Unlocking the Secrets to Longevity

Dr. Michael Roizen recommends supplements to aid in the prevention of heart disease, mental dysfunction, and cancer...

Dr. Michael Roizen recommends supplements to aid in the prevention of heart disease, mental dysfunction, and cancer.

What I do is as fun as life gets with clothes on: I get to help people be healthier and live with less disability. At some point during a consult, after we cover fundamental steps to preventing heart disease, cancer, mental decline, and a ballooning waistline, a typical patient might pull out a sack of supplements and ask me, “What do you take, Doc?”

In North America, 93 percent of people do not get even 80 percent of the recommended daily value of nutrients as advocated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, while 99.9 percent do not get 100 percent of the recommended daily value.

Now before I continue, know that I am biased: I chair the scientific advisory board of both the California Walnut Board and a company that produces DHA omega-3. Nevertheless, these are the eight “helpers” or supplements I take and usually recommend to my patients: 

1st Helper 

Vitamin D2/D3

More than 60 percent of Americans have vitamin D levels that fall below the recommended levels of 35 ng/ml and higher that strengthen bones, protect against cancer, and help reverse diabetes. The most natural source of vitamin D is the conversion of inactive vitamin D2 through sunlight, but because of geography and the increased use of sunscreens (a good thing, by the way), most of us do not get the amount we should. Ask your doctor to test your vitamin D levels annually. If you are deficient, find out what dosage of vitamin D supplements you would need to reach a blood level of 40 to 80 ng/ml. Until then, start with 1,000 IU a day. 

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2nd helper 

Half a Multivitamin Twice a Day 

Most of us simply do not get enough vitamins and nutrients from food. Because the body eliminates many water-soluble vitamins within 12 hours, split your multivitamin dosage to half in the morning and half at night. Most people over 50 should not take a multi that contains iron because of cardiovascular complications associated with extra iron. In men over 70, multivitamin use may decrease non-prostate cancer risk by 18 percent.

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3rd helper 

Calcium Citrate and Magnesium 

Calcium will help in a number of areas, including building bone strength. Since most of us get about half our calcium from food, we need only another 600 mg in supplement form to reach the daily recommended amount of 1,200 mg. Go too high and you risk increasing the chance of prostate cancer and probably breast cancer. Magnesium (300 to 400 mg) decreases the constipation and bloating associated with calcium supplements. 

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4th helper 


Aspirin helps protect against nine different cancers—including breast, prostate, colorectal, esophageal, and liver—and maybe stroke, heart attack, impotence, and deep vein thrombosis. The benefits exceed the risks for the typical man over 35 and woman over 45, but check with your doctor beforehand (especially if you do extreme exercise). Drink a half-glass of warm water before and after swallowing 162 mg to help prevent gastric discomfort and bleeding that aspirin can cause, and take tablets that are not enterically coated. Take them at any time you will consistently remember to do so; there is a rebound effect that increases clotting if you forget two days in a row.

5th Helper

Coenzyme Q10 

Cell mitochondria convert glucose into electric energy and CoQ10 helps in this process. Taking it as a supplement appears to protect against heart failure and other inflammatory processes by improving the efficiency of the mitochondria. The typical dose is 200 mg a day (100 mg in the morning and 100 mg in the afternoon). I feel—though there is still no really solid data—it is 

especially helpful for people who take statin drugs, because statins decrease natural levels of CoQ10. 

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6th helper 

DHA Omega-3 

Recent news articles have questioned the efficacy of taking omega-3 fish oils, and the benefits are negligible if you look at predominantly generic fish oils that are neither high in ALA or DHA, two of the three omega-3 fatty acids. Most fish oils contain less than one-third DHA and little ALA. It seems, however, that ALA from canola oil, avocados, ground flax, chia seeds, and walnuts (the only nut with appreciable ALA) provides a cardiovascular benefit. 

In randomized controlled trials, 900 mg of DHA omega-3 per day aided brain function, and it is one of only five things that have been shown to protect eyes against the first stage of macular degeneration. (The others are the nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin 

found primarily in green, leafy vegetables; avoiding secondhand smoke; and wearing sunglasses outdoors.) 

So avoid generic fish oil or fish oil with predominantly EPA (the third omega-3), because ALA and EPA convert poorly to DHA in the body. Instead, go for 900 mg of DHA a day and 12 walnut halves. You could also eat salmon and ocean trout, the only fish in America that have DHA in appreciable quantities. 

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7th helper 

Get Another Odd Omega Every Day 

New research suggests that omega-7s decrease LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, fatty liver, and inflammation marker C-reactive protein. They also improved cells’ ability to take in blood sugar in several (admittedly imperfectly designed) studies. My take: A handful of studies are better than none, but we need more human trials before recommending omega-7s unconditionally. They can be found in macadamia nuts, and in supplement form they are extracted from fish such as anchovies. I take 420 mg of purified omega-7s daily. 

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8th helper 

A Probiotic

You may know probiotics as the good-for-you bacteria found in cultured yogurts. We do not have enough data yet to say exactly which type of probiotic you should take as a supplement, but we do know that the variety of bacteria in the gut is crucial to helping metabolize the substances you digest. If you have more than 4 ounces of red meat, 6 ounces of pork or one egg yolk a week, the bacterial makeup in the gut changes to produce chemicals that contribute to arterial aging—more so than elevated blood pressure or lousy LDL cholesterol—and that in-creases the risk of heart attack and stroke. I take 4 billion colony-forming units a day.

Now, as their name implies, these recommendations are simply supplements to my complete plan for optimal health, which also involves smart dietary choices, exercise, and stress management. We shall discuss those in future columns. 

 Michael F. Roizen, MD is the chief wellness officer and chair at the Wellness Institute of the Cleveland Clinic. He is author of RealAge and coauthor of the You series of books, corecipient of the 2011 Paul G. Rogers Health Communications Award from the National Library of Medicine, and a member of the Robb Report Health & Wellness editorial board. 




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