Someone who is beyond 35 to 40 years of age should still feel good almost all of the time. That is how life should be. But enjoying well-being does not mean that no dietary supplementation is called for. The onset of middle age is the appropriate time to begin working on continuing to feel well for as long as possible. Just like a car, if you take very good care of it from the beginning, it is likely to run smoothly for many years into the future. If on the other hand you drive it hard and fast with a lot of deferred maintenance you will probably have to trade it in on a new one after a very few years. Most people in their 70s and older who are struggling with many uncomfortable symptoms and low energy lament, 'if I'd only known I was going to live so long I would have taken better care of myself.' But at that point it is too late for the old donkey; time for a trade in.

Gerontologists refer to combating the aging process as "squaring the curve." We arrive at the peak of our physical function at about age eighteen. How high that peak level is depends on a person's genetic endowment, the quality of the start they received through their mother's nutritional reserves, and the quality of their childhood nutrition and life experience. From that peak our function begins to drop. The rate of drop is not uniform, but is a cascade where each bit of deterioration creates more deterioration, accelerating the rate of deterioration. If various aging experiences were graphed, they would make curves like those on the chart on this page.

Because deterioration starts out so slowly, people usually do not begin to notice there has been any decline until they reach their late 30s. A few fortunate ones don't notice it until their 40s. A few (usually) dishonest ones claim no losses into their 50s but they are almost inevitably lying, either to you or to themselves, or both. Though it might be wisest to begin combating the aging process at age 19, practically speaking, no one is going to start spending substantial money on food supplements until they actually notice significant lost function. For non-athletes this point usually comes when function has dropped to about 90 percent of what it was in our youth. If they're lucky what people usually notice with the beginnings of middle age is an increasing inability for their bodies to tolerate insults such as a night on the town or a big meal. Or they may begin to get colds that just won't seem to go away. Or they may begin coming home after work so tired that they can hardly stay awake and begin falling asleep in their Lazy Boy recliner in front of the TV even before prime time. If they're not so lucky they'll begin suffering the initial twinges of a non-life-threatening chronic condition like arthritis.

The thinnest line demonstrates the worst possible life from a purely physical point of view, where a person started out life with significantly lowered function, lost quite a bit more and then hung on to life for many years without the mercy of death.

If one can postpone the deterioration of aging, they extend and hopefully square the curve (retard loss of function until later and then have the loss occur more rapidly). Someone whose lifetime function resembled a "square curve"(the thickest, topmost line) would experience little or no deterioration until the very end and then would lose function precipitously. At this point we do not know how to eliminate the deterioration but we do know how to slow it down, living longer and feeling better, at least to a point close to the very end.

Vitamin supplements can actually slow or even to a degree, reverse, the aging process. However, to accomplish that task, they have to be taken in amounts far greater than so-called minimum daily requirements, using vitamins as though they were drugs, a therapeutic approach to changing body chemistry profiles and making them resemble a younger body. For example, research gerontologists like Walford reason that if pantothenic acid (vitamin B 5, in fairly substantial (but quite safe) doses can extend the life and improve the function of old rats, there is every indication that it will do a similar job on humans. Medical researchers and research gerontologists have noticed that many other vitamin and vitamin-like substances have similar effects on laboratory animals.

Some will object that what helps rats and mice is in no way proven to cause the same result on humans. I agree. Proven with full scientific rigor, no. In fact, at present, the contention is unprovable. Demonstrable as having a high likelihood's of being so, yes! So likely so as to be almost incontrovertible, yes! But provable to the most open-minded, scientific sort--probably not for a long time. However, the Life Extension Foundation is working hard to find some quantifiable method of gauging the aging process in humans without waiting for the inarguable indicator, death. Once this is accomplished and solidly recognized, probably no rational person will be able to doubt that human life span can be increased.

Experiments work far better with short-lived laboratory animals for another reason; we can not control the food and supplement intakes of humans as we can with caged mice. In fact, there are special types of laboratory mice that have been bred to have uniformly short life spans, especially to accelerate this kind of research. With mice we can state accurately that compared to a control group, feeding such and such a dose of such and such a supplement extended the life-span or functional performance by such and such a percent.

A lot of these very same medical gerontologists nourish their own bodies as thoroughly as the laboratory animals they are studying, taking broad mixes of food supplements at doses proportional to those that extend the life spans of their research animals. This approach to using supplementation is at the other end of the scale compared to using supplements to prevent gross deficiencies. In the life extension approach, vitamins and vitamin-like substances are used as a therapy against the aging process itself.

Will it work? Well, some of these human guinea pigs have been on heavy vitamin supplementation for over thirty years (as of 1995) and none seem to be suffering any damage. Will they live longer? It is impossible to say with full scientific rigor? To know if life extension works, we would have to first determine "live longer than what?" After all, we don't know how long any person might have lived without life extending vitamin supplements. Though it can't be "proven," it makes perfect sense to me to spend far less money on an intensive life extension vitamin program than I would certainly lose as a result of age-related sickness.

Besides, I've already observed from personal use and from results in my clinical practice that life extension vitamin programs do work. Whether I and my clients will ultimately live longer or not, the people who I have put on these programs, including myself and my husband, usually report that for several years after starting they find themselves feeling progressively younger, gradually returning to an overall state of greater well-being they knew five or ten or fifteen years ago. They have more energy, feel clearer mentally, have fewer unwanted somatic symptoms.

Sometimes the improvements seem rather miraculous. After a few months on the program one ninety year old man, an independent-minded Oregonian farmer, reported that he began awakening with an erection every morning; unfortunately, his 89 year old cranky and somewhat estranged wife, who would not take vitamins, did not appreciate this youthfulness. A few months later (he had a small farm) he planted a holly orchard. Most of you won't appreciate what this means without a bit of explanation, but in Oregon, holly is grown as a high-priced and highly profitable ornamental for the clusters of leaves and berries. But a slow-growing holly orchard takes 25 years to began making a profit!

A few older clients of mine reported that they noticed nothing from the life extension program, but these are unique people who have developed the ability to dominate their bodies with their minds and routinely pay their bodies absolutely no attention, driving them relentlessly to do their will. Usually they use their energies to accomplish good, Christian works. Eventually, these dedicated and high-toned people break down and die like everyone else. Will they do so later on life extending vitamins than they would have otherwise? I couldn't know because I can't know how long they might have lived without supplementation and since they refuse to admit the vitamins do them any good, they won't pay for them.

Many on life extension programs experience a reverse aging process for awhile. However, after the full benefit of the supplementation has worked itself through their body chemistry, they again begin to experience the aging process. I believe the process will then be slowed by their vitamins compared to what it would have been without supplements. But I can't prove it. Maybe we will have some idea if the program worked 20 to 40 years from now.

At this time I know of only two companies that make top quality life extension vitamin supplement formulas. One is Prolongevity (Life Extension Foundation), the other, Vitamin Research Products. I prefer to support what I view as the altruistic motives behind Prolongevity and buy my products from them. Unfortunately, these vitamin compounders can not put every possibly beneficial substance in a single bottle of tablets. The main reason they do not is fear of the power-grabbing Food and Drug Administration. This agency is threatening constantly to remove certain of the most useful life-extending substances from the vitamin trade and make them the exclusive property of prescription-writing medical doctors. So far, public pressure has been mobilized against the FDA every time action was threatened and has not permitted this. If some product were included in a mix and that product were prohibited, the entire mixed, bottled and labeled batch that remained unsold at that time would be wasted, at enormous cost.

Were I manufacturing my own life extension supplement I would include the following. By the way, to get this all in one day, it is necessary to take 6 to 12 large tablets daily, usually spread throughout the day, taken a few at a time with each meal. If you compare my suggested formulation to another one, keep in mind that variations of 25 percent one way or another won't make a significant difference, and adding other beneficial substances to my recommendations probably is only helpful. However, I would not want to eliminate anything in the list below, it is the minimum:

Beta-Carotene 25,000 iu Selenium 100 mcg
Vitamin A 5,000 iu Taurine 500 mg
B-1 250 mg Cyctine 200 mg
B-2 50 mg Gluthaianone 15 mg
B-3 niacinamid 850 mg Choline 650 mg
B-5 750 mg Inositol 250 mg
B-6 200 mg Flavanoids 500 mg
B-12 100 mcg Zinc 35 mg
PABA 50 mg Chromium 100 mcg
Folic Acid 500 mcg Molybdenum 123 mg
Biotin 200 mcg Manganese 5 mg
Vitamin C 3,000mg Iodine (as kelp) 10 mg
Vitamin E 600 iu Co-Enzyme Q-10 60 mg
Magnesium 1,000 mg DMAE 100 mg
Potassium 100 mg Ginko biloba 120 mg
Calcium 1,000 mg Vitamin D-3 200 iu

Please also keep in mind that there are many other useful substances not listed above. For example, every day I have a "green drink," an herbal preparation containing numerous tonic substances like ginseng and also various forms of algae and chlorophyll extracts. My green drink makes my body feel very peppy all day, so it certainly enhances my life and may extend it. It costs about $25,00 a month to enjoy that. I also use various pure amino acids at times. Phenylalyanine will make me get more aggressive whenever I am feeling a little lackluster; this nutrient has also been used as an effective therapy against depression. Melatonin taken at bedtime really does help me get to sleep and may have remarkable life-extending properties. Other amino acids help my body manufacture growth hormones and I use them from the time I begin training seriously in spring through the end of the summer triathlon competition season. Pearson and Shaw's book (see Bibliography) is a good starting point to begin learning about this remarkably useful subject.