The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Exclusive Interview with Life Extension Scientists Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw
Dodging the Bullet
DURK: What sort of problems do you have when a person uses psychoactive drugs? With some of them, the problems are essentially getting caught, and driving a car when you shouldn’t. With others, the problems are the damage that the drugs can do to you. For example, stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines cause vasoconstriction. This drives up your blood pressure and you could end up getting a stroke from it. The same dose of a stimulant that you’ve been using for twenty years may all of the sudden—because you’ve gotten a little older and a little weaker—blow out your blood vessels and result in a stroke.
Fortunately, the nitric oxide that you can get from an arginine, choline, and vitamin B5 formulation can actually counteract the vasoconstrictive effects and the blood pressure raising effects of the noradrenaline and also cause a reduction of blood pressure increases caused by things like cocaine. And that’s well worth doing. Another factor involved in the use of psychoactive stimulants is that they are notorious for causing sudden death heart attacks. You can take the same dose you’ve taken for 20 to 30 years and this time something goes wrong, your heart fibrillates, you remain conscious for 20 to 30 seconds. It is an unlikely event that you can get 911 on the line and tell them where you are before you pass out due to blood no longer circulating in your brain. The average response time for 911 in areas where they have a good system is about 8 minutes…
SANDY: And that is an excellent response time, but by that time you’ve suffered irreversible brain damage and you’re lucky … I don’t know if you want to call it lucky if you get resuscitated at that point because you’re going to be in really bad shape.
DURK: Well, in fact, when 911 is called for sudden death heart attacks, only about 2% of the people are revived. You can revive the body and use it for organ donations, but the brain is usually gone by the time they get the heart beating normally again. So how do you prevent this? It turns out that in cold water fish oils, there is a constituent called DHA. It is an extremely effective antiarrhythmic. You can easily reduce your risk of having a sudden death heart attack by 50 to 80% by taking a couple grams a day of DHA and another polyunsaturated extra long chain omega 3 fatty acid that comes with it, EPA.
SANDY: Or you can eat a couple meals a week of fish. That is fatty fish, not just any fish, but cold water fatty fish.
DURK: And that will provide perhaps 40 to 50% reduction in risk of sudden death heart attack, but you can get a lot more by taking a supplement. We recommend 2 grams a day of EPA and DHA. DHA prevents your heart from being sensitized to going into arrhythmias including ventricular fibrillation which stimulants really tend to provoke. The EPA does something else. Psychoactive stimulants often cause an increased risk of blood clotting, so they not only pump up your blood pressure which can lead to an hemorrhagic stroke, they also increases your platelet aggregation and adhesiveness which can cause a occlusive stroke or heart attack and EPA helps to prevent this. So anyone who is using stimulants, in fact any one over the age of 35, whether or not they’re using stimulants, really should be taking a couple grams a day of EPA plus DHA. We certainly do that and expect it to help us stay around for a long, long time. Its effects are primarily to prevent sudden death heart attacks; it doesn’t do much to prevent regular heart attacks. With regular heart attacks, you have hours during which your heart continues beating, and blood keeps going through your brain. Your brain doesn’t die from lack of oxygen and if they can get you into a cardiac center, they can put in stents, do an angioplasty, perform open heart surgery, and do whatever it takes to bring you back. With a sudden death heart attack you don’t have any time. Your brain starts dying in five minutes ….
SANDY: And it’s just amazing how this simple protective measure of fatty fish oils is able to prevent this susceptibility to sudden death heart attacks. It’s something everybody over the age of 35 should be taking.
DURK: As you get older, the use of psychoactive drugs does not frequently produce the same effects that they did when you were younger. One reason for that is because your brain has been losing neurons, you’re going down hill, and this happens much sooner than you’re diagnosed with anything. For example, an autopsy was done on a bunch of men and women who died in their 60’s from non-neurological diseases like getting hit by a car while crossing the street. It was found that most of them actually had amyloid plaque buildup in their brains, not nearly as extensive as those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, but from these observations, it’s obvious that the process that causes Alzheimer’s starts occurring decades before people develop symptoms.
SANDY: And it’s also something that is associated naturally with the aging process, whether you get Alzheimer’s or not, you’re going to get some of these plaques.
DURK: And what you want to do is defend yourself against them. We’ve developed a formulation that we consider very useful for that. It has a large variety of things in it that have been shown in animal experiments, human epidemiological studies, and even double-blind, placebo-control human experiments to reduce the neurotoxicity of amyloid and to also help induce stem cells in your brain to divide and differentiate into new nerve cells….
SANDY: That is a process called neurogenesis. And until a few years ago nobody knew this took place, nobody thought there was any development of neurons in the brain once a person reached adulthood. But in fact that does take place in a number of areas in the brain….
DURK: Yes, they thought it was all downhill from childhood and it turns out that is not the case. And there are a variety of materials that can help stimulate this. For example, very small doses of lithium, much smaller doses than are used to treat bipolar disease manic depression, can have quite a profound effect. The mechanism may very well work by inhibiting glycogen synthase kinase 3 beta. There was an interesting study done in Texas, called the “27 County Study.” Some people were getting their water from wells, and some from rivers. Those getting their water from rivers were getting very little lithium, typically under 50 mcg per day. The people getting the water from the wells had much more lithium, getting 100, 200, even 500 mcg of lithium per day. What they found after doing regression analysis—which corrects for population density, socioeconomic status, etc, anything that might affect crime rates—was very interesting. Crimes of violence, including armed robbery and rape, were remarkably greater in the areas where people were getting small amounts of lithium.
SANDY: Suicide was less in high lithium areas, too…
DURK: They also found out that the incidence of arrest for cocaine and opiates were less in areas that were getting higher levels of lithium. On the other hand, for crimes that do not involve violence, pick pockets, shop lifting, car theft, etc., there was not change. They also found there was no difference in marijuana arrests.
SANDY: Before we finish here we ought to mention mineral springs ….
DURK: Many mineral springs have the reputation of doing people a lot of good. Now, the way Europeans go to a spa is not the way a person in the U.S. does. In Europe they wouldn’t go for two or three days; they’d go for two or three weeks or longer….
SANDY: Especially if your vacation is getting paid for by the state. In Europe, there is a lot more of an inducement to spend time on vacation….
DURK: And if you look at the spas that have the best reputation for causing mental rejuvenation like Vichy, you find out that, wow, they’ve got a lot of lithium in that water; about 3 mg per liter in Vichy water. This is no where near the level that is going to cause you trouble; for example, excessive levels can be toxic and can damage your kidneys, and a lot of other things. We’re talking about far lower levels than that….
SANDY: This is not in the range of what people are given for bipolar (manic depressive) disorder…
DURK: That is typically on the order something like 20 to 30 to 40 times as much per day….
WILL: What are some of the other items that would be of value?
DURK: One of the things we have in there is an alkaloid called galantamine which is extracted from the snowdrop, actually the bulb of the snowdrop flower. And this has been used for dealing with memory problems for at least 2800 years. It’s in Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey. Remember when Odysseus (also know as Ulysses) and his crew stop on the island of Circe and she poisoned them? They all forgot about their families and homes and their country and their duties and their voyage and were rolling around on the ground eating like pigs. They had forgotten everything; their long term memory was gone. From Homer’s description, what Circe gave them, them was henbane or thorn apple or an anticholinergic plant containing either atropine, hyoscyamine, and/or scopolamine … they knew back then that could cause loss of memory. In fact, a tribe of the American Indians used to use a type of plant that contained scopolamine as a truth drug. All of these things cause interference with normal memory function, including who is your enemy. What Odysseus did to rescue his men was to gave them an extract from the snowdrop bulb, which we now know contains galantamine which is a cholinesterase inhibitor. Galantamine prevents the breakdown and destruction of acetylcholine so that you have more of it in the synapse. So even if your synapses are partly blocked by an anticholinergic or by age-related damage…
WILL: Galantamine will help prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine.
SANDY: Yes, acetylcholine is broken down by the enzyme cholinesterase. But galantamine prevents this; it’s an anticholinesterase. It prevents the cholinesterase from breaking down acetylcholine so you end up with more cholinergic activity. That is how it works…
DURK: It also acts as a cholinergic agent in of itself. There are a whole bunch of cholingeric receptors and it’s interesting to note that galantamine has not only been used in folk medicine, it is now FDA approved as a prescription drug for treating mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. I might add, fortunately, that it was used in the folk medicine before it was approved as a prescription drug, or we couldn’t have it in our dietary supplement. But Sandy and I take this every day.
There are quite a few other items worth mentioning, such as taurine, for example, a sulfur containing amino acid that isn’t used for building proteins, but acts as a neuromodulator for noradrenaline and reduces the neurotoxicity of amyloid plaque.
SANDY: Taurine is a neuroprotective compound which operates as a powerful antioxidant. It’s concentrated in organs that have a lot of electrical activity, the brain, the eyes, the heart…
DURK: And in fact, we have this in all of our phenylalanine supplements because it prevents excessive sensitivity to noradrenaline. Well they’ve also found an association that people who have the highest levels of taurine have the lowest incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. Taurine provides protection from the free radical toxicity of the brain plaque, amyloid beta.
SANDY: The mitochondria are the energy organelles that are located within cells and which generate almost all of the energy your body uses…
Shield your brain with
DURK: And these are damaged in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases...
SANDY: And in normal aging itself.
DURK: So we have a long list of things in there, and make sure you get the
interview we did in the May 2004 issue of Life Enhancment magazine.
SANDY: I think we should mention alcohol.
DURK: The world’s favorite recreational…
SANDY: Nearly everybody uses it and at the same time, everybody knows if you drink a little beyond your limit, which is different for different people, you will end up the next morning with a hangover, feel lousy, have a headache, and feel sick to your stomach. This is caused by the fact that when alcohol is metabolized in your body it produces some toxic byproducts. Acetaldehyde is produced from alcohol….
DURK: Acetaldehyde is like formaldehyde. When you say lushes are embalming themselves or pickling themselves, it’s literally true. Acetaldehyde has the same type of cross-linking capability that formaldehyde does…
SANDY: It causes the same kind of damage…
DURK: Now, if you have enough enzymes to convert the acetaldehyde quickly to acetate like you find in vinegar, there is no hangover. But if you make acetaldehyde faster than you can destroy it, you can end up with a level that can not only cause you discomfort the next day, but can also cause you brain damage. Acetaldehyde destroys vitamin B1 and people who are alcoholic frequently have a loss of memory called Korsakoff’s psychosis. That is due to the destruction of vitamin B1.
SANDY: Women have less of the enzyme that converts acetaldehyde to less toxic metabolites like the acetate, and as a result, women generally can’t tolerate as much alcohol. But whether a man or a woman, at a certain level you’re going to exceed your body’s capacity to detoxify it and you’ll end up with a hangover…
WILL: Why is vitamin B1 important?
DURK: B1 is a necessary nutrient for the function of brain cells. And without enough B1, effectively, you end up with a cerebral B1 deficiency, and the brain damage that would be associated with it. A scientist at National Cancer Institute…
SANDY: …by the name of Sprince…
DURK: … back in the 1970’s, Sprince came up with a very clever idea. He decided that part of the problem was free radical generation, so include vitamin C; part of the problem was B1 destruction, so include vitamin B1; and part of the problem was that acetaldehyde will react very rapidly under physiological conditions with the amino acid cysteine. So he found that if he gave rats a mixture of vitamin B1, C and cysteine that an LD90….
SANDY: An LD90 dose of acetaldehyde, that killed 90% of the rats to which it was given resulted in no deaths when the rats were given the vitamin mixture. So this is an incredible protection that you get from this mixture.
DURK:Also, the nutrient taurine has been shown to reduce the stomach-damaging effects of alcohol. Our mixture is really quite amazing; it doesn’t sober you up. Please remember that. Don’t think you can drink and then take a formulation and drive home. You can’t; you’re just as high on alcohol with the nutrients as without. But what happens is that you don’t feel bad the next day, which is an improvement.
SANDY: It makes all the difference in the world. You take three before the party, three after the party, and then three the next morning. That’s it and it takes care of the hangover. No hangover.
DURK: One last thing, as mentioned earlier, I’d like to encourage people to read the other interview because as people get older, bad things happen to their brains and it’s going to get worse and worse unless you do something about it.
SANDY: And scientists have learned an amazing amount about the mechanisms that cause the brain to deteriorate with aging. These are long term processes and it is possible to prevent a lot of this damage by taking the right nutrients at the right time and that is one reason why we develop these formulations. Because we want to be able to protect our own brains from these ongoing processes…
DURK: And if you wait until you have symptoms of age related brain damage such as symptomatic Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s…
SANDY: …you’ve already suffered a severe amount of damage and reversing that is far, far more difficult—impossible at the present time—than preventing the damage in the first place.
DURK: So not only do you want to dodge the bullet from taking certain psychoactive substances, you want to dodge the bullet of aging. And that will get everybody sooner or later, but you can make that later rather than sooner.
SANDY: And be in much better condition until the very end.