Dr. Donald Miller M.D. has just issued his annual list of nutritional supplements for optimum health. These are the supplements that he, himself, takes, every day.  I would like to go through his list, compare it to mine, and make comments along the way.

I have long been a fan of Dr. Miller. He is in a very unique position: He has one foot firmly planted in the conventional medical world and at the highest level of it, and he has another foot firmly planted in the alternative medical world.

Dr. Miller is a cardiac surgeon and a Professor of Surgery at the University of Washington Medical School in Seattle.  He is also affiliated with the Seattle VA Medical Center.  He is also involved with Doctors for Disaster Preparedness.  He is also a prolific writer, including a book on philosophy, metaphysics,  and morality entitled Heart in Hand.  Besides two textbooks on cardiac surgery, he is the author of a treatise on the management of gunshot and stab wounds of the heart which is considered state-of-the-art.  

But, in Alternative Medicine, he has been active in fighting the use of statin drugs, flu shots, vaccines in general, fluoridation, and even many of the practices and policies concerning AIDS.  And obviously, preventing heart disease is an impassioned interest of his, being a cardiac surgeon, and he has been fighting orthodoxy every step of the way.

I have never met Dr. Miller, but considering his diverse interests, vast knowledge, and his devotion to the cause of health truth "though the Heavens fall," he is someone I would prize meeting.  

But, before presenting Dr. Miller’s personal supplement list, I want to make some general comments about the use of nutritional supplements. We take supplements for several distinct reasons.

First, there are supplements we take because we know- for a fact- that we are not getting enough of them from our food alone.  Two such examples are Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D.  There is no Vitamin B12 at all in plant foods, and there are only small, variable amounts in animal foods, and there is simply no way to get an optimal amount of Vitamin B12 from diet alone.   And likewise, Vitamin D is absent from plants, and only minimally present in animal foods, and unless you live in place like Panama (or similar equatorial place) you can’t count on the sun for it either.  So you need these supplements like flowers need the rain.  And there are other supplements that, under some conditions, can come under this category.  For instance, a person with severe iron-deficiency anemia really needs iron supplements. It would take forever to get the blood count up relying on foods alone, and it may not be at all possible. But paradoxically, if you are not anemic, you have no need for iron supplements at all.     

Second, there are supplements that people take for therapeutic reasons: to get a specific and often rapid therapeutic effect.  Examples would be herbs for the prostate, melatonin for sleep, Vitamin C to fight infection, green tea to boost metabolism, and SAM-e to relieve depression.   

However, there are also many supplements that people take, and that I take, on a speculative basis.  We take them in the hope that they will help prevent disease and increase our lifespan.  There may be no immediate effect that we can discern from taking them, and we are, in fact, acting on faith. However, there is, presumably, a scientific rational for taking them that persuades us to do it. And evaluating that rational is where knowledge and judgment are needed. And that’s why I pay close attention to doctors like Dr. Miller.

Finally, I’ll point out that what we decide to take depends on several other factors besides our knowledge and judgment about what is good for us.  For instance, it depends on a thing called MONEY. Supplements cost money, and when you decide to take something on an ongoing basis, it becomes an added, ongoing expense.  There is also the factor of TOLERANCE. It’s not the most pleasant thing to swallow supplements.  As a practice, it is no different than taking drugs (although, it is, in fact, a lot safer than taking drugs).  But, a lot of people don’t like the act of swallowing pills and capsules- of any kind.  I have never heard  of Bill Gates or Warren Buffet being supplement enthusiasts, although obviously, money would not be a factor for them. But, I know that for myself, like most people, there is a limit on how much I can spend on supplements, and there is also a limit to how many I can take each day without feeling overwhelmed, and I operate within those limits.  And that is how it is for everybody.  To people who don’t take supplements at all, the amount that I take must seem like an awful lot. Yet, there are people like Dr. Miller who take much more than I do.

So, we are going to discuss all of this within the context of Dr. Miller’s recommendations, and I hope you find it interesting and valuable.  My next entry will start analyzing Dr. Miller’s list, and I suspect it will take 4 or 5 entries to cover it all. Maybe more. So stay tuned.