X-Message-Number: 19963
Date: Sun, 1 Sep 2002 19:43:56 EDT
Subject: Alternatives to LEF Products

In a message dated 9/1/02 2:00:51 AM Pacific Daylight Time, Steve Jackson 

> I've been a Life Extension Foundation member for years because of the
>  cryonics connection, despite their very NON-trust-inspiring style of
>  marketing. But today, after almost an hour on the phone (the majority of it
>  listening to the advertising-on-hold recording at the Customer Service
>  number) I gave up. Phone sales reps should know what sort of offers are
>  being mailed out and should be able to do simple math. And if they can't do
>  those things, they should at least all tell the same story, rather than
>  blaming the last person I talked to. A company that botches customer
>  support at that most basic level is not one I'll depend on for my health.

Steve, I understand your frustration. I can now speak about LEF with some 
credibility because I in no way, directly or indirctly benefit from their 
revenue stream. Nor do I have a close personal relationship with any of the 
principals or researchers that would interfere with the reasonable 
objectivity of the suggestions and information I'm about to pass along.

FIRST, the kind of wacko employee problems you report are common almost 
anywhere today and are especially common in both the retail and wholesale 
vitamin businesses. LEF's problems have probably been exacerbated by the 
sudden death of a key employee a few months ago; a smart, highly 
knowledgeable man who will be hard to replace.  

SECOND, I've visited or had detailed contact with NOW, Twinlab and GNC. All 
have serious problems. Its rumored that Twinlab (one of my favorite 
companies) is having serious financial difficulties and that QC has suffered 
as a consequence. I don't know the details but have heard this from several 
sources and have been told of one switch in a raw materials supplier which 
IMHO represents a step down in quality. 

THIRD: On the positive side LEF supports its claims with peer reviewed 
literature better than any other major nutriceuticals company out there. That 
doesn't mean its all good, but at least they take the time and money to do 
this. And yes, I find it done in an obnoxious way on the phone and with their 
some of their product placements in their magazine, but clearly most of their 
customers don't.

FOURTH: On the negative side, LEF has left (for many years) some very serious 
concerns unaddressed. When I package post arrest medications for cryopatients 
one of my major challenges is to keep the NUMBER of individual drugs or 
combos to be given to an absolute minimum 12 gang stop-cocks are already 
being used! My problems is that, dry or wet, I can't package a lot of drugs 
I'd like put together into one preparation. Even in the dry state under 
vacuum there is chemical interaction over time. I've come up with some clever 
solutions to these problems (i.e., polyester tea bags that can be heat sealed 
with an iron and separate dry powders in the same vial yet allow mixing when 
water is added), but it is STILL a big problem. A preparation like Life 
Extension Mix scares the s---- out of me. There are several ingredients in 
LEF Mix that I can't dry pack together because they react to form who knows 
what; all I know is I get bright orange liquid out of formerly clear 
chemicals that smells bad and is acutely toxic (retching, hypotension) to 
rabbits IV where the freshly combined, mixed and administered agents are not. 
I personally doubt, but can't prove that combinations of many nutrients into 
a "mix" results in an unstable product; especially in the presence of highly 
reactive and catalytic trace minerals like zinc, iron and selenium.

This problem is not confined to LEF Mix but in theory to Twinlab Daily One 
and other combo products where there is lots of high temperature shelf time 
with ingredients packed tightly in high surface area preparations primed to 
interact with each other.    

FIFTH: LEF has funded major studies to evaluate the effects of combinations 
of nutrients on lifespan (two recently at the University of Wisconsin and the 
University of California at Riverside, respectively). Many groups of tested 
animals have included vitamins and supplements without drugs. Interestingly, 
LEF Mix has never been the subject of one of these studies. Despite nearly a 
million dollars spent to evaluate nutrient and drug-nutrient combos LEF has 
never validated the product they call LIFE EXTENSION Mix to extend even mean 
lifespan by just a modest amount -- not even in fruit flies. This has always 
bothered me a great deal. For this reason I've never taken LEF Mix beyond a 
short time and I had problems with it; nausea, malaise and back pain. 
However, clearly most people do not have problems and the product is a 
popular one.

SIXTH, with the above caveats I can say that many of their mono or smaller 
combo products are high quality and high value. Their CoQ10 with tocotrienols 
and their new product Chrono-Forte are probably two of the best antiaging 
nutriceuticals out there. Similarly their CLA, GLA/DHA and products like 
phopsphotydylserine appear to be of high and consistent quality. 

>  But I digress :-)
>  Anyone have a recommendation for a general dietary supplement to replace
>  the LEF's Life Extension Mix? I'll certainly do my own homework, but am
>  also quite interested in input from others.
If I had to suggest anything it would still be Twinlab's Daily One without 
Iron (for healthy males and non-menstruating women). If you want to take mono 
supplements with this I strongly suggest at least 2 g of acetyl-l-carnitine 
(divided doses) and 200 mg of alpha lipoic acid per day. I base the last two 
recommendations on personal experience and on watching its effects on over 15 
people I know who have started taking these nutrients and reported their 
effects. In several cases I've had the opportunity to observe changes first 
hand in cognitive functioning after people I know (including my parents) have 
started taking these supplements. NOW is one of the cheaper and more reliable 
sources for these nutrients as an alternative to LEF.

However, keep in mind LEF will probably continue to have cutting edge 
compounds available first and with better quality. Since new drugs or 
nutrients can hurt as well as help (old ones too, for that matter) caution is 
always advised.

Finally, a few words to reflect on. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for 
women was a widely accepted treatment in medicine. Very large studies 
relative to most vitamin/nutrient studies had been done to validate the risk 
to benefit ratio. These studies were flawed in often subtle but critical 
ways. Much of what LEF and the nutriceutical community in general recommends 
is on evidence that bears little or no relationship to the real world. In 
fact, if you took everything recommended in an issue of LEF Magazine there's 
be no room left to eat much food! 

The best recommendation is to take as little as you can and as much as you 
need. That's often a hard thing to know.  As examples only, I offer the 
following: If you have a family or personal history of breast cancer or 
prostate cancer it might well make sense to take nutriceuticals targeted at 
these illnesses. However, if you have a small (normal) prostate, a low PSA 
and no family history of prostate cancer you might want to wait to take 
nutriceuticals aimed at preventig/reversing prostate disease until you show 
some BPH on physical exam... 

One area where I really disagree with LEF and most of mainstream medicine is 
on the value of electron beam CT (EBCT) of the chest, neck and head to look 
for evidence of heart and cerebrovascular disease. I think everyone with a 
family history should have one of these at age 40; 45 at latest. Those 
without a history and good lipids and other risk factors (don't smoke, low 
homocysteines) can wait till 45 or 50. I personally think the radiation 
exposure is worth the decreased morbidity and mortality from these number one 
killers. More to the point, if LEF had recommended this procedure instead of 
panning it, they might still have a valuable employee and you might not be 
looking for another place to shop for vitamins.

Mike Darwin

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