Interview with Bill Faloon of the Life Extension Foundation
Jay S. Cohen, M.D
with Bill Faloon of the Life Extension Foundation: A Recent Clash with the FDA
Places the Spotlight on the Largest Anti-Aging, Research and Supplement Organization
in the U.S. Is Life Extension Possible? Where Does Anti-Aging Stand Today?
LEF has been conducting anti-aging research since 1980. Why?
are all aging to death. The mission of The Life Extension Foundation is to conduct
scientific research aimed at extending the healthy human lifespan in the short-term.
Our ultimate objective is to achieve indefinitely extended longevity free of the
ravages of aging and disease.
What anti-aging research are you conducting now?
year, we supported over four million dollars of pioneering scientific research.
The primary focus of our research is to measure the gene expression changes that
occur when various anti-aging compounds are administered to animals. We have developed
proprietary gene analysis technology that enables us to ascertain the effects
of anti-aging compounds in only a few months, rather than wait for the many years
it takes when doing lifespan animal research. The significance of this breakthrough
(published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Sept 10, 2001)
is that we can measure thousands of potential compounds to quickly identify those
that may slow or even reverse aging.
Life extension: do you think it's actually feasible? What can people do now?
testing only seven promising compounds using our gene measuring technology, we
identified the prescription drug metformin as having significant effects in mimicking
the gene expression changes normally seen in calorie restricted animals. Since
metformin has many other health benefits, including correcting the "metabolic
syndrome" (also known as Syndrome X), we suggest that most aging people (with
their doctors) consider taking metformin for its potential disease prevention
and anti-aging benefits. However, many people are concerned about drug side effects
and may not want to take metformin.
Why does calorie restriction prolong life?
of all, eating less food significantly lowers blood levels of insulin, glucose,
cholesterol, triglycerides, and other known vascular disease risk factors. By
restricting food intake, one also reduces the amounts of mutagens that are so
prevalent in the diet, thereby reducing their risk of cancer. Published studies
consistently show that those who consume the greatest number of calories have
higher cancer rates. What Life Extension has discovered through our pioneering
research is that calorie restriction favorably alters the genes involved in cellular
aging. This means that genes that program cells to enter senescence are deactivated,
whereas genes that keep cells functioning in youthful, healthy metabolic states
remain active or are turned back on. So calorie restriction accomplishes two objectives:
it reduces the risk of contracting the most common killer diseases, and it programs
genes to extend the maximum lifespan of the organism.
Other than major calorie restriction or prescription drugs, are there other methods
people can use to accomplish the same goal?
scientists from Harvard Medical School identified an extract from red grapes (resveratrol)
as a substance that can activate a longevity gene that expresses itself in calorie
restricted animals. Resveratrol comes primarily from the grape skin and other
parts of certain plants. Resveratrol has also been shown to activate a longevity
gene in yeast. This same longevity gene expresses itself when humans undergo calorie
restriction. Scientists have speculated that humans may derive some of the benefits
of calorie restriction by consuming resveratrol supplements. People may reduce
their risks of contracting many common age-related diseases by supplementing with
resveratrol. But the quality of the resveratrol people take is the key. For two
years, Life Extension has worked with a European pharmaceutical company to make
available an affordable standardized resveratrol extract with the most consistent
potency and bioavailability of any resveratrol extract. Meanwhile, we continue
to seek other life-extending methods. In recent years, we have introduced a number
of supplements that counteract the many known causes of aging. Protein degradation
via the glycation process is one example. We found that high dose carnosine (1000
mg/day) interferes with glycation processes. Aging people suffer from a systemic
low level of chronic inflammation that damages virtually every cell in the body.
Nettle leaf extract and DHEA help to mitigate the pro-inflammatory cytokines that
are the underlying cause of much of this destructive inflammation.
Where do you see the alternative health movement heading? What will be LEF's role?
term "alternative health" conjures up all kinds of medical practices,
some of them based on solid science, others having an almost religious connotation.
Life Extension tries to separate itself from the broad term "alternative
health" because it does not accurately describe what we do. For the past
24 years, we have uncovered pioneering therapies to treat and prevent the diseases
associated with aging. Our protocols are substantiated by thousands of studies
published in eminent scientific journals. The problem is that practicing physicians
are largely unaware of this life-saving information and many of their patients
are needlessly suffering and dying. One reason for this travesty is that today's
doctors are overwhelmed with a crushing burden of bureaucracy. Hurried doctors
cannot possibly keep up with the abundance of new information bursting out of
the scientific arena. In order to bridge the gap, The Life Extension Foundation
has recently published a 1500-page reference book for consumers and doctors titled
Disease Prevention and Treatment. In addition, our 90,000 members receive our
110-page monthly magazine that keeps them updated on the latest medical advances.
Still, many people find it difficult to apply the vast amount of new scientific
data that emerges every day. That's why Life Extension Foundation maintains a
team of physicians and scientists who pore over newly published data to provide
the best guidance to achieving a longer, healthier lifespan. When Life Extension
members have questions, they have free phone and email access to physicians, a
doctor of molecular oncology, and other knowledgeable health advisors. Our website
is also another excellent resource. In an era of wild claims from all directions
about new anti-aging discoveries, we at The Life Extension Foundation take pride
in having the longest track record of in-depth research and scientifically-supported
recommendations to help people maximize health and longevity. I encourage your
readers to review our novel approaches by logging on to www.lef.org
LEF has recently been investigated by the FDA. Why?
July 16, 2003, the FDA appeared at our door and began an intrusive 5-day inspection
of our offices. This effectively shut our legal team down for a week. We believe
that the FDA is trying to thwart Life Extension's because we have been the leading
proponent of a bill that would permit Americans to legally import lower-cost prescription
medications from other countries. We suspect that the pharmaceutical lobby instigated
the FDA's unwarranted investigation of us.
You've taken controversial stands from the start.
in 1980, the Life Extension Foundation began to uncover methods to prevent and
treat diseases that were being overlooked by mainstream doctors. Even though these
methods were substantiated by thousands of scientific studies, practicing physicians
were largely unaware of this life-saving information and many of their patients
were needlessly suffering and dying. For example, in 1980, we were the first to
recommend antioxidants to prevent disease. In 1981, we introduced DHEA as a disease-preventing
therapy. In 1983, we were the first to recommend coenzyme Q10 to prevent and treat
heart disease. In 1985, we introduced lycopene, the antioxidant so prevalent in
red-colored foods like tomatoes, as a potential preventive for cancer. Lycopene
is finally gaining widespread acceptance today. Almost every year since, we've
introduced new ideas about extending health and longevity. If you look at the
Life Extension Website (www.lef.org), you can see our 24-year track record that
reveals how far ahead of conventional medicine we have been.
How was your work first accepted?
were ridiculed by the medical establishment and viciously attacked by the FDA.
When we recommended aspirin to prevent heart attacks in 1983, we were heavily
criticized by both conventional and alternative medicine. The FDA began investigating
us in 1983. Our facilities were raided at gunpoint in 1987 and again in 1991.
We were indicted on criminal charges at the end of 1991 and thrown in jail, facing
long prison sentences for alleged FDA violations. We fought back. After both the
1987 and 1991 raids, we went to court and won our dietary supplements back. It
took until 1996 for us to convince the Federal government to dismiss the entire
criminal counts against us. Also, our activism resulted in the 1994 passage of
the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act that kept the FDA from banning
consumer access to many important supplements. We have also been involved in First
Amendment lawsuits against the FDA that has kept the agency from censoring truthful,
non-misleading health information that the public needs to hear. Today, the FDA
continues to focus on us as their number one political dissident. The FDA has
a legitimate role in protecting people from toxic drugs and negligent practices,
but we believe some factions within the FDA have become pawns of pharmaceutical
company lobbyists who would like to see natural medicine banned. To understand
more about this issue, see www.stopfda.org.
What were you saying that rankled the FDA so much?
an example. In 1981, Life Extension suggested folic acid to reduce heart attack
risk. When medical research showed that folic acid prevented neural tube defects
in infants, we published this. The medical establishment jumped on this bandwagon
rather early, too. Obstetricians were prescribing multi-vitamins to pregnant women
even though the relationship between folic acid and birth defect prevention was
fully proven. What doctors did not know was that to prevent neural tube defects,
a woman should have adequate folate status upon conception. This means that all
women who might become pregnant should consume at least 400 mcg of folic acid
each day. We supported this because the scientific evidence was irrefutable and
conventional doctors accepted it, yet the FDA was not letting the claim be made.
What is the difference in the FDA's view about supplements vs. yours? I know people
at the FDA, primarily in the clinical pharmacology and the drug evaluation divisions,
and they are dedicated, knowledgeable people. What about the FDA's enforcement
division and how they interpret the law today?
difference between how the FDA views supplements in 2004 compared to year 1983
is that Congress has greatly removed the arbitrary power of the FDA to declare
a dietary supplement an unapproved drug. In 1979, for instance, the FDA indicted
executives of GNC for putting books and magazines too close to evening primrose
oil products on store shelves. The FDA declared that the placement of independent
books/magazines that describe the benefits of the fatty acids found in primrose
oil constituted a drug claim. According to the FDA's logic at the time, the GNC
executives committed a crime by selling the primrose oil and the books/magazines
in the same vicinity. The GNC executives plead guilty in Federal Court to the
FDA's criminal indictment. This kind of FDA abuse caused Congress to pass laws
that limited the FDA's arbitrary authority to declare a dietary supplement a drug
merely because of a health claim. As of year 2004, the FDA permits biological
structure/function claims and some nebulous disease claims for supplements, such
as "helps maintain healthy joints". The FDA is still objecting to saying
a particular supplement might help alleviate "arthritis". This is unfortunate,
since published scientific studies consistently show that, for example, glucosamine
and chondroitin effectively alleviate pain, immobility, inflammation, and cartilage
degeneration in arthritis patients. In your last newsletter, you had an excellent
article about the overwhelming scientific evidence published in leading medical
journals about fish oils preventing 40%-75% of the sudden cardiac death, which
kills 250,000 Americans a year, yet we cannot make this claim for our fish oil
products. The most recent petition Life Extension has filed against the FDA seeks
to have the agency recognize scientific findings from U.S. government-funded studies.
In this instance, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services funded
a study whose findings revealed that s-adenosyl-methionine (SAMe) is effective
in the treatment of depression and arthritis. Since taxpayer dollars were used
to pay for this study, and it is in the public domain, Life Extension's contention
is that companies that sell SAMe should be able to cite the study's conclusions
about SAMe's safety and efficacy. If the FDA rejects this petition, Life Extension
more information about Life Extension Foundation visit their website.
Faloon is a Director of the Life Extension Foundation. His views do not necessary
reflect those of MedicationSense.com or Dr. Cohen.
2004, Jay S. Cohen, M.D. All rights reserved. Readers have permission to copy
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