Life Extension Magazine February 2013
Dr. Vagnini: The Founder of the V Protocol
By Jon Finkel
Frederic J. Vagnini
“The breaking point for me was that I’d always been a thin, healthy, well-dressed, man. When I got obese, it came on slowly. I smoked. I drank a little alcohol. Then, all of a sudden, I was obese. I had to start wearing custom clothes. I went out and bought so-called fat clothes and when I saw myself in the mirror I started crying. It just wasn’t me. At the time, I had two young daughters. I was too exhausted to play with them. I thought, ‘If I can’t get off of the couch, and I’m exhausted, and if someone came in to kidnap my daughters, I couldn’t do anything about it.’ I had to change.”
With cases of diabetes and obesity reaching epidemic proportions across the United States, the above quote could be from any man who ignores his health and over time becomes tragically overweight. In this case, however, the words come from Frederic J. Vagnini, MD, FACS, a board certified cardiovascular surgeon, bestselling author, and the director of the Heart, Diabetes, and Weight Loss Centers of New York.
Dr. Vagnini’s personal experience with obesity and diabetes, and subsequently losing over 100 pounds to improve his health, has left him with the unique perspective of having lived with a heart suffering from extreme weight gain as well as having operated on other people’s hearts under the same conditions. Now, as director of a major heart center in New York, he spend his time helping people avoid heart surgery in the first place with his cutting edge V Protocol.
The V Protocol
According to Dr. Vagnini, the V Protocol is a series of five “rungs” on a ladder of knowledge that you have to understand and climb to overcome the potentially mortal dual diagnosis connection of diabetes and heart disease, known as diabesity.
At the beginning of Dr. Vagnini’s groundbreaking book, Beating the Cardio-Diabetes Connection – The V Protocol: The Expert’s Plan, he says these steps include, “understanding areas of personal health designed to overcome lack of motivation to change, and mitigate genetic disposition and poor nutrition, along with a failure to fully understand how specific medications and new, natural supplements can stop this catastrophe.”
But the protocol wasn’t just something that Dr. Vagnini came up with overnight; rather, it took decades of practice as a physician to develop his strategy.
“I went to medical school at St. Louis School of Medicine,” he says. “I did my internship for 5 years at the Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, then spent two years at Columbia-Presbyterian. Then I went into the Army in Augusta, Georgia, where I did general and vascular surgery. After that I got involved in non-invasive vascular studies and I wanted to learn everything.”
The reason for Dr. Vagnini’s excitement was because he was about to open a small practice in Long Island to treat vascular disease.
“I had to retrain myself,” he says. “I didn’t know anything about drugs since I was a surgeon. I had to learn blood pressure medications and lipid disorders. And over the last twenty years, I saw more and more people with visceral obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, elevated uric acid, elevated homocysteine, low HDL, and on and on. I knew this was becoming a real problem and I become obsessed with learning how to stop it.”
Recognizing A Deadly Connection
“Throughout the years of my practice, I started to notice that many people with heart problems had this glucose-heart disease connection,” Dr. Vagnini explains. “Oftentimes, when someone gets their heart checked, the doctor will check EKG, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. But they don’t check your blood glucose. Some people have elevated levels without being overweight, but most who have them are overweight.”
Since Dr. Vagnini was a heart surgeon and had trained himself in the use of blood pressure medications, he knew that in so many of his patients there was much more going on than just a heart issue, but in the beginning, people weren’t willing to listen.
“On top of being a heart surgeon, I knew the nutrients because I was interested in nutrition and supplements because many of my patients were as well,” he says. “But back then they called me a ‘fringe’ doctor because I incorporated vitamins and other supplements into my practice.”
Like Life Extension®, Dr. Vagnini was ahead of his time in recognizing the importance of supplements to a healthy lifestyle.
Using Everything in His Arsenal
These days, when a new patient walks into Dr. Vagnini’s office, he or she can expect to leave with a fully individualized program, not simply a prescription and a follow-up appointment. Diet advice, exercise plans, stress reduction techniques, meditation techniques, medical nutritionist advice, and much more are now part of a standard heart health improvement plan.
“The V Protocol is doing all of what I just described, but that’s after our initial analysis,” Dr. Vagnini says. “The first time I see a patient, I give them the whole array of the protocol. I administer a variety of stress tests, including echo, echo stress, and possible nuclear stress. We check for a culinary calcium score and endothelium dysfunction. Everyone who comes in gets a three-hour glucose intolerance test, a BMI test, total body water test, lean body mass test. I want to know everything about my patient so I can use everything in my arsenal to help them lose weight and improve their health. I also include many general anti-aging strategies as well.”
With a lab on the premises, all the tests can be administered and the results can be revealed in a shorter time frame than some other facilities, making the time between a diagnostic work-up and the creation of a treatment program as streamlined as possible. A big part of the program involves supplements.
Supplementation is Key
With the growing body of knowledge about supplements and nutrients expanding every day, each patient gets a nutraceutical program geared directly towards their own problems.
“Almost everyone gets vitamin D3,” Dr. Vagnini says. “Some start at 5,000 units, some higher. Many are very D deficient, which can increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. I’ve even prescribed 50,000 units of vitamin D a week for 12 weeks and seen excellent results.”
In addition to vitamin D, Dr. Vagnini often recommends that his patients take up many supplements that are familiar to Life Extension readers.
“I often recommend resveratrol for a variety of reasons,” Dr. Vagnini says. “It is a powerful antioxidant, it helps with insulin resistance and it helps you lose weight. I like to suggest pomegranate be taken with it as well. And of course, it has many anti-aging benefits.”
Omega-3s are also often involved in the V Protocol and Dr. Vagnini refers to them as “miracle nutrients.”
“Omega-3s may cut diabetes risk, but they also help regulate blood pressure and lower homocysteine,” he says. “CoQ10 is another critical nutrient that helps with insulin resistance, cardiac performance, and many more issues. If a patient is suffering from fatigue, I’ll tell them about the energy benefits of D-Ribose. There are so many supplements out there that are helpful.”
Aged Garlic Extract is also something that Dr. Vagnini mentions he recommends patients use to help with cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and arterial wall support.
“Too many physicians see a problem and go right for the drugs,” Vagnini says. “I go natural as much as I can. I’ll use statin drugs or something if I have to, but I have no hesitation to try red yeast rice, green tea extract, rutin, carnitine, whatever I find my patients are having success with.”
Open-minded doctors like Dr. Vagnini are a rare presence in medicine, but thanks to his pioneering spirit and his willingness to recognize the value of nutraceuticals, there should soon be more doctors following his, and Life Extension’s footsteps.
For more information on Dr. Vagnini or the V Protocol, visit: www.vagnini.comIf you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.