Fighting the FDA
Although his scientific expertise is limited and occasionally he gets tongue-tied, nobody can question Mike Caruso’s commitment to the fight—the fight to preserve the right of Americans to take dietary supplements.
According to the 65-year-old resident of North Salem, New York, who says he feels like he is 20 year’s old, the battle lines were drawn as soon as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted a series of raids on the offices and clinics of vitamin manufacturers 15 years ago. The FDA targeted the Life Extension Foundation around the same time.
“To me, it’s absolutely vital that we take nutrients,” Caruso says unreservedly. “I want to be able to go to alternative doctors. I want to take care of myself as I want to. I don’t want to be told how I should take care of my body. I sure don’t want to end up with a walker. All my friends who don’t do what I do have had open-heart surgery. I don’t want to be part of that group, thank you. So I fight as much as I can.”
Modest, yet eager to be involved, he paints himself as merely a cog in the wheel anxious to keep the pressure on pharmaceutical companies and the FDA. His major contribution is a fierce letter-writing campaign to U.S. Representatives and Senators whenever a pending bill threatens Americans’ rights to supplements. Admittedly, like so many others, he takes his cues from Life Extension’s political activist, John Hammell. But he does more. Rather than simply write one letter in support of his point of view, he employs someone to send out hundreds of copies of several letters.
Occasionally political figures return his letters saying he is not a constituent of theirs. Therein lies another difference with Mike Caruso. Politicians across the country have a stake in the outcome of this battle and he wants to influence as many as possible.
“Whenever the pharmaceutical companies and the FDA—who are in bed with each other—try to take nutrients away from us for the sake of profit, I get scared as hell!” he says.
“I don’t know what I would do if that would happen. I am just beside myself. Whenever a letter is posted (by Life Extension), I immediately hire someone. I have a data base with all the congressional representatives and I print out labels and send a letter to every representative and every senator. I try to send copies of the letters in the magazine in addition to writing some of my own.”
Caruso has been a member of Life Extension for more than 20 years. His introduction to the products came, oddly enough, while he lay on a couch watching the “Merv Griffin Show” on television one afternoon. Two of the guests were discussing Life Extension products and what they had to say caught his interest.
Meeting the Stars
“I met so many people while on Broadway. Just about everybody in the movie business came by. Of course, when I worked with Lauren Bacall, she was a sort of a magnet for them to come and visit,” he remembers. “It was quite an exciting time. I was close to Lauren. I sat and talked with her for hours.”
“People like Gregory Peck, Sean Connery, Debbie Reynolds, Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster...they all came backstage. I talked to Burt Lancaster and Danny Kaye, who actually wanted guitar lessons with me. I enjoyed time with Jack Benny. Some of the stars were very friendly.”
The Natural Approach
“I am never sick. I embarass people because I look younger than my years. I have a daughter who is 40 years old and she has kids. People who see me with my grandchildren think I’m the father.”
One daily dose of hatha yoga and weekend walks with his “lady”— together with a diet of mainly organic foods—has kept him in fine shape, but Mike also follows a strict Life Extension supplement regimen that he claims is the reason for his extraordinary health and looking younger than his actual years.
“I am just a guy—part of Life Extension—who does his part,” he explains. “Like when DHEA was threatened, I sent out two mailings on this issue.”
“I use DHEA as an anti-aging supplement. And I need it. I need to replace the hormone as I get older. They have no right to take that away from me. If they want to put out the information, how about smoking? Smoking is the most dangerous thing, and I don’t see that being taken off the market.”
A voracious reader, Caruso believes the mainstream media has ignored the mounting evidence of the health benefits of supplements, which has been in prestigious medical journals such as the Journal of the American Medical Association, the New England Journal of Medicine and Britain’s renowned Lancet.
He also argues that the pharmaceutical companies are in league with the FDA to monopolize the growing supplement market.
Comparing the high death rate among Americans taking prescription drugs with that of people who have died from ingesting supplements, Caruso says he finds it incredible that the media have not made the FDA accountable on this issue.
“I would like to see the FDA taken to task as to why they allow drugs with severe side effects. The side effect is the body’s violent reaction to the drug and it destroys your body,” he declares. “And a hundred thousand people die a year from drugs. Can you imagine, one guy who died takes ephedra and I don’t know if he died from it, and they are ready to clean the shelves of vitamins like they did in Australia. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands are dying from drug misuse and overdoses. It goes on and on. It’s a disgrace. Nobody answers to that.”
His tone becomes angry when he thinks of the glaring contradictions he raises, but rather than let it fester and create negative stress, Caruso has his methods of relieving pressure. It’s back to his desk where he will fire off another letter. And if he lives to be 100 you can be sure this man will be fighting for his rights until the very end.