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Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw

acetylcholine by providing above RDA doses of vitamin B-5. Initially the formula tasted absolutely ghastly, but we gagged it down every day, and we did that for years. Then one day we just looked at each other and said, “That’s it! We’re not going to put up with this anymore.” Youknow, we were grimacing there, trying to gag it down. (laughter)

Sandy: We were already very interested in flavor chemistry anyway. I don’t want to glorify our eating habits by saying that we were gourmets in any special sense– we just enjoy eating. So we were starting to study flavor chemistry, and decided this would be a real opportunity to use our knowledge to find out more about the subject. We found out how to make a choline supplement that tasted good, and it became part of the collection of abilities that eventually lead us to making dietary supplements available commercially.

David: Speaking of supplements which improve concentration and memory, the first place that I ever heard of hydergine was in your book Life Extension back in 1982. What do you think of all the the new cognitive enhancers, nootropics, and so-called “smart drugs”?

Durk: There’s a great many more substances being bandied about than there’s good hard data on their performance. There’s quite a variety of things that are available, but in many cases the data on their performance leaves a lot to be desired. For example, let’s take Gingko biloba. Now I think there’s probablysomething to Gingko biloba. The problem is that we can’t really be sure because a large foreign company that manufactures it has taken to suing both scientific journals and scientists who report a lack of benefits from Gingko in papers that they publish in the scientific literature. And, of course, when you have that kind of a chilling effect it really poisons the whole well for that entire product, because you don’t know what hasn’t been published as a result of that.

Sandy: You don’t know what would have been published that wasn’t published.

Durk: On the other hand there’s other things where positive cognitive effects are well-established. For example, it’s well- known how most of the neurotransmitters are made. The mechanisms are understood, and it’s possible to put together systems of nutrients that the brain can use to manufacture them. To make more noradrenaline you take some of the essential nutrient amino acid phenylalanine, and you also need vitamin B-6, vitamin C, copper, and folate. Well, it’s interesting to note that even by the FDA’s meager RDA standards, 80% of the population is not getting the RDA of vitamin B-6, which incidentally we think is much too low.

Sandy: A lot of scientists think that the RDA of vitamin B-6 is too low.

Durk: About half the people aren’t getting an RDA of copper or folate. When you put all this together, it’s no wonder that the number one complaint people bring to their doctors is they chronically lack energy and feel tired.

Sandy: And it’s usually not due to a medical condition.

Durk: Now, of course, if you feel chronically weary, you really need to be checked out because it might be, for example, something like hypothyroidism, which a nickel-a-day worth of thyroid hormone may take care of you. But if you don’t take that nickel-a-day’s worth of thyroid hormone and you’rehypothyroid, you could end up with serious problems, like neurological damage.

Sandy: I think that it’s important for people to take responsibility and control of their own medical care, but one of the risks of that is people can make the mistake of thinking that they can diagnose a condition, and then go on and treat themselves. The diagnosis of a medical condition is a very difficult thing. It’s something where a well-trained physician is 

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