Life Extension Magazine®

Issue: Oct 1999

Inside The Foundation's Laboratory

Inside the Foundation's laboratory.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, on January 2021.

Bill Faloon

We'd like to think that every issue of Life Extension magazine provides health information that cannot be obtained anywhere else. One source of this unique knowledge comes from our medical testing laboratory, where thousands of blood samples are analyzed from members who take high doses of nutrients, hormones and offshore drugs. The compilation of this data enables us to produce statistical charts that can show beneficial or detrimental trends among users of anti-aging supplements.

The good news is that our analysis of the indicators of liver, kidney, heart and blood cell damage show no toxicity in those taking high doses of supplements over an extended period of time. In the past, conventional doctors warned that the long-term effects in humans taking mega-doses of dietary supplements were unknown. In response to this knowledge void, The Life Extension Foundation began testing the blood of members in 1984 to make sure that the supplements they were taking were not causing harm. We felt we had to do these tests based on the criticism from mainstream doctors (in the early 1980's) that high-potency vitamin supplements were somehow "toxic."

When we began offering mail-order blood testing three years ago, we gained access to a lot more data that we use to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the many substances members put into their body's everyday. This type of data reporting has never been published in the scientific literature.

A disturbing trend has emerged amongst members who think they are taking adequate amounts of folic acid, vitamin B12, B6 and TMG to suppress serum homocysteine and maintain DNA re-methylation. We have discovered that 62% of members tested have too much homocysteine in their blood. Elevated homocysteine not only increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (Archives of Internal Medicine,1999, Jan 11;159(1):38-44), but also serves as a marker of a methylation defect that can predispose one to liver, neurological and other aging-related diseases. The chart to follow shows the breakdown of the results we have obtained to date:

Serum Homocysteine
(micromoles per liter of blood)
Percentage of members
in this range
Lowest Risk 0-6.3 38%
Moderate Risk 0-6.3-10 52%
Highest Risk Over 10 10%

The most recent survey (Cardiologia, 1999, Apr;44(4):341-5) shows the average American's homocysteine level is 10, so the fact that 90% of Foundation members are below 10 is a testament to the effectiveness of dietary supplements in suppressing dangerously high homocysteine levels (Annals of Epidemiology, 1997 May;7(4):285-93).

The problem is that certain members are not being protected against the damaging effects of homocysteine, and the only way of finding out is to have a blood test. When homocysteine has been too high, the addition of extra amounts of vitamin B6 and/or TMG (trimethylglycine) has reduced levels to the safest range in every case we have worked with. We have found that the addition of extra folic acid only produces only a moderate reduction in elevated homocysteine levels. Readers should know that while folic acid is a critical component of a homocysteine-lowering program, there is a limit to how much homocysteine can be reduced by folate and B12. Cardiologists are increasingly recommending folic acid supplements to their coronary artery disease patients, but the results from the Foundation's laboratory indicates that it takes more than folic acid to reduce serum homocysteine to a level where it ceases to be a risk factor for causing a heart attack.

How low can you go?
Cholesterol has obtained such a bad reputation that some Foundation members may be inadvertently killing themselves by intentionally keeping their serum cholesterol too low. At the American Heart Association's annual stroke conference (February 1999), a report was presented showing that people with cholesterol levels under 180 doubled their risk of hemorrhagic stroke compared to those with cholesterol levels of 230. Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain breaks open and is different than the more common ischemic stroke caused by an abnormal blood clot. This study showed that the risk of ischemic stoke was twice as likely in those with cholesterol levels over 280 compared to those at 230. The report concluded that optimal cholesterol level for overall stroke prevention was around 200.

Some overzealous members have been pushing their cholesterol levels way below 180. In the few reports of hemorrhagic stroke suffered by Foundation members, their cholesterol levels have been far below 180 mg/dL. Based on a review of the published data, no one wants chronic high levels of serum cholesterol but optimal ranges for overall disease prevention may be between 180-210 and not "as low as you can get!"

In an upcoming issue. . .
The most important article of the year for men will be published in an upcoming issue of Life Extension magazine. This article will document an epidemic problem in men over age 40: too much estrogen, not enough free testosterone. The result of this hormone imbalance can manifest as depression, abdominal weight gain, low energy, cognitive deficits, prostate disease and premature aging. This article will tell men what steps they should take based on their estrogen and free testosterone levels.

After reading the article, any man over age 40 is going to want to know what his estrogen-free testosterone balance is. Men having their blood tested for homocysteine may also ask their doctors to test for estradiol, free testosterone and PSA so they will know what steps to take when this landmark article is published.

William Faloon

Vice President
Life Extension Foundation