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these chemicals that mess up, not only mitochondrial function, but other cell functions.
So, again, it looks like what accelerates the aging process is a lot of the environmental changes that have come on with food refining, industrialization, lack of exercise–all the same things that I think I’ve been pointing to in a long-winded fashion since the beginning of this interview.
David: Hormone replacement therapy aside, what do you think are the most important nutritional supplements that one should be taking for optimum health?
Dr. Wright: We always have to start with Irwin Stone, Linus Pauling, and vitamin C. It might seem very mundane to be talking about vitamin C as one of the most important nutritional supplements, but if we go to any standard textbooks on genetics or pediatrics they’ll tell us that scurvy is a genetic disease. Okay, so what’s the implications of that? Having a genetic disease means that there’s something missing in the DNA that codes for a certain enzyme that would actually get our own bodies to produce vitamin C–just as dogs, cats, elephants, goldfish, and most other species do naturally. The only species that don’t produce their own vitamin C are some primates, guinea pigs, and a few other species. There aren’t very many.
Other species produce the vitamin C that’s in their bodies. Now, what’s been shown–incontrovertibly, by lots and lots of research–is that species tend to produce more of their own vitamin C when they’re under any kind of stress. For example, when dogs are given carcinogens their livers produce anywhere from ten to twenty times the vitamin C that they normally produce, until that carcinogen is detoxified with the aid of vitamin C. If you put rats in cages, and force them to run round and round and round, their internal vitamin C production goes up. If you cold water shock experimental animals their vitamin C production goes up. Just about anything that puts stress on the body of an animal–whether it’s chemical or emotional–causes the production of vitamin C to go way up. One can actually prove by chemical analysis that when humans are faced with those kind of stresses their livers attempt to make to more vitamin C, but they can’t because of the genetic disease.
Vitamin C is a universal aid to detoxification. That’s why it applies to so many things. Linus Pauling said that we should be at the bowel tolerance intake of vitamin C, but this varies. Is it two grams a day or ten grams a day? Sometimes we need to take more for a few weeks when we’re under greater than normal levels of stress. Whatever that bowel tolerance normally is, we should use that much vitamin C at minimum of two intervals during the day. The way vitamin C kinetics are, it should really be three times a day if we can. This way we’re going to be maintaining our maximum detoxification vigilance.
I recall a moderately obscure study done at one of the universities in Southern California that claimed that women who used as little as one gram of vitamin C per day could expect added longevity of five years. No kidding. And men who used one gram a day–and that’s no where near bowel tolerance–could expect the added longevity of one year. I guess that just allows us guys to catch up with the women. So vitamin C is right at the basis, because it’s actually there to correct a genetic disease problem that all human beings suffer from. We just need to take more of it to stay healthy. So I would ask people to start with that particular supplement.
So far as the other supplements go, probably a very well balanced vitamin E comes next. There’s been a lot of recent bad press on vitamin E–as we all know–and it was bad press in all senses of the term. The studies addressed something that needed to be criticized, but the press was usually bad criticism. The studies looked at the effects of dl-alpha-tocopherol, which is halfway synthetic, or other incomplete forms of vitamin E. Students of vitamin E point out that there are eight isomers known to be useful and effective as vitamin E–the alpha, beta, delta, and gamma tocopherols and tocotrienols. So one needs to balance all eight of those isomers if one is going to do a natural vitamin E.
Vitamin E, in its fat-soluble phase, is as important to the body as an antioxidant as vitamin C is in its water-soluble phase. Even though there are certainly antioxidants that are “more potent,” there are none that are as important to be widespread around the body as appropriate amounts of vitamin C and E. Now, we’ve heard that for years. Take your multiple vitamin, and vitamin C and E. But it happens to be true, even for longevity reasons, to get that bowel tolerance vitamin C in there, and the eight isomers of vitamin E in in a sufficient quantity. Then, perhaps, one can go on from there to some of the more trendy things in anti-aging.
One of the real important ones is adequate amounts of vitamin D. This has come roaring to the forefront in just the last five to ten years. The university research scientists who have been studying vitamin D–such as Dr. Michael Holick at Boston University and Dr. William Grant in Southern California–have been pointing out that we all would be healthier if we had blood levels of vitamin D that would be achieved if we lived in the tropics. That is, if we got out in the sunshine and didn’t burn ourselves to death, but at least got a good tan if we’re Caucasian. Those levels of vitamin D can keep us a lot healthier and cut the risk of a whole bunch of cancers, as well as autoimmune disease. That evidence seems to be incontrovertible, and yet mainstream medicine is still telling us to slather ourselves with sunblock to the point where our bodies make so little vitamin D from sunshine that we actually put ourselves at risk for more cancers.
So I recommend some real basic adequate vitamin D. I happen to live in the Seattle area, and reaching optimal blood levels of vitamin D from sunshine can be difficult from time to time. Sometimes people do well, and sometimes their levels are low, but they’re never in the optimal area without supplements. It’s been pointed out that the amount of vitamin D that’s optimal for adults appears to be three to four thousand units a day. This not only appears to be so, but I think it’s a well established way to prevent a significant portion the prostate and breast cancers for men and for women.
I know I’m really covering basics, but let me do one one more, enough to make it through the fatty acids. I’m just amazed at how many folks who think they’re on good diets actually don’t have enough omega-3 fatty acids in there to act as an overall anti-inflammatory agent. We all know that the omega-3s, combined with vitamin E, are going to quench inflammations all over the body. And I’m not just talking about eating fish, and perhaps taking one’s tablespoon of cod liver oil, although that’s really a good idea. I’m also talking about the whole free-range cattle movement–free-range chickens, free-range beef, free-range whatever–if we eat animal protein. There’s at least a few preliminary studies that have shown that free-range animals have a much better ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids then do grain-fed animals. Those who do eat meat, if they can, should start switching over to eating the free-range animals. The same thing goes for such things as eggs; when the hens free-ranging there are more omega-3 fatty acids in the egg.
All right, so we have the the omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins C, D, and E–the basic alphabet, but also some very basic longevity-promoting nutrients. Then after that we could go on to such things as acetyl-L-carnitine and alpha-lipoic acid. Acetyl-L-carnitine and lipoic acid are both endogenous (naturally present in the body) antioxidants that have been shown to restore mitochondrial function and reduce free radical damage. Dr. Bruce Ames has shown that when alpha-lipoic acid extends mitochondrial life it also helps to revive rats that are getting senile–and chances are it does that for humans too.
David: What recommendations would you suggest for people who want to improve their sex drive and sexual performance?
Dr. Wright: Believe it or not, humans have not been eating most of the agricultural products that we eat today for the last hundred or two hundred thousand years. I’d refer people to a couple of books on this. One of them is called The Paleo Diet by Dr. Cordain from the University of Colorado, and the other one, written almost twenty years earlier, is called The Paleolithic Prescription by S. Boyd Eaton and others at Emory University. Those two books make it fairly abundantly clear that most of our biochemical systems–I wouldn’t say everyone–but most of our biochemical systems are still adapted to the type of diet that we had as hunter-gatherers.
Now, when I say adapted I don’t want to leave out the Creationists–maybe we were created this way. But most of our biochemical systems are still adapted and/or created to the type of diet that humans have been accustomed to on this particular planet for at least two hundred thousand years as a species that is exactly the same as ours, and millions of years for other species that are very similar to us. Now, this would be diets that do not happen to have any milk and dairy in them–yeah, I’m really talking about sex life folks (laughter)–and they have more in the way of animal protein. There are a lot of studies out there that show that vegetarian men and women have lower levels of sex hormones. And that’s not at all to disrespect an ethical vegetarian choice–it’s just being realistic about it. Animal protein diets are always associated