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Ray Kurzweil - 2

of this perspective that things are going to be very different ten or fifteen years from now. This insight really should motivate them to be aggressive about using today’s knowledge. Of course all of this will lead to ‘Bridge Three’ about twenty years from now—the nanotechnology revolution-where we can go beyond the limitations of biology. We’ll have programmable nanobots that can keep us healthy from inside, and truly provide truly radical life extension.

So that’s the genesis. My interest in life extension stems primarily from my having been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. I really consider the diabetes to be a blessing because it prodded me to overcome it, and, in so doing, I realized that I didn’t just have an approach for diabetes, but a general attitude and approach to overcome any health problem, that we really can find the ideas and apply them to overcome the genetic dispositions that we have. There’s a common wisdom that your genes are eighty percent of your health and longevity and lifestyle is only twenty percent. Well, that’s true if you follow the generally, watered-down guidelines that our health institutions put out. But if you follow the optimal guidelines that we talk about, you can really overcome almost any genetic disposition. We do have the knowledge to do that.

David: What do you think are some of the common misleading ideas that people have about health and longevity?

Ray: One thing that I just eluded to is the compromised recommendations from our health authorities. I just had a lengthy debate with the Joslin Diabetes Center, which is considered the world’s leading diabetes treatment and research center. I’m on the board, and they’ve just come out with new nutritional guidelines, which are highly compromised. They’re far from ideal, and they acknowledge that. They say, well, we have enough trouble getting people to follow these guidelines, let alone the stricter guidelines that you recommend. And my reply is, you have trouble getting people to follow your guidelines because they don’t work. If people followed your guidelines very precisely they’d still have Type 2 diabetes. They’d still have to take harsh drugs or insulin.

If they follow my guidelines the situation is quite different. I’ve counseled many people about Type 2 diabetes, and Dr. Grossman has treated many people with it, and they come back and they have completely normal levels. Their symptoms are gone, and they don’t have to take insulin or harsh drugs. They feel liberated, and that’s extremely motivating. In many ways it’s easier to make a stricter change. To dramatically reduce your high Glycemic index carbs is actually easier than moderately reducing them, because if you moderately reduce them you don’t get rid of the cravings for carbs. Carbs are addictive, and it’s just like trying to cut down a little bit on cigarettes. It’s actually easier to cut cigarettes out completely, and it’s also easier to largely cut out high Glycemic index starches and sugars, because the cravings go away and it’s much easier to follow. But, most importantly, it works along with a few supplements and exercise to overcome most cases of Type 2 Diabetes.

However, this doesn’t seem to be the attitude our health authorities. The nutritional recommendations are consistently compromised. There’s almost no understanding of the role of nutritional supplements, which can be very powerful. I take two hundred and fifty supplements a day, and I monitor my body regularly. I’m not just flying without instrumentation. Being an engineer, I like data and I monitor fifty or sixty different blood levels every few months, and I’m constantly fine-tuning my program. All of my blood levels are ideal. My Homocysteine level many years ago was eleven, but now it’s five. My C-reactive protein is 0.1. My cholesterol is 130. My LDL is about 60, and my HDL-which was 28-is now close to sixty. And so on and so forth.

I’ve also taken biological aging tests, which measure things like tactile sensitivity, reaction time, memory, and decision-making speed. There are forty different tests, and you compare your score to medians for different populations at different ages. When I was forty I came out at about thirty-eight. Now I’m fifty-seven-at least for a few more days -and I come out at forty. So, according to these tests, I’ve only aged two years in the last seventeen years. Now you can dispute the absolute validity of these biological aging tests. It’s just a number, but it’s just evidence that this program is working.

David: Why do you think that genomic testing is important?

Ray: Our program is very much not a one size fits all. It’s not a one-trick pony. We’re not saying that if you lower your carbs, lower your fat, or eat a grapefruit a day then everything will be fine. In fact, our publisher initially had a problem with this, but they actually got behind it enthusiastically, because it fundamentally differs, as you know, from most health books that really do have just one idea. We earnestly try to provide a comprehensive understanding of your biology and your body, which does have some complexity to it. Then we let people apply these principles to their own lives.

It is important to emphasize the issues that are concerns for yourself. We use an analogy of stepping backwards towards a cliff. It’s much easier to change direction before you fall off the cliff. But, generally, medicine doesn’t get involved until the eruption of clinical disease. Someone has a heart attack, or they develop clinical cancer, and that’s very often akin to falling off a cliff. One third of first heart attacks are fatal, and another third cause permanent damage to the heart muscle.

It’s much easier to catch these conditions beforehand. You don’t just catch heart disease or cancer walking down the street one day. These are many years or decades in the making, and you can see where you are in the progression of these diseases. So it’s very important to know thyself, to access your own situation. Genetic testing is important because you can see what dispositions you have. If you have certain genes that dispose you to heart disease, or conversely cancer, or diabetes, then you would give a higher priority to managing those issues, and do more tests to see where you are in the progression of those conditions. Let’s say you do a test and it says you have a genetic disposition to Type 2 diabetes. So you should do a glucose-tolerance test. In fact, we describe a more sophisticated form of that in the book, where you measure insulin as well, and can see if you have early stages of insulin resistance.

Perhaps you have metabolic syndrome, which a very substantial fraction of the population has. If you have these early harbingers of insulin resistance, that could lead to Type 2 diabetes, so obviously the priority of that issue will be greatly heightened. If you don’t have that vulnerability then you don’t have to be as concerned about insulin resistance, and so on. But if you do have insulin resistance, or you have a high level of atherosclerosis, then it really behooves you to take important steps to get these dangerous conditions under control-which you can do. So genomic testing is not something you do by itself. It’s part of a comprehensive assessment program to know your own body-not only what you’re predisposed to, but what your body has already developed in terms of early versions of these degenerative conditions.

David: What are some of the most important nutritional supplements that you would recommend to help prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease?
Ray: We spell all that out in the book. Coenzyme Q10 is important. It never ceases to amaze me that physicians do not tell their patients to take coenzyme Q10 when they prescribe Statin drugs. This is because it’s well known that Statin drugs deplete the body of coenzyme Q10, and a lot of the side-effects such as muscle weakness that people suffer from Statin drugs are because of this depletion of coenzyme Q10. In any event, that’s an important supplement. It is involved in energy generation within the mitochondria of each cell. Disruption to the mitochondria is an important aging process and this supplement will help slow that down. Coenzyme Q10 has a number of protective effect including lowering blood pressure, helping to control free-radical damage, and protecting the heart.

A lot of research recently shows the Curcumin, which is derived from the spice turmeric, has important anti-inflammatory properties and can protect against cancer, heart disease, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Alpha-Lipoic acid is an important antioxidant which is both water and fat-soluble. It can neutralize harmful free radicals, improve insulin sensitivity, and slow down the process of advanced Glycation end products (AGEs), which is another key aging process.

Each of the vitamins is important and plays a key role. Vitamin C is generally protective as a premier antioxidant. It appears to have particular effectiveness in preventing the early stages of atherosclerosis, namely the oxidizing of LDL cholesterol.

In terms of vitamin E, there’s been a lot of negative publicity about that, but if you look carefully at that research you’ll see that all of those studies were done with alpha-Tocopherol, and vitamin E is really a blend of eight different substances-four tocopherols and four Tocotrienols. Alpha-Tocopherol actually depletes levels of gamma-Tocopherol, and gamma-Tocopherol is the form of vitamin E that’s found naturally in food, and is a particularly important one. So we recommend that people take a blend of the fractions of vitamin E, and that they get

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