Life Priority began in 1994 with the collaborated efforts of Life Priority co-owners, Greg & Michelle Pryor and Life Extension Scientists, Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw as an effort to offer high-quality supplements to everyone. As a former professional baseball player, I know how important physical and mental health are to daily success, and Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw developed outstanding scientific formulas to deliver the best possible nutritional products. Our goal and motto is: “Your Life, Our Priority.”
The following is Greg Pryor‘s Interview on the creation of Life Priority Inc. Designer Food Formulas with Life Extension Scientist Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw in 1994.
Sandy: Integrity is so important when buying nutrient formulations and vitamins. The certified quality on the Life Priority products means that those products are being manufactured by companies we have approved to do the manufacturing and they are following our specifications on how those products are to be made in terms of quality control, where the ingredients come from, everything, because we’re taking those formulas ourselves so the quality is very important to us.
Durk: We’re a lot stricter than the FDA’s good manufacturing practices. Our good manufacturing practices have a lot more requirements on them then the FDA’s.
Sandy: And it’s so true about the flavors, we’ve just been bowled over, it’s so fantastic. Especially the Muscle Memory, arginine, choline formula. When we tasted that we could hardly believe it, it was like some kind of a new super soft drink somebody put in a bottle, it was taking the world by storm. It tasted great. We prefer to use that. It’s the best tasting arginine formula I’ve ever tried.
Durk: If you add a little bit of club soda to it to give it a little bit of fizz, then the flavor comes out even more. The natural fruit flavor extract that we use is that the bubbles really bring out the bouquet. People have asked us why we use natural fruit flavoring rather than the less expensive synthetic ones and the answer is simple. It’s the difference between a bottle of fine wine and a glass of kool-aid. The kool-aid isn’t going to hurt you, there is nothing harmful about the synthetic flavor, its just that there is one flavor out of hundreds and hundreds of flavors that any natural fruit has. If you’re going to drink something for the rest of your life you want to have the rich textured flavor that you’re not going to get bored with after 5 minutes.
Durk: We heard about Dr. Denam Harmon’s free radical series of aging. Free radicals are damaging molecules with an up-paired electron. You’ve probable heard of antioxidants like vitamins C and E and beta carotene. Well one of the main functions of these antioxidant nutrients is to protect you from free radicals. Free radicals play a significant role in cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, quite likely aging itself.
Sandy: In fact, free radicals are a normal toxic waste. They are produced naturally in your body just by the process of your being alive, every time that you metabolize food, every time you breathe. The chemical reactions that go on naturally have the effect of creating free radicals. Your body has a large number of defensive mechanisms to prevent those free radicals from causing damage. One of the most important ones is the antioxidant nutrients, most of which you have to get from your diet because you can’t make them. Things like vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta carotene. Now it’s understood that it’s very important you get extra quantities of these materials from supplements and don’t just depend on food, because even a well chosen diet is very limited in the amount of some of the nutrients you can get. An example is vitamin E, even in a real good diet; probably the most you’re going to get are maybe 15U a day. Now evidence is showing 100U of vitamin E a day or more provides considerably more benefit than just the 15U you can get in a diet.
Durk: The Vita-C2 is one of our oldest formulations we developed back in early the 1970’s. Vitamin C is not just Vitamin C; there are a lot of different types. For example, the most common type that you have is ascorbic acid, which is quite acidic. Sometimes people who take an acidic tablet get diarrhea, because of inner stomach pain. The ascorbic acid in a concentrated solution next to an un-dissolved vitamin C tablet can damage your mucus membranes. If you doubt this, get a vitamin C tablet, stick it in your cheek pouch and I guarantee you, long before it’s dissolved that ascorbic acid tablet will have given you a chemical burn in your mucus membranes. You have fewer pain sensors in the gut but never the less it does cause irritation and that is one of the reasons people get diarrhea when they take vitamin C tablets, particularly slow dissolving ones. What we did to solve that problem was first, we didn’t use ascorbic acid, and we used calcium ascorbate. This is a non-acidic calcium salt of vitamin C, made by Hoffman-LaRoche, the best vitamin C manufacturer in the world. The calcium ascorbate is non-acidic so you don’t have to worry about getting an acid burn and it’s a very good high bio-availability source of calcium itself, so you get an extra bonus from that. Moreover, because a lot of people have trouble dissolving the tablets we have a very simple solution. We don’t use tablets. The Vita-C2 is in the form of powder in a capsule and that will dissolve very reliably within ten minutes or so after you swallow it. You may say, “What’s this Vita-C2, what’s the C2 part?” The C2 is that there are two entirely different types of vitamin C in there. One is the calcium ascorbate which is the water-soluble form of vitamin C that provides antioxidant protection to the watery parts of your body. The other part is ascorbyl palmitate, the fat-soluble form of vitamin C that is a very powerful antioxidant synergist that makes other antioxidants like vitamin E function better. Unlike the regular vitamin C the ascorbyl palmitate is the type of vitamin C that can dissolve in fatty tissues in your body. Sandy and I have been using that ourselves for over twenty years now and we take it 4 times a day. To get maximum benefits from vitamin C, it is important to take it more than once a day. In fact I don’t know of a single scientific paper where any dose of vitamin C, even very large ones given once a day, provides any benefit other than curing scurvy or preventing it. Your body can’t store large amounts of vitamin C.
Sandy: This is true for all of the water-soluble vitamins such as the B vitamin and vitamin C. They are excreted from your body very rapidly in the urine and in order to maintain the high serum levels that you want circulating in your blood stream you need to take the vitamin C at least 3 times a day and we take it 4 times a day for even better distribution.
Durk: We take it once when we get up in the morning, again with lunch, again with dinner and again at bedtime. To give you an idea of how fast the water-soluble vitamins leave your body, go to a health food store and get a 25 mg tablet of vitamin B2, riboflavin, a vitamin that is bright yellow in color. Swallow that and in about a half an hour later your urine will be colored sort of a bright fluorescent yellow. A couple of hours after that for after three hours your urine will be faded back to pail again. The B2 leaves your body a little bit faster than vitamin C, but not much. Once you take vitamin C, the level in your serum increases for a couple of hours and then it starts dropping and in about 6 hours, it’s down to about half of what it was at the peak, so its important to take these vitamins 3-4 times a day.
The One-Per-Meal Lifeguard actually has an even longer evolution, that’s an evolution from our first antioxidant nutrient supplement formula that we designed for ourselves back in 1968 after we heard of Dr. Denam Harmon’s free radical series of aging and age related diseases.
Sandy: That’s like our combination formula; it was just vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E. We’ve learned a great deal since then. There’s been a lot of unofficial research since that time and we now have a formulation that has about 2 dozen different nutrients in it. It’s largely of antioxidants. Antioxidants work together in your body. You get more benefit from vitamin C by having other antioxidant vitamins like the B vitamins and so forth along with it then just taking the vitamin C.
Durk: The One-Per-Meal Lifeguard is basically the most vitamin protection we can fit in one capsule that a human being can swallow. It’s designed to be taken one per meal and an optional one at bedtime. This is not a one per day formulation. Don’t use it just once a day. The reason for that is there are certain essential nutrients. Copper, for example. You won’t be getting the recommended daily allowance if you only take one per day. You wouldn’t want to take 4 times the recommended daily allowance of copper, which would be too much. So as a result, it is important to follow the instructions on the bottles of the formulations. The One-Per-Meal Lifeguard is designed to be taken with each meal and one at bedtime, a total of 3-4 times a day. If you don’t eat three meals a day, take one when you get up, one around noon and one at bedtime.
Durk: The Lift is another formula that we developed, like all the products for our own personal use. The Lift is something we designed back in the early 1980’s as a result of our experiences on the publicity tours for our billion copy best seller Life Extension of Practical Scientific Approach. Warner’s set us out on publicity tours where we were working up to 18 hours a day and under a lot of stress, because people were asking us health questions and if we gave them the wrong answer we could really hurt somebody.
Sandy: Also, we had to answer very, very quickly when we were asked a question and there wasn’t anytime to spend thinking about things. We had to have the answers right at the tip of our tongues, and had to be able to answer very difficult questions in language that was simple enough that a general audience could understand and we were very good at that, but we found that over the course of a long day of doing that, wiped us out. We were exhausted and just drained by the end of the day.
Durk: When we got back from the first publicity tour we knew that there would be more so we did research in the National Library of Medicine to find out what makes your get up and go, get up and go and how far it went to.
Sandy: We just looked at the various important substances that are made in your brain and that are used there for things like energy and fast recall and all the things you need to be able to do in order to function at a high level.
Durk: One of these is a neurotransmitter called noradrenaline. This is not a drug, it is a natural substance made by certain nerve cells in your brain from nutrients in your diet that’s used to transmit messages from one nerve to another which is why it’s called a neurotransmitter. Noradrenaline is your brain’s version of adrenaline. Its nature’s get up and go juice. When a frog gets excited it releases a bunch of noradrenaline, it really hops to it, the same thing happens with human beings.
Sandy: That’s what is giving a lot of energy when you get excited about something and when you’re doing a lot of work on something that you’re getting rewarded for, that you feel good about doing and you can just keep on going. You don’t have an unlimited supply of noradrenaline and after you’ve been at this hard work for a certain period of time you just get pooped out, you just kind of burn out.
Durk: Especially if you’re not eating well, not eating right or eating irregularly, you just run out of the nutrients that your brain needs, so a lot of people at that point take a cup of coffee. Everybody who uses coffee knows that the first cup of coffee in the morning really makes you bright eyed, bushy tailed and gives you a lot of energy and get up and go. The second one doesn’t do as much as the first and the third one does less that the second and the fourth less than the third and by the end of the day additional cups of coffee just sort of make you feel spaced out and jittery. What’s going is pretty simple to understand. Two major effects of caffeine are 1) it causes you to release more noradrenaline and 2) it causes you to become more sensitive to noradrenaline. The problem is, it doesn’t help you make anymore so its sort of like burning your candle at both ends, gets you up in the morning faster, but you end up more wiped out in the afternoon because it hasn’t helped you to make anymore. What Lift is, is a combination of 80 mg of caffeine, the same amount of caffeine you have in the average cup of coffee plus a system of nutrients that your brain can use to make more noradrenaline. It’s a long lasting version of coffee. You might say the thinking mans type of coffee because it can give you a lot of get up and go. If after a long hard day you can drink a cup of coffee at 9:00 at night and fall asleep at 10:00, don’t think you can do that with the Lift because, by the end of the day you have used up a lot of noradrenaline and that cup of coffee doesn’t help to replace it so you don’t have a lot of noradrenaline for the caffeine to activate. If you try taking a glass of Lift at 9:00 at night there is a real good chance you’re not going to get to sleep until the wee hours in the morning, on the other hand if you have to drive all night that could be a real lifesaver.
Sandy: Its not that it’s going to make it safe to be driving all night as if you were driving during the day but it is certainly an advantage over not having nutritional support when you’re doing something like that.
Durk: The time you most notice the effect of the Lift is really when you’re most fatigued, when you’re most wiped out. If you take a glass of it Sunday morning you may not notice a whole lot happening, on the other hand, if after getting home from work on a Friday evening and you’re all wiped out from a hard week’s work and the long commute home and you’re about to fall asleep in front of the TV set, take a Lift and you’ll really notice the difference. Remember when you’re introducing your friends to Lift make sure that it is at a time when they are really feeling tired and fatigued because they’ll notice the benefits of it the most under those conditions.
Sandy: Be sure you are using it too because they’re going say to you, “Wow where did you get all of that energy from, how come you’re all full of energy and I’m all pooped out.”
Durk: Whenever you go out to sell these formulas make sure you’re full of Lift. One thing to keep in mind about Lift is that in order for one of the nutrients, the essential nutrient amino acid called phenylalanine that’s contained in the Lift, is something that your brain can use to make noradrenaline, and for this to get into your brain you don’t want to compete with other proteins. If you take Lift along with a meal that has a lot of protein in it, very little will happen. If you take it when you don’t have a lot of protein in your stomach you get much better results because more of that phenylalanine can get in the brain. The competition between different amino acids from the food can get in the brain.
Sandy: Proteins are made out of amino acids linked together and they get broken down in your stomach and absorbed. As Durk said, different amino acids compete with one other to get into your brain. They all sort of hop on to the same ferry that’s taking them across from the general circulation into the brain and these ferry’s can only hold so much, so they compete with one another and that’s the reason why with certain formulas like the Lift its good to take it on an empty stomach, but when you haven’t been eating protein.
Durk: The Mind is another formula that we have been using ever since we came up with it back in the early 70’s, however for the first several years it was the most foul tasting stuff you could imagine. We loved what it did for our mind. The Mind contains choline and complimentary nutrients that your brain can use to make more acetylcholine, another neurotransmitter, and one that’s involved in focus, concentration, attention, verbal behavior and memory. Any time you’re dealing with words you’re using up acetylcholine. It is also what makes your muscles contract. We like the effects of this so much that even though it tasted sort of like dog vomit smells or like fish it really did good things for us so every morning we literally held our noses and gagged it down.
Sandy: One day we looked at each other and said, “Hay, we don’t have to put up with this, we know a lot about flavor chemistry. Let’s design our own flavor and make this taste good.” We are sick and tired of hating it every time we take it.
Durk: We’re gourmets, we’re scientists, we’re flavor chemists, members of the Institute for Food Technologists, we got a shelf full of books on flavor chemistry, by golly we ought to be able to figure this one out and if we can solve this problem we can solve anything. We came up with the Mind formula which tastes good, in fact its’ so good an amateur gourmet chef friend of ours pours it over shaved ice to make a sherbet appetizer at the start of some of his homemade gourmet meals. That says a whole lot about something that once sort of tasted and smelled like rotten fish.
Durk: The combination of the Lift and the Mind is really excellent. They work together. They are two different sets of nutrients that activate two different neurotransmitter systems. The Mind gives you the acetylcholine, the Lift gives you the noradrenaline and together you got get up and go, focus concentration and the ability to direct all of that energy. You will also find that it really helps you to talk too. If you go out there and try to sell these formulas, do yourself a favor; be full of Lift and Mind. We wouldn’t do a talk like this or a lecture without having some of that in us.
Sandy: We wouldn’t write an article either. That’s the general preparation, is to use the Mind and the Lift about a half an hour to an hour beforehand. From a very long experience we found that it makes us able to talk longer, to be at our best longer and our writing has increased not only in quality but also in quantity.
Durk: Now protein doesn’t prevent the active ingredients in Mind from getting into your brain. It slows down the absorption from the gut a little so it doesn’t come out quite as fast. It will still work just as fine if you take it on top of a big steak.
Durk: The Willpower Tea was another formula that we developed because of a problem we had. Mainly when we went out on these publicity tours, we had a million copy best sellers and Warner Book Company treated us like platinum rock stars.
Sandy: They had limos driving us around and they even had us tell them what hotels we wanted to stay at. We got to choose the hotels. Naturally we said, “Well some hotels have the really terrific restaurants, why don’t you put us at those.” That is just what they did and boy did we eat good food. When food is really good you eat much more than you need to be full. You just keep on eating and eating.
Durk: After five weeks of three or four appetizers and a seven course main meal and three or four desserts, I gained 22 pounds, Sandy gained about 10, and at that point we realized we’d either have to forgo all this yummy free food, this was back in the 80’s we were putting away about $200 worth of gourmet food a day on Warner’s credit card. They didn’t mind at all because unlike platinum rock groups we weren’t tearing up hotel rooms or anything like that or getting arrested.
Sandy: They figured if they treated us well we would do a good job and that was true, we did a real good job and at the end of the day, after we had put in a real hard days work we would go and have these fantastic gourmet meals.
Durk: They don’t have scales in the bathrooms of hotels with gourmet restaurants for pretty obvious reasons. We were really shocked when we came back. We started doing a literature search in the National Library of Medicine database to find out what it is that made some people fat and why other people eating the same amount of foods and getting the same amount of exercise stayed thin. Why do some people, even on low calorie diets remain very obese and other people can eat like pigs and stay skinny. It’s not just a matter of calories that you eat and it’s not just a matter of how much exercise you do. We developed the Willpower Tea as sort of a technological fix to help us be able to be sedentary middle aged gourmets without turning into great big balls of fat.
Sandy: That was something that we had to do all right. As a result of doing all that research though to figure out how to be able to enjoy all of that food and not get fat, we got enough material and we actually wrote a best selling book, The Life Extension Weight Loss Program. That book is out of print now but it is available in a lot of libraries and occasionally you find it in used book stores. The Willpower Tea has done for us exactly what we wanted it to do and today we weigh the same as we did in our early twenties. We don’t have to skip the eating, the things that we like to eat, and that’s the good part.
Durk: There is a lot more in the Willpower Tea than just the herb that we use in it as well. There are a lot of antioxidant vitamins and other nutrients that modify the effect of the herb. That herb has been used for over 5000 years of recorded history, so it’s been around for quite a while. However, it is important that you read the instructions on the bottle of Willpower Tea. There are people with certain medical conditions such hypertension (high blood pressure) and cardiac arrhythmia’s taking certain unusual types of prescription drugs like MAO (monoamine oxidase) inhibitors who shouldn’t be using it. All that information is on the back of the bottle, but please read it before you use it. Just because something is as natural product doesn’t mean that it’s perfectly safe for everybody under all conditions so please read the instructions. We’d very much appreciate that.
Durk: The Muscle Memory is a formula that we started working on back in 1976 and started doing experiments on ourselves with it in 1979. I really wish we could tell you a whole lot more about it, but unfortunately about 98% of what we have to say about it the FDA would consider medical health claims and the FDA thinks it has the right to violate the First Amendment and that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to them.
Sandy: Remember that the First Amendment is the amendment that guarantees freedom of speech and of the press and it doesn’t say anything in there about excepting the case of health products. There is a lot of very important information that researchers have found out about nutrients, things that in some cases have been known for many years that you simply can’t say anything about in any ad or on any label of a nutrient supplement formula which is really quite tragic, because it means that many people who could benefit from nutrient supplements are not using them. They don’t realize that they could benefit.
Durk: About all that we can tell you is that it is a favorite of world class athletes of all sorts and that if you take the Muscle Memory about a half an hour or 45 minutes before you go out and do your workout or engage in a vigorous sport you’re going to be very pleasantly surprised about what happens over the next few months when you do that. If you work out real hard and normally get a lot of aches and pains, you’ll be real surprised what happens the next morning when you wake up. We really can’t tell you too much about it but I’m sure that people who have had personal experiences with it, other than us, people who are not the designers, like Greg for example, they can tell you person to person, not in the general phone call, exactly what it can do.
Sandy: If we went out of our lawsuit that we filed against the FDA for violations of the First Amendment Rights of Americans, then it will be possible for people to provide any truthful information about a nutrient supplement or any product that’s regulated by the FDA, not the way it is now, where the only things that you can say about nutrients in the way of health plans is that Calcium supplements may reduce the risk of osteoporosis and folic acid supplements, 400 mcg a day, may reduce the risk of neural tube defect babies. Although those two things are true, there is still a lot more known about nutrients then those two things.
Durk: In fact, believe it or not, the FDA has actually made it illegal to say that 400 mcg of folic acid a day from a supplement is more likely to provide protection against these neural tube birth defects like spina-bifida, than 100 mcg of folic acid from food. You know there is not one scientist on this planet that would agree with that.
Sandy: That’s one of the things that we’ve charged in our suit and its being taken very seriously by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and we’ll see what happens.
Durk: Some people have asked us if the formulas consist of natural or synthetic ingredients. The flavors are all natural. The vitamins, some of them are synthetic and some are natural. One of the things to keep in mind is that it is the structure of a molecule that determines its function. A molecule of vitamin C does what a molecule of vitamin C does because of the way it’s shaped. Because the pattern they are put together in and it makes no difference whether it came from a rose hip, from an orange or from a stainless steel and glass factory.
Sandy: That’s one of the things that Linus Pauling had to say. He didn’t want people to think that they would have to pay for very expensive vitamin C that was called natural vitamin C as compared to the much less expensive synthetic vitamin C which is the same exact molecule. If you look at the studies that have been done on the health benefits of nutrients, the scientific research has been done almost exclusively with synthetic versions of vitamins, simply because those are pure. In the case of natural products you have small amounts of other impurities so you do not have a perfectly pure product unless it is very, very expensively purified and that makes it a very expensive product.
Durk: One time a friend of mine came up to me several years ago and said, I think I’m allergic to vitamin C. Every time I take vitamin C, I get these lumps on my arms that itch, these hives and I get all itchy and scratchy. What am I going to do; I’m allergic to vitamin C.” I said, “I don’t think it’s theoretically possible to be allergic to vitamin C. I think you’re allergic to some impurity in there. What are you taking?” He said, “I’m taking vitamin C from rose hips.” I said, “Do you realize, for example, are you allergic to anything like goldenrod?” He said, “I’m very allergic to goldenrod.” I said, “What do you think happens if a bee lands on a goldenrod and then lands on the rose flower that’s going to make the rosehip? You get some of that pollen in there. Try some synthetic vitamin C. I don’t think you’re going to have any hives anymore and that is exactly what happened, he was allergic to something that was in his natural vitamin C.” He had no problems with the synthetic material.
Live Long & Prosper Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw
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