Life Extension Magazine August 2012
Potential Danger Of Calcium Supplements
By William Faloon
Vitamin K And Magnesium Remain Overlooked Nutrients
The ability of vitamin K2 to activate calcium-regulating proteins, and thus maintain bone density and inhibit calcification is undisputed, yet the majority of aging Americans do not supplement with vitamin K2. This is slowly changing as word spreads about the critical importance of this overlooked nutrient.
Regrettably, knowledge about the benefits of calcium in protecting against osteoporosis has been widespread for over 30 years, and the result is that aging women have been gobbling down large potencies of calcium supplements without concurrently taking magnesium and vitamin K2.
So it is not surprising for a study to show higher rates of heart attacks and stroke in those using calcium supplements without also taking magnesium and vitamin K. We at Life Extension warned of this risk long ago, yet few outside our membership paid attention. The tragic result may have been revealed in this recent study showing higher heart attack risk in calcium supplement users.
Drug Companies Sell Most Dietary Supplements
Health conscious people may be shocked to learn that the most popular dietary supplements are not made by people dedicated to keeping you alive.
Commercial supplement sales are dominated by Centrum® (made by a division of Pfizer) and One-A-Day® (made by a division of Bayer). These companies do not care about your health or longevity. This has been proven over and over as pharmaceutical companies face criminal charges for selling drugs they knew would kill human beings!
As we reported two years ago, Pfizer pled guilty (through a shell company) to a criminal charge that it fraudulently promoted the drug Bextra® in dangerously high doses to relieve acute surgical pain. Bextra®was never approved for this use.48 In an analysis presented at the American Heart Association, Bextra® was shown to more than double the risk of heart attack or stroke.49,50 Pfizer paid a record-breaking criminal settlement to the federal government of $1.195 billion for the fraudulent marketing of Bextra®.51,52 By using a subsidiary to plead guilty, Pfizer continues receiving lucrative Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement on its many other drugs.53
An article I wrote last year titled "FDA's Most Heinous Drug Approval" described how Bayer covered up the lethal side effects of a drug it made called Trasylol®.54 By delaying the withdrawal of Trasylol® from the market, Bayer caused the deaths of 1,000 human beings a month.55 Experts estimate that had Bayer not hidden findings about the dangers of Trasylol®, that 22,000 lives could have been spared.56
Would you trust dietary supplements sold by Pfizer, Bayer, or other pharmaceutical giants who financially benefit if you fall ill? Their track record shows a complete disregard of moral legitimacy. The scary part is that large corporations are increasingly dominating the dietary supplement marketplace by buying up name-brand vitamin companies.
Small Vitamin Companies Gobbled Up By Corporate Behemoths
As the public discovers the disease-preventing properties of nutrients, large corporations realize they have fallen behind the curve. A look at the primitive formulations of Centrum® and One-A-Day® provides a stark example of what happens when drug companies try to make effective dietary supplements.
A disturbing trend has been corporate giants buying out venerable supplement companies like the recent purchase of New Chapter by Proctor and Gamble57 (world's largest consumer products company) and Alacer (maker of Emergen-C® effervescent vitamin C) bought out by Pfizer (world's largest drug company).58
Proctor and Gamble who makes Tide laundry detergent and Pringles potato chips will soon be bringing you supplements under the New Chapter brand (a frequent advertiser in this magazine). There is no need to panic, since the founders of New Chapter will stay on for a while and it will be run for now as an independent subsidiary of Proctor and Gamble. That usually works until the corporate cost-cutters come in to find ways to earn more money from their acquisition.
Solgar59 was once a bedrock of nutritional credibility, but was purchased by NBTY (formerly known as Nature's Bounty), which then sold to private equity giant Carlyle Group in 2010 for $4 billion.60 (NBTY bought out a number of vitamin companies before selling itself to Carlyle Group—a conglomerate that invests in businesses as diverse as automotive, real estate, energy, and defense contracting).
GNC had its founding in 1935 as a small health food store in Pittsburgh.61,62 It grew to become the largest vitamin retail chain in the world. In 1999, Dutch company Royal Numico purchased GNC at a premium.63 In 2003, Numico sold GNC at a huge loss to private-equity firm Apollo Management.64 In 2007, Apollo sold GNC to an affiliate of the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan.65 In April 2011, GNC launched a successful initial public offering and became a publically traded corporation again.66
As you'll read next, large corporations lack the agility, expertise, and commitment to enable humans to stave off aging-related disease.
Pharmacy Chains Don't Care If You Live Or Die
Displayed prominently at the check-out counter when you walk in to most Walgreen's or CVS stores is a tall wall of tobacco products. These large pharmacy chains offer all kinds of packaged junk foods, toxic OTC drugs like acetaminophen, and of course any side-effect prone prescription drug your doctor may have been duped into prescribing.
We have previously written about the immorality of openly selling cigarettes since it provides nicotine addicts with an easy opportunity to continue or resume their lethal habit. An argument could be made to organize boycotts against pharmacy chains until they stop selling cigarettes. The sad fact is that the public has become far too apathetic for this kind of boycott to succeed in removing tobacco products from pharmacy shelves.
The typical consumer trusts the private label brands of pharmacy chains and even supermarkets, yet these corporate behemoths lack the scientific integrity to make state-of-the-art nutritional formulas.
To give you a startling example of how poorly formulated products made by pharmacy giants are, look at a fiber product made by Walgreen's. It has an attractive-colored label, a healthy sounding name "Wal-Mucil 100% Natural Fiber" and a low price of just $10.99. There is even a health claim on the side panel stating that the fiber in this product may reduce risk of heart disease.
You may recall that the primary benefit of fiber taken before meals is to slow the absorption of carbohydrates into the bloodstream, or stated differently, to reduce dangerous after-meal blood glucose surges that cause heart attacks and strokes.
Now hold on to your seat as you find out what's really in Walgreen's fiber supplement. One of the top ingredients in this fiber product is table sugar (sucrose). Each serving provides 3 grams of sugars and only 3 grams of fiber.67 Those seeking to use Walgreen's fiber to prevent diabetes and vascular disease would inadvertently increase these risks by using—according to the label—a "Dietary Fiber Supplement."
Life Extension and other quality supplement companies have long made fiber products that do not contain sugar. Walgreen's may or may not have known about the dangers of excess sugar consumption. What we know is that sugar is a cheap filler ingredient and it made their product taste good. Walgreen's was either oblivious or didn't care that their fiber product would inflict serious health problems on someone who regularly used it.
I directly learned almost 20 years ago that these pharmacy giant's only concern is the financial bottom line—not their customer's health. As the first organization to launch melatonin, we were besieged by calls from pharmacy chains after prestigious mainstream doctors began endorsing it. Back in those days we were the only ones able to make virtually 100% pure melatonin. The best our competition at the time could do was 98% purity. Pharmacy chains who called us were only concerned with the cost and whether we had product liability insurance.
One of these companies I talked to complained we were slightly overpriced. I warned that the 2% impurities in our competitor's product might cause a health risk analogous to contaminated tryptophan (since the biosynthesizing processes were similar). I will never forget when a major pharmacy chain representative told me:
"We don't care about the quality of the ingredient. Our only concern is lowest price and whether you have product liability insurance to cover lawsuits that might be filed if your ingredient harms someone."
Life Extension® seldom carries product liability insurance (because of the confidence in our ingredients) and 100% melatonin cost more to make than 98% material, so we never benefited in a major way financially from an ingredient (melatonin) that we were the first to introduce.
Based on my direct interactions with pharmacy chains, they don't care if you live another day, while I will feel perpetually guilty for not identifying the disease-preventing properties of vitamin K before 1999.
Why We Are Different…
Life Extension® has been, and continues to be structured as an entity that will fund biomedical research in perpetuity. We will not sell out to large corporate interests and our mission to indefinitely extend the healthy human life span will not alter.
How can we assure this? Each year, we fund a scholarship program that brings the most committed life extensionists under age 31 to South Florida. Through a meticulous screening process, we identify incredibly bright young people who are determined to vanquish aging, disease, and death. We enlighten these young life extensionists as to what we expect of them when it comes to their participation in fraternal organizations that will forever ensure that Life Extension® continues its unwavering scientific commitments.
Each year, we also support a long weekend meeting of some of the wealthiest and enlightened individuals on the planet who, like the under age 31 group, are also personally determined to vanquish aging, disease, and death. These individuals have the option of joining perpetual oversight organizations that will forever ensure that Life Extension® continues its biomedical research initiatives.
These arrangements to fund lifesaving research are irrevocable and permanent. Professional trustees are in place to guarantee that these provisions are not changed. So you will not hear that Life Extension has sold out to Pfizer, Bayer, Proctor and Gamble or any other company whose sole purpose is to make money.
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