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One of the key themes of the life extension revolution is self-protection, from sources as diverse as oxygen free radicals and government bureaucrats. We were wondering if you had any tips you could transmit to our readers on how to thrive during the current political season.

DURK: Well, one thing you can do is to lower your fat reserves with THERMOGEN TEA. Now, we think that the best way to use the tea is to make sure that your fat intake isn't too high. What this means is that the body tries to maintain a relatively constant amount of fat in the blood stream. If it's low because it's being burned up due to exposure to the cold or some other thermogenic stimulus, the fat in your fat storage is hydrolyzed, releasing fatty acids into the blood stream which then get burned.

SANDY: In fact, one of the things that the neurotransmitter noradrenaline does when it is released is to cause the breakdown of fat into individual fatty acids that can then be turned for energy.

DURK: Right. On the other hand, if you have a whole lot of fat in your diet, about the best that thermogenesis is going to be able to do is to cause that fat to be burned. So what we suggest is, don't try to count your calories and don' t try to control your appetite by willpower. Instead, what you should try is to reduce the amount of fat in your diet to about 30% of total calories. SANDY: But to maintain the same number of overall calories that you would usually eat.

DURK: If a lot of fat is coming in with each meal, that fat may get burned and it may not get added to your body fat storage, and so you may not get fatter, but you can reach a weight plateau and not get rid of the body fat that's already stored there.

SANDY: But all calories are not equal, and fat calories are much more likely to be added to fat storage in your body than calories from protein or carbohydrates.

DURK: The second most efficient addition to fat storage is carbohydrate, and the least efficient way of adding to your fat storage is with a lot of protein. So what we suggest that people do is-if you're going to have a nice big holiday ham, for example-is to go into the supermarket and read the labels. You can find hams that contain only 5% fat that taste just as good as ham that contain 20% or 30% fat, especially if you use spices to flavor it. Then, if you want to snack, try pigging out on slices of that lean ham. You could eat a lot of that without significantly increasing your blood levels of fatty acids, so that thermogenic stimuli will be able to burn stored body fat rather than having to work like crazy to keep up with the incoming fat.

One big thing to keep in mind, though, is that you can suppress thermogenesis by allowing your body temperature to rise during exercise. If you are going to go out and shovel snow, be real sure your have the type of clothes where you can easily unzip not only your jacket but maybe even a shirt inside so that you don't end up sweating. If you are exercising to the point of sweating, you are really suppressing thermogenesis somewhat. In fact, if you have an exercise machine, you should let a variable speed fan blow on you during the exercise so that all the sweat evaporates from your body. Remember, if you evaporate all that water from your body, it is going to keep you cool and cause a lot of fat burning.

SANDY: Another good reason to maintain the total calories comes from the latest figures on what happens to people who lose weight by exercising on a restricted-calorie diet. For people who are fat to start with, about 25% of the loss is lean body mass, regardless of how much exercise they've done. People who are relatively lean to start with lose about half a pound of lean body mass for every pound of weight they lose.

DURK: In other words, they lose as much lean body mass as they lose fat.

SANDY: It is really severe, and that is why restricted-calorie diets have fallen out of favor among scientists who have studied weight control.

DURK: Another thing you can do, of course, is to take antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin C, E, and beta carotene, that have been shown to be immune stimulants. This is particularly important to the elderly. They may start out with a badly impaired immune system simply because of their age.

SANDY: There's hardly any talk in Congress or the FDA about prevention at all. You would think that some people are delighted about the prospect of having their insurance pay for all their expenses and then they're in the hospital half dead from a cardiac bypass. It is so much better not to have that problem in the first place. Yet despite all of the research that's been done on preventing cardiovascular disease, the government proposals don't include anything about prevention.

DURK: Take a look at the epidemiologic study of 11,000 Americans conducted over a 10-year period at UCLA. The results showed that several hundred milligrams of vitamin C-most of it from supplements-would enable a man on the average to live about 6 years longer and a woman to live 1 year longer because of a marked reduction in cardiovascular disease.

SANDY: There were three classes of intake of vitamin C in the study. One was individuals who were getting 50 milli-grams (mg) of vitamin C a day or less. (The RDA is 60 mg/day and the FDA's newly proposed RDI is 45 mg/day.) The second class included people who were getting 50 mg of vitamin C a day in their diet or more, but who were not taking vitamin C supplements. The third category included people who were getting 50 mg of vitamin C or more in their diet, but who were also taking additional vitamin C supplements. The men who were taking the supplements had a 30% reduction in mortality, mostly due to a cardiovascular disease reduction, compared to men getting 50 mg or more of the RDA in their diet.

And the authors of this study, which was published in the very reputable scientific journal Epidemiology, said at the end of the paper that the relationship between reduced mortality and increased vitamin C intake was stronger than the relationship between mortality and high levels of dietary fat and serum cholesterol that has been repeatedly demonstrated in other studies.

DURK: So if your congressperson is voting in favor of allowing people to tell the scientific truth about nutrient supplements such as vitamin C, he or she can save America over $100 billion a year in healthcare costs plus untold amounts in misery and preventable deaths. With vitamin C alone, we are talking about roughly 100,000 preventable premature deaths per year in the U.S.

SANDY: The FDA doesn't want to permit health claims for nutrients, because they have developed a system in which to make a health claim for a nutrient or food is to convert that nutrient or food into an unapproved drug, and they have an approval process for drugs which takes on the average 8 to 10 years and costs on the average $230 million to get approval.

SMART: Folic acid is another nutrient that the FDA is blocking, isn't it?

SANDY: Yes. The incredible thing is that two separate government agencies are publicly recommending that women of childbearing age take 400 mcg a day of folic acid to reduce the risk of neural tube defects in their unborn children. (These are the US Public Health Service, the big agency that includes the FDA, and the Centers for Disease Control, that is the government agency which is supposed to discover what causes epidemics.) The FDA won't even permit the recommendations of the Public Health Service and of the Centers for Disease Control to be publicized by people who offer folic acid supplements.

DURK: And it is interesting to note for any readers that are pro-life or anti-abortion that the number one cause of abortions in women who want to have a baby is neural tube defects. There are many thousands of abortions per year of infants that would have been born without a brain or with an open spinal cord or some other horrible defect. Dr. Godfrey Oakley, head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control division on birth defects, estimates that 50-75% of these could be prevented with folic acid.

SANDY: Basically the FDA is not focusing on how to get important life-saving information out to people. Their concern is how they are going to prevent companies from making what they consider to be illegal health claims for folic acid.

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