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Life Extension Magazine

Life Extension Magazine May 2013
As We See It  

Federal Death Panels

By William Faloon
William Faloon
William Faloon

The federal government has a problem. It is obligated to pay the sick-care expenses of a surging population that is living years beyond original expectations.

The result of Americans surviving longer is that government medical insurance programs are descending into insolvency.

One way to reduce outlays is to deceive the public with misleading propaganda that urges citizens to neglect their health.

If this charade succeeds, tens of millions will die prematurely, thus sparing Medicare and other programs the expense of fulfilling their obligations to aging Americans. There’s no question about it, premature death is cost effective for the government.

Government has a big advantage. Their deceptive reports receive widespread media coverage, which leads most consumers to believe them. 

Life Extension® is on the opposing side. We strive to keep our members alive far beyond any expectation. Our 33-year track record documents that we are decades ahead of government-sanctioned medicine, yet the media ignores our science-based positions.

As a reader of this publication, you get to learn what our government is seeking to censor.

In 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. The ensuing World War caused the deaths of over 405,000 Americans.1

A more significant event occurred in 1941 from a loss-of-life standpoint. That year, a study was published in the journal Cancer Research showing greater cancer mortality in people living at higher latitudes—where there is less sunlight exposure.2 

Instead of acting to save lives, this finding was overlooked by government-sanctioned medicine until 2006, when the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published results from a huge population study showing lower cancer deaths in response to higher vitamin D blood levels.3 Compared to 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood levels of 20 (ng/mL), this study’s analysis indicated those with a reading of 50 (ng/mL) would have a 51% reduction in total incidences of cancer.3

The Journal of the National Cancer Institute study authors concluded that to increase 25-hydroxyvitamin D from a low of 20 to a higher 50 ng/mL—about 4,500 IU a day of vitamin D supplementation would be necessary.3

Move forward to year 2012 and another government-sponsored program (United States Preventive Services Task Force) issued a carefully crafted press release to imply there is no benefit to supplementing with vitamin D (or calcium). This led newspapers like the Washington Post to run the headline:

Task Force Recommends Against Vitamin D, Calcium Supplements”4

These kinds of misleading headlines were repeated in the worldwide media.5-9

What the “Task Force” Really Stated

What the “Task Force” Really Stated  

The United States Preventive Services Task Force evaluated 137 published studies about vitamin D and concluded what most Life Extension members already know, i.e. low-dose vitamin D (400 IU/day) has no benefit in preventing fractures or cancer.10

To reiterate this point, the Task Force reviewed the published data and came to the conclusion that women should not take low doses of vitamin D to prevent fracture or for any other benefit.

The Task Force is correct!  This was documented by the 2006 study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showing that it would require 4,500 IU a day of vitamin D to reduce incidences of cancer by 51%.3

The Task Force also accurately stated that 1,000 mg a day of a poorly absorbed calcium (calcium carbonate) plus 400 IU of vitamin D does not prevent bone fractures. This was long ago known to nutritional experts who understand that osteoporosis prevention requires supplementation with nutrients such as vitamin K11-15 and magnesium,16-20 along with maintenance of a youthful hormone balance21-23 and resistance exercises.24-27

Omissions and Lies

Instead of recommending that effective doses (over 4,000 IU/day) of vitamin D be taken along with other critical nutrients and hormones, the United States Preventive Services Task Force concluded that people should not take any vitamin D or calcium.

The Task Force went further and noted a small risk in kidney stones in women taking calcium and vitamin D supplements. This contradicts other studies showing calcium supplements reduce kidney stone risk28-30 and that magnesium and potassium intake prevents kidney stone formation by 85%!31-33

The most outrageous lie was a Task Force statement that most people can achieve sufficient doses of vitamin D and calcium with a healthy diet. The truth is that the only way to achieve optimal vitamin D levels without supplements is significant sun exposure.  There is no healthy diet that comes close to providing over 4,000 IU of vitamin D each day. This blatant lie deceives consumers into believing they will obtain enough vitamin D if they eat healthy. 

This is one reason why we refer to the United States Preventive Services Task Force as a "Federal Death Panel." Their recommendation to not take any vitamin D, because low-dose vitamin D is ineffective, will condemn millions of Americans to needlessly die of cancer if the truth remains suppressed.

Clarifying “Low-Dose”

Clarifying “Low-Dose”  

Some people find it difficult to understand why something as effective as vitamin D does not show some benefit even with low doses (compared to no dose).

The harsh reality is that to protect against cancer and other diseases, the body has to maintain a minimum blood level of around 50 (ng/mL) of 25-hydroxyvitamin D.34 Blood levels below 50 ng/mL mean different cells are viciously competing for an insufficientamount of vitamin D.35 In this lethal scenario, many cells are inevitably deprived of enough vitamin D to maintain healthy division patterns.36

According to the 2006 mega-study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, if one were to ingest 400 IU of vitamin D a day, the increase in 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood levels would be a tiny 2.6 ng/mL.3 This is in keeping with an early report showing for each 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 that is supplemented, 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood levels will increase by 7 ng/mL.37 

A typical aging person who does not take vitamins will have 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels around 20 (ng/mL). So boosting it to 22.6 ng/mL by taking a 400 IU vitamin D supplement does not come close to achieving conventional medicine’s minimum blood level of 32 ng/mL, let alone optimal ranges of over 50 ng/mL.

If one supplements with 5,000 IU of vitamin D each day, they can increase 25-hydroxyvitamin D from 20 to around 55 ng/mL, which is the protective blood level enjoyed by youngsters playing each day in the summer sun. (Children should not play in the sun without sunscreen.)

It is important to note that there is a huge individual variation in one’s response to vitamin D dosing, meaning some people only need around 3,000 IU/day while others need over 10,000 IU/day to achieve optimal status. That is why Life Extension added the 25-hydroxyvitamin D test to its Male and Female Blood Panels last year.  I have learned through personal communication from Stephen B. Strum, MD, FACP, that the average vitamin D3 dose needed by adult men in a prostate cancer practice to achieve a 25-hydroxyvitamin D level of 60 ng/mL is 8,000 IU/day.

To use an analogy as to why low-dose vitamin D is worthless (which is what the Task Force was really saying), pretend you wake New Year’s Day with a splitting headache from excess drinking the night before. If you take 400 mg of ibuprofen, your headache may disappear. If you only take 40 mg of ibuprofen, you are unlikely to feel any relief. If a clinical study is done using 40 mg of ibuprofen to relieve headaches, the results will show there is no difference between placebo and 40 mg of ibuprofen. That does not mean ibuprofen is ineffective, it just means that ten times more is needed.  In medicine, this is called a dose-response relationship, and it applies to virtually every nutrient,  hormone, and prescription drug.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force cited data from studies showing doses as low as 400 IU/day of vitamin D do not prevent bone fracture or cancer as a basis to advise aging Americans to not take any vitamin D (or calcium). This is clearly an absurd recommendation since hard-core scientific data show ten times more vitamin D (over 4,000 IU/day) is required to provide expected benefits.38-41

Cancer Risk Reduction in Response to Higher Vitamin D Status
CANCER PRIMARY SITE RISK REDUCTION WITH INCREASED VITAMIN D LEVELS
Breast43 50%
Colon44,45 50%
Prostate46,47 49%
Ovary48 36%

Vitamin D Levels in Supplement Users

Life Extension was the first to discover that most supplement users have insufficient vitamin D levels unless they take around 5,000 IU of vitamin D each day. Insufficient is defined as blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D under 50 ng/mL.

In 2009, Life Extension conducted the largest survey of supplement users in history and found 85% had insufficient vitamin D blood levels based on 25-hydroxyvitamin D  readings of 50 ng/mL or less.42 These findings motivated health conscious consumers to increase their intake of this inexpensive nutrient.

The result is that most enlightened supplement users now have optimal vitamin D blood status, based on Life Extension’s ongoing review of the thousands of 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood tests our members take.

When we see a 25-hydroxyvitamin D reading over 100 ng/mL (which is rare), we contact the member and advise they reduce their vitamin D intake. 

Ideal 25-hydroxyvitamin D ranges are probably between 50-80 ng/mL. Yet based on the deceptive Task Force recommendations, average consumers have been misled into thinking they should take no vitamin D or calcium.

To reiterate, both sides agree there is no proven efficacy with low-dose vitamin D. By deceiving the public into thinking they should not take any vitamin D, the United States Preventive Services Task Force is functioning as a Federal Death Panel.

Watch Prostate Cancer Death Rates Soar

prostate cancer
A cancerous prostate gland has increased in size in a disordererd growth often seen in cancer. It has invaded the bladder wall and the rectal wall. Also seen is the urethra (tube leading out of the bladder).

Life Extension is on the front lines helping people afflicted with metastatic cancer to find therapies overlooked by their oncologist.  In too many cases, advanced-stage cancers fail to respond to treatment, or a tumor that goes into remission rapidly recurs. If these metastatic cancers were detected earlier, the probability of cure would have been significantly greater.

The most common cancer striking men has a blood marker that can enable very early detection, thereby enabling curative therapies to be employed before metastasis strikes. The name of this blood marker is PSA (prostate-specific antigen) and it has spared tens of thousands of men, from young men in their forties to those sixty and beyond, agonizing deaths from metastatic prostate cancer.

The problem is that most urologists and oncologists are not properly interpreting PSA results, nor are they efficiently implementing further diagnostic and treatment protocols. The unfortunate outcome is that too many aging men are being subjected to needless and incompetently administered procedures that sometimes result in unnecessary suffering and premature death.

Instead of recommending that medical professionals upgrade their protocols to deliver state-of-the-art technology, the United States Preventive Services Task Force suggests that aging men not undergo PSA screening—at all!49

The media ran this Federal Death Panel recommendation as headline news. The result is that prostate cancer will once again be diagnosed at an advanced stage, when there is bulky disease and a small chance of curative therapy.  Men will see their physicians as they did in the pre-PSA era, prior to 1987, with presenting clinical findings such as:

A.  Inability to urinate due to prostate cancer obstructing the urethra as it passes through the prostate gland.

B.  Pain in the bones or fracture of bones such as the femur or humerus or vertebral bodies of the spine due to bone metastases from prostate cancer.

C.  Spinal cord compression due to encroachment by prostate cancer that traveled to bone or lymph node and then invaded and compressed the spinal cord.

D. Nerve root pain if prostate cancer compresses a major nerve as it leaves the spinal cord.

E.  Symptoms of uremia (a toxic condition involving accumulation of metabolic waste products in the blood stream) due to lymph node compression of the ureters caused by prostate cancer that has spread to the lymphatics. (Ureters are tubes that drain urine from kidneys to the bladder.)

What Can Happen When PSA Screening is Not Performed
What Can Happen When PSA Screening is Not Performed

This is a radioisotope bone scan of a man presenting with advanced prostate cancer showing metastatic lesions that have invaded bone.  Black areas represent uptake of a radioisotope tracer at sites of bone metastases. These metastases involve the spine, ribs, pelvis, and right shoulder. Metastatic lesions at these sites can result in increased fracture risk and spinal cord compression among other problems.

Source: A Primer on Prostate Cancer: The Empowered Patient’s Guide by Stephen B. Strum, MD, FACP, and Donna Pogliano.

 

Doctors Don’t Know That Cancer Cells Use PSA

PSA is not just a marker of prostate disease. It functions as an enzyme to break down natural barriers that surround cells. Cancer cells spew out PSA that digests the protective extracellular matrix (tissues surrounding cells). PSA thus contributes to the ability of cancer cells to escape the prostate and metastasize to distant sites within the body.

By lowering PSA levels, men can diminish the ability of cancer cells in their prostate gland to break down the healthy tissues that help contain them.

Our understanding that cancer cells utilize PSA’s enzymatic protease digestion to escape confinement provides persuasive evidence for keeping PSA levels low to prevent frank prostate cancer from developing, or markedly slow it down.

Hidden Dangers of PSA

PSA may contribute to prostate cancer progression and the ability of these cancer cells to escape the prostate and metastasize to distant sites within the body. We can no longer think of PSA as merely a blood marker reflecting prostate health.

In fact, many, if not all, of the biomarkers (like PSA) used in tracking a wide array of cancers may have specific cancer-facilitating functions. Therefore, in men with prostate cancer, and perhaps even in those trying to prevent the emergence of prostate cancer, taking steps to keep PSA levels low may reduce one’s risk of developing this illness or having it progress to a clinically symptomatic condition.

The easiest way to reduce PSA is to inhibit the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which transforms testosterone into the more androgenic dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT has a growth-promoting effect on prostate cells that is 2.4 to 10 times greater than that of testosterone.58,59

In a study of 4,325 men with benign prostate enlargement who were randomly selected to receive either Avodart® (0.5 mg/day) or placebo, those receiving Avodart® had a cumulative incidence of prostate cancer of 1.2% compared to 2.5% for the placebo group at 27 months of follow-up. This equates with a 52% reduction in prostate cancer in the Avodart® group.60

In another study using finasteride (Proscar®), 18,882 men aged 55 or older (with normal digital rectal examination results and a PSA level of 3.0 ng/mL or lower) were randomly assigned treatment with Proscar® (5 mg/day) or placebo for seven years. Prostate cancer was detected in 803 of the 4,368 men in the Proscar® group and 1,147 of the 4,692 men in the placebo group, for a 24.8% reduction in prevalence over seven years. High-grade cancers were noted in 6.4% of Proscar®-treated patients compared to 5.1% of men receiving placebo.61 (Proscar® suppresses only type two 5-alpha reductase, whereas Avodart® blocks both type one and type two 5-alpha reductase. Avodart® thus appears to be the better drug.)

Aging men should consider having their blood tested for DHT. If DHT levels are elevated, Avodart® drug therapy appears to be safe and effective not only for improving urinary flow symptoms, but more importantly, for potentially reducing prostate cancer risk. Avodart® appears to accomplish these effects by reducing the growth-promoting effects of DHT on prostatic tissue, while decreasing the cancer-inducing properties of PSA by reducing PSA synthesis in the prostate gland.

Avodart® does have several downsides. At more than $4 per capsule, it is expensive. Moreover, a small percentage of men who use it have sexual dysfunction problems such as decreased libido (3%), impotence (5%), and ejaculation disorders (1%). The frequency of these side effects reportedly decline after six months of continued use of Avodart®.62 Fortunately, Avodart® is approved by the FDA to treat urinary symptoms related to benign prostate enlargement, so it is covered by most insurance plans.