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Life Extension Magazine

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July 2003

Bridging the Gap Between
Science & Medicine

Why thyroid blood tests can't be trusted

Thyroid hormone deficiency is responsible for many of the maladies associated with aging, including excessive weight gain, high cholesterol, depression and low energy. Standard blood tests often mislead doctors into thinking that thyroid hormone status is normal, but a more scientific method of interpreting these blood tests is revealed in the Thyroid Deficiency chapter of the 2003 Edition of Disease Prevention and Treatment. This method enables physicians and patients to detect and correct subtle thyroid deficits that can cause major health problems.

Improving brain function in autistic children

Conventional medicine offers little to children who suffer from autism, a mental disorder characterized by language dysfunction, poor social skills, repetitive behavior and the inability to interact socially.

A double-blind placebo controlled study showed that when autistic children are properly supplemented with carnosine, remarkable improvements occur based on the tests doctors use to assess neurological function. In this study, parents of the children receiving carnosine reported that overall improvement more than doubled in only eight weeks.2

The doctor who conducted this placebo-controlled study has developed a simple-to-follow protocol that has been used in about 1,000 autistic children. The success rate to date is 90%, with some children showing dramatic improvement in the various disabilities associated with autism.

The Austism chapter of the latest edition of Disease Prevention and Treatment reveals never-before-published nutritional protocols that have demonstrated significant benefit to autistic children. The medical establishment has not yet discovered these nutritional approaches, and the result is that teaching autistic children remains a daunting task for most parents.


Lethal effects of blood deficiencies

The new Disease Prevention and Treatment book contains many chapters that address the lethal effects of anemia in the elderly, cancer victims and those afflicted with heart disease. When Life Extension staff physicians interact with a member's doctor, a careful review of blood test results is usually done before the consultation. If there is any indication of anemia, Life Extension physicians recommend Procrit® drug therapy or a blood transfusion.

A study in the October 25, 2001 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine showed that elderly heart attack patients were 78% more likely to die over a 30-day period if they had severe anemia.

When a seriously ill Life Extension Foundation member was hospitalized, blood tests revealed severe anemia.3 Life Extension suggested to the attending physician that, based upon the study published in the October 25, 2001 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, the patient should be given an immediate blood transfusion. The patient's doctor specifically remembered reading the study and complimented Life Extension for coming up with the "great idea" of giving the patient blood. The problem is that it was not a "great idea" to give an anemic patient a blood transfusion, as this has been standard medical practice for almost 100 years. What this conversation revealed, however, is that even when doctors read a positive study in a prestigious medical journal, they still may neglect to apply the therapy to their patients in need.

"Scientific medicine" in action

A historical example of "scientific medicine" in action occurred 22 years ago when the Life Extension Foundation recommended taking folic acid to reduce heart attack risk. Back then, most cardiologists had never heard of homocysteine and did not know that folic acid reduces levels of this toxic artery-clogging agent in the body.

Life Extension published evidence that most people could benefit from folic acid and vitamin B12 in 1981. It was not until the 1990s, however, that the Journal of the American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine reported compelling evidence linking elevated homocysteine with higher rates of heart attack and stroke.

Life Extension did not discover the link between homocysteine and cardiovascular disease. This finding had been published in scientific journals as far back as the 1960s. The problem was that cardiologists overlooked this crucial information. They failed to transfer the findings about homocysteine from medical journals into their clinical practice. The result was millions of unnecessary heart attacks and strokes.

More appalling is the fact that, even today, most cardiologists still fail to test their patients' blood for homocysteine and seldom recommend supplements like folic acid, vitamin B12, trimethylglycine (TMG) and vitamin B6 that have been proven to reduce toxic levels of homocysteine.

What Life Extension did in 1981 was to translate the results of published scientific studies into a specific recommendation to its members, i.e., take folic acid to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. This approach of transferring the fruits of scientific discoveries to the front lines where patients' lives literally hang in the balance is critically important. Regrettably, this is not how medicine is commonly practiced today. Conservative doctors are fearful of adverse side effects and lawsuits, even though the published research often indicates only modest risks for patients.

Folic acid can prevent many heart attacks from occurring, yet most doctors still have not translated this finding into their clinical practice. The fourth edition of Disease Prevention and Treatment translates the findings from thousands of published studies into practical protocols that can help in the prevention and treatment of common diseases. We call this "scientific medicine."


From the research labto the bedside

Disease Prevention and Treatment features novel protocols for the prevention and treatment of age-related diseases. Many of the therapies discussed in the book have not yet been accepted by mainstream medicine. It is important for the reader to understand the scientific criteria used to select the data upon which these protocols are based.

Every day, new studies are published in peer-reviewed journals that reveal better ways of preventing and treating disease. The Life Extension Foundation evaluates the findings of these studies for their value in health care and medicine. When sufficient evidence accumulates to validate a new approach, it is then considered for inclusion in Life Extension's ever-evolving Disease Prevention and Treatment protocols.

An early example of Life Extension's scientific approach involved the use of aspirin to prevent heart attack.

Back in 1983, the Life Extension Foundation analyzed findings from published studies indicating that low-dose aspirin can reduce the risk of a heart attack by about 40%. Life Extension members were urged to take a low-dose aspirin tablet every day to protect against heart attacks.

The FDA and medical establishment were harshly critical of Life Extension's recommendation, even though peer-reviewed scientific studies substantiated it. The FDA even issued an edict that any company who promoted the sale of aspirin to prevent heart attacks would be subject to civil and criminal penalties. According to the FDA, making a health claim for aspirin turned it into an "unapproved drug."

In response to the FDA's censorship of health claims about aspirin, Life Extension developed a product called "First Amendment Aspirin." On the label of this product was a quote from a published study indicating that aspirin reduces heart attack risk. The FDA demanded that the sale of this product cease, but Life Extension refused, citing the First Amendment guarantee of free speech, i.e., the right to communicate that a published scientific study found that aspirin reduces heart attack risk. Realizing that they could not get around the U.S. Constitution, the FDA went to the manufacturer of the product and demanded that they stop making "First Amendment Aspirin" or face intrusive daily inspections. The manufacturer capitulated and stopped making the product.

As new studies continued to verify aspirin's cardio-protective effect, the FDA finally issued a ruling in 1998 that allowed aspirin companies to advertise that aspirin reduces heart attack risk.

It is difficult to calculate how many Americans have perished needlessly from heart disease, but the failure of doctors and the FDA to recommend low-dose aspirin therapy for decades caused millions of unnecessary deaths. It took the FDA 15 years to recognize what was clearly established in 1983, i.e. aspirin reduces heart attack risk.

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