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Good Nutrition For A Good Life
I believe that you can, by taking some simple and inexpensive measures, lead a longer life and extend your years of well-being. My most important recommendation is that you take vitamins every day in optimum amounts to supplement the vitamins that you receive in your food. Those optimum amounts are much larger than the minimunt supplemental intake usually recommended by physicians and old-fashioned nutritionists. The intake of vitamin C they advise, for example, is not much larger than that necessary to prevent the dietary-deficiency disease scurvy. My advice that you take larger amounts of C and other vitamins is predicated upon new and better understanding of the role of these nutrients -- they are not drugs -- in the chemical reactions of life, The usefulness of the larger supplemental intakes indicated by this understanding has been invariably confirmed by such clinical trials as have been run and by the first pioneering studies in the new epidemiology of health.
By the proper intakes of vitamins and other nutrients and by following a few other healthful practices from youth or middle age on, you can, I believe, extend your life and years of well-being by twenty-five or even thirtyfive years. A benefit of increasing the length of the period of well-being is that the fraction of one's life during which one is happy becomes greater. Youth is a time of unhappiness; young people, striving to find their places in the world, live under great stress. The deterioration in health as the result of age usually makes the period before death a time of unhappiness again. There is evidence that there isless unhappiness associated with death at an advanced age than at an early age.
For such reasons it is sensible to take the health measures that will increase the length of the period of wellbeing and the life span. If you are already old when you begin taking vitamin supplements in the proper amounts and following other practices that improve your health, you can expect the control of the process of aging to be less, but it may still amount to fifteen or twenty years.
For most of the statements in the following chapters I give reference to the published reports of the observations on which the statements are based. It is not possible, however, for me to substantiate in the same way the foregoing statements of my beliefs about the increase in the length of the period of well-being and the length of life. I have formed these beliefs on the basis of my knowledge of a great many observations about the effects of vitamins in varying amounts on animals and human beings under various conditions of good or poor health, including some significant epidemiological studies. There is, however, no single study to which I can point as showing with high statistical significance that the amount of benefit is as great as I believe it to be. One complication, discussed in a later chapter, is that human beings differ from one another; they show a pronounced biochemical individuality. It is far easier to obtain reliable information about the factors determining the health of guinea pigs or monkeys than of human beings, and I have relied to some extent on the studies made on these and other animal species.
I am, for example, impressed by the fact that the Committee on the Feeding of Laboratory Animals of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council recommends far more vitamin C for monkeys than the Food and Nutrition Board of the same U.S. National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council recommends for human beings. I am sure that the first commince has worked hard to find the optimum intake for the monkeys, the amount that puts them in the best of health. The second committee has not made any effort to find the optimum intake of vitamin C or of any other vitamin for the American people. In its Recommended Daily Allowances, so well publicized that they are referred to on breakfast-cereal boxes by the initials RDA, the committee rations the vitamins at not much above the minimum daily intake required to prevent the particular deficiency disease that is associated with each of diem.
No evidence compels the conclusion that the minimum required intake of any vitamin comes close to the optimum intake that sustains good health. The best supplementary amounts of the vitamins and the best way to take them I discuss in the first chapters of this book, and the reasons for taking them in the chapters that follow. As you will see, I think that vitamin C is the most important in the sense that the value of increasing the intake of this vitamin beyond that supplied by an ordinary diet is greater than for the other vitamins, but the other vitamins are also important.
When it comes to concern about health, an important question is the extent to which a person in the United States should depend on his or her physician. At the present time the main job of the physician is to try to cure the patient when he or she appears in the office with a specific illness. The physician usually does not make any great effort to prevent the illness or to strive to put the person consulting him or her in the best of health.
A remarkable book has been published recently (1984) by Dr. Eugene D. Robin, professor of medicine and physiology in Stanford Medical School. Its title is Matters of Life and Death: Risks vs. Benefits of Medical Care. In it the author discusses the drawbacks of presentday medicine as well as its strengths. His thesis is that there are "serious flaws in the basic processes by which diagnostic and therapeutic measures are introduced and used in medicine" and that "potential or actual patients can reduce the risks and increase the benefits of their medical care if they are familiar with...