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Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw

needed.

Durk: It’s a fine art.

Sandy: A doctor is really needed. It’s often true that if you find out what medical condition you have, then you can consult data bases– like the MEDLARS– and find out what kind of treatments are being used and get a lot of information on how to approach it. But the diagnosis is different. There are nodatabases that are very good at giving you diagnostic information.

David: What do you think are the most important factors in maintaining and improving general health?

Durk: Well, the first thing, of course, is to take a look at what your ancestors died from. If your grandfather and your father both died of heart attacks, you had better look very closely at your cardiovascular system, because that means you’re at elevated risk. If you have long-lived grandparents, even if you don’tdo anything to increase your life span, you’re likely to live longer yourself, because the genetic factors are very important in how long a person lives, and knowing what killed your ancestors can be very useful in trying to prevent those things from happening to you.

Sandy: And, of course, coming up in the very near future is going to be direct information about what’s contained in your DNA in terms of aging genes. People have just uncovered the genes which cause Werner’s Syndrome, which is a type of accelerated aging, and there’s going to be a lot more of this kindof information coming to the fore. There’s information known already about genes that are involved in aging processes in nematodes (flatworms) and inDrosophila (fruit flies). And as we find out more about what genes are involved in aging in people, it’s going to become possible for us to alter our own genetic make-up, so that we look more like people who were lucky enough to have had the grandparents and other relatives that lived to a ripe old age.

Durk: But if you’re not genetically blessed with high levels of protective anti-oxidants, you can get them exogenously from your diet by increasing your consumption of things like vitamin E. Now in some cases no natural diet is going to give you enough to provide the sort of protection you’ve read about inscientific papers. It is literally impossible to get a hundred units of vitamin E per day in any diet. You’d have to eat a couple of pounds of vegetable oil per day, which would be a disaster– to start off, you’re talking about maybe eight or ten thousand calories (laughter), a huge amount of fat. That’d be no goodfor you at all. That’s why it’s necessary to take supplements to get these levels of protection. Nearly all the evidence indicates that less than a hundred units of vitamin E per day won’t provide much cardiovascular protection.

Sandy: Only dietary supplements can give people a known amount– and adjust the ratios between the different nutrients that appear to have beneficial effects. There’s a lot more we need to know about that.

David: I read in one of your previous interviews that you thought people in the modern world need nutritional support beyond anything that one can get out of a natural diet.

Durk: That’s correct, because, you see, in the bad old days we didn’t live long enough to die from aging or age-related diseases. If you go back to the Ice-age caves of Europe– twenty thousand years ago– you’ll find that maybe one or two percent of the population lived to the age of forty, and a handful livedto be over fifty years old.

Sandy: This is known from doing an analysis of the bones from people who died back then, that were dug out of the ground.

Durk: We have not been equipped by evolution to resist these age- related diseases very effectively, because a woman who is sixty years old is under natural conditions not going to have any children. And, in fact, back then it’s very unlikely a man would live to that age to father any children either, and as aresult, the diseases that come on in the later part of life, the part of life that practically nobody got to live back then, are something 

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