfiltered Camels as the strongest American cigarettes.  Elia Kazan said that during the 9 hour flight from New York to Los Angeles in 1954 to begin work on East of Eden, James Dean chain-smoked the entire 9 hours.  Smoking does a number on your digestion.  It chokes off circulation to the digestive tract; it dries up digestive secretions, including saliva; and it indurates the membranes where digestion takes place. I realize there are smokers who are overweight, however, James Dean was the classic “ectomorph,” meaning that he was, by nature, slender, slim-waisted, long-limbed, and generally delicate and fragile.  Ectomorphs have “short guts,” meaning that they have less surface area from which to absorb food.  When ectomorphs smoke, and heavily at that, they are bound to lose weight.

For two, James Dean drank alcohol, which interferes with and retards digestion.  I know that many people believe that drinking wine with a meal aids digestion, but that is a complete myth. It has the opposite effect.  I believe that in today’s medical world, James Dean would have been diagnosed with bipolar depression. He was subject to very erratic behavior and severe mood swings, both before and after he became a star.  He was never treated medically for this condition, but he did treat himself- with alcohol.  He often got drunk. He often drove drunk, and it scared people. And when he was under stress, which was often, he relied even more heavily on alcohol.

Regarding other drugs, there are no reports of his ample usage of anything else. He probably smoked marijuana occasionally and may have done other drugs sporadically at parties, etc. But clearly, tobacco and alcohol were his drugs of choice.  And really, it’s amazing that he never got started on medical drugs because he suffered with severe insomnia.  This was during the same period that Marilyn Monroe was wrestling with her terrible insomnia and taking heavy-duty barbiturates for it.  But when James Dean couldn’t sleep, he just got up.  And I don’t mean to read, or watch TV, or listen to music.  I mean that he got up and got dressed and went speeding off on his motorcycle looking for all-night taverns, diners, and speakeasies.  And that brings us to our first health lesson from his life: Is it better to treat insomnia with drugs or to just live with it? And I think that, clearly, it’s better to just live with it. James Dean did better than Marilyn Monroe in that respect.  And the reason is that as your sleep debt builds, eventually, it pushes through the resistance, and you “crash” and do find sleep.  Of course, it isn’t an ideal way to live. But, I think it’s better to fluctuate between good nights and bad, which is likely to happen, than to condition yourself to taking sleeping pills.  There are a few things you can take to bolster sleep which are safe, such as melatonin, L-Theanine (from green tea) and certain herbs, such as Lemon Balm.  But none of the prescription drugs for sleep, then or now, are any good, in my opinion.  So, don’t go down that road; you are bound to regret it.

Another thing James Dean had in common with Marilyn Monroe was a penchant for Freudian Psychoanalysis.  And it sounds like it did him about as much good as it did her, which is to say, not much. By the way, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe did meet- at the Actors Studio in New York.

And granted, James Dean had plenty to stress about. Until his last year, life was a real, hand-to-mouth struggle for him. And even when he died, his estate was only worth $96,000, which went to his father. However, that included a $100,000 life insurance policy, which meant that he must have had net liabilities of $4000 at the time of his death, not counting the insurance policy, which would have been worthless had he lived. He had many friends and many lovers, but many of his relationships ended badly. His greatest stress may have come from his love affair with actress Pier Angeli, considered to be the love of his life. While he was filming East of Eden, she was working at another set at the Warner Brothers studio, and that is how they met.  It was love at first sight for both of them, but her mother did not approve of James Dean, partly because he was not Catholic, and also because of his reputation.  So, Pier wound up marrying actor/singer Vic Damone, who was Catholic.  James Dean never got over that, and apparently, neither did Pier Angeli.

In closing, I think James Dean was a great actor.  But perhaps because of his bipolar depression, he lived very self-destructively. It’s amazing that Warner Brothers didn’t try harder to protect their valuable asset- from himself.  They did try to limit and control his dangerous driving but not his smoking or drinking.  But then again, it was a time during which almost everybody smoked and drank, and especially Hollywood types.  But, the most amazing thing to me is what all he did accomplish, despite his dysfunctionality and self-abuse. Besides his acting, he found time to seriously delve into art, music, literature, and photography. He learned enough about bull-fighting to get paid to teach it to other actors. And he competed in car races against seasoned professional drivers, finishing as high as 2nd.  It’s simply amazing to me how much abuse the human body can withstand.