I came along in 1948 and had the opportunity
to study music with my father from the age of 6. When I was 15 he
also developed heart disease. My father was the kind of person who,
when he encountered (then novel) health ideas, such as cutting down
on salt, adopted them immediately without a second thought. Unfortunately,
we had very little insight into heart disease in the 1960s, and he
died of a heart attack in 1970 at the age of 58. I was 22 years old.
I remained painfully aware of this family
health legacy, which hovered over me like a cloud on my future. At
the age of 35, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I was prescribed
conventional treatment with insulin, but this only made things worse
by causing substantial weight gain, which in turn created an apparent
need for more insulin. As is typical in someone with type 2 diabetes,
I already had high insulin levels, so this was a very bad idea indeed.
A digression is in order here. Starting at
the age of 8, I became a passionate fan of Tom Swift Jr. and read
all of the available books in this popular series. In each volume,
Tom Swift and his friends would get into a terrible jam (and usually
the rest of the world along with them). Tom would retreat into his
lab and think about how this seemingly impossible challenge could
be overcome. Invariably, he would come up with a clever and ingenious
idea that saved the day. The moral of these tales was simple: there
is no problem so great that it cannot be overcome through the application
of creative human thought. That simple paradigm has animated all my
So, in the spirit of Tom Swift, I decided
to take matters into my own hands, approaching the issue of diabetes
from the perspective of the available scientific literature. I tried
to engage my doctor in a discussion of the issues, with only limited
success. While he talked to me to some extent, he clearly had little
interest in doing so, and admittedly, I was unusually demanding. Finally,
exasperated with my persistent questions, he said, “Look, I
just don’t have time for this; I have patients who are dying
that I have to attend to.”
Not one to be easily put off by attempts to
appeal to my sense of guilt, I couldn’t help but wonder whether
any of these dying patients might have benefited from earlier explorations
into ways to prevent disease. I decided to change doctors and, fortunately,
found a physician, Steve Flier, M.D., with an open mind and, since
he was just setting up a new practice, some time on his hands. My
personal exploration, assisted through my dialogue with Steve, led
to a set of health ideas that enabled me to get off insulin and control
my diabetes simply through nutrition, exercise, and stress management.
I lost more than 40 pounds and never felt better. I went on to articulate
these ideas in The 10% Solution for a Healthy Life (Crown Books) in
1993, which became a best seller.
The ideas in the book kept me in good health
and off diabetes medications for the next decade. Then, in 1999, I
met a brilliant and open-minded fellow traveler, Terry Grossman, M.D.,
at a futurism conference organized by the Foresight Institute. Terry
and I struck up a conversation and discovered a wide range of common
interests, particularly in health and life extension. Our discourse
quickly evolved into a close friendship and an intense collaboration
on a wide range of health issues, with a sprinkling of other futurist
issues thrown in as well, which has lasted and grown to this day.
I’ve learned a great deal from Terry and hope that I’ve
contributed ideas and insights to our partnership in return.
I can say that our relationship has been a
uniquely fruitful intellectual journey of exploration and discovery.
For one thing, I find the scientific issues underlying human health
fascinating, particularly now that we are beginning to understand
genetic and metabolic pathways in the language of information science.
And for someone who has a keen interest in the 21st century and all
of the marvels it promises to bring, I particularly appreciate the
potential of this knowledge to enable us to actually live to see (and
enjoy!) the remarkable century ahead.
This book represents the results of our collaboration,
which in turn has built upon each of our decades of study of health
issues. It is necessarily a work in progress and will always remain
incomplete. My own work on technology trends indicates that human
knowledge is growing exponentially and that the pace of progress is
accelerating. Nowhere is this insight more evident than in the field
of health. It seems that Terry and I discover at least one exciting
new health insight each week (perhaps we are now down to one every
six days!). It is fair to say that a number of our ideas have evolved
significantly during the two-year period it has taken to produce this
I continue to devote a significant portion
of my intellectual and physical energies to the pursuit of my personal
health and health insights. I am able to use the same scientific method
and information science skills in this endeavor, and I find the subject
as intellectually satisfying as my other career as a pattern recognition
scientist and inventor.
Along the way, I have encountered two unexpected
conflicts. If you see someone standing precariously on a ledge, oblivious
to the danger of a great fall, you feel a sense of obligation to inform
that person of his or her unrealized plight. If the person is someone
you care about, the urgency is even greater. I have not had to look
very far to find many others who are desperately in need of the knowledge
I have gained. Typical are adult male friends with elevated cholesterol,
strong family histories of heart disease (or diagnoses of their own
heart disease), and perhaps a few extra inches around the middle.
Others include adult female friends with family histories (or their
own diagnoses) of cancer.
Invariably, I get drawn into extended conversations
on the topic of preserving health and well-being through nutrition
and lifestyle. Often, these turn out to be longer conversations than
either of us expected. To make the case, I feel compelled to go through
a lot of the evidence. Then there are more subtle issues. Why aren’t
the standard medical recommendations good enough? This is mostly genetics
anyway, isn’t it? What happened to moderation?
If I make it through these issues, I’m
inevitably asked to address the big question of palatability. Sure,
you’ll live a long time, but who wants to live that way? If
you eat this way, maybe it just seems like a long time! I maintain
that this can be an enjoyable, even liberating way to eat and live,
but it takes a bit of explanation.
The second conflict has to do with proselytizing.
Being a scientist and a trained skeptic, I was always turned off by
people with singular agendas. People out to save my soul or even just
my health and well-being were strongly suspect. I have felt very uncomfortable,
therefore, in this role myself, telling other people how they should
eat or live. Recognizing my own resistance to these types of messages,
I also realize what I am up against in terms of getting people to
take these ideas seriously.
Ultimately, I feel a responsibility to share
my knowledge on these issues, but I also need to achieve a certain
loving detachment when it comes to people choosing their own eating
and living styles. This is not an easy balance to achieve. It is hard
not to feel some pride if someone accepts our ideas and then shares
with me their excitement at 30 lost pounds or 50 lost cholesterol
points. If nothing else, such experiences demonstrate that I was successful
in communicating my thoughts.
I have come to consider it my responsibility
to empower people to set their own priorities and to make their own
compromises. That’s what I object to in the public health recommendations.
They come precompromised, as if the American people were incapable
of making their own decisions on these matters. As it has been said,
“Lead me not into temptation, I can get there on my own.”
We can deliver a complete message, and readers can consider it on
their own terms and in their own time. Any follow-up is up to you.
Even this limited goal of effective communication
is a challenging one. We have all, by necessity, erected formidable
barriers to messages on health. We could hardly survive if we allowed
all of the thousands of messages that bombard us daily to get through.
It’s particularly difficult to penetrate the subtle yet common
misconceptions, fears, and folklore—not to mention conflicting
advice from experts—that underlie the public understanding (and
misunderstanding) of nutrition and health. Food and its images are
deeply interwoven in our rituals, fantasies, and relationships. While
most people profess ignorance of nutrition and health, almost everyone
maintains strongly held views on the subject and its relationship
to the rest of our lives. Getting people’s attention, let alone
truly broadening someone’s perspective, is not an easy task.
But that is the challenge of any writer.
I have now influenced many people to adopt
our ideas for improving
their health, while Terry influences many patients through his longevity-oriented
medical practice in Denver. The physical and medical results that
friends, relatives, associates, and many others have achieved have
been deeply gratifying.
For myself, I feel that the cloud that I so
strongly perceived during my 20s and 30s has dissipated, and I look
forward to a long and healthy life, indeed to seeing (and enjoying)
the century ahead. It is too bad that I cannot go back and share this
knowledge with my father. Unlike many people, he accepted health and
nutritional advice readily and easily. Unfortunately, the knowledge
was not available in time to help him. If it were, he could be alive
I began my medical career some 24 years ago as a conventional physician.
But after 15 years in practice, I found myself being drawn toward
“integrative” medicine, “the field of health care
that focuses on how biochemical individuality, metabolic balance,
ecological context, genetic predisposition, lifestyle patterns, and
other factors have the potential to strongly influence human physiology
and the push-pull dynamics of health and disease.”1 As I began
to study health from an integrative perspective, I became fascinated
with the prospects for correcting imbalances in human physiology on
a more individualized level. In 1994, I came to the realization that
there were avenues available for me to help my patients in addition
to conventional medical care. Focusing primarily on control of a patient’s
symptoms, which is the fundamental basis of what I had been taught
in medical school, was no longer enough.
After completing medical school in Florida,
I did my residency in Colorado and then moved to the mountains west
of Denver. During the 15 years I practiced there, I worked as a young
version of an old-fashioned general practitioner. I delivered babies
at the local hospital, was the doctor for the local jail, and gave
the annual talk about the “birds and the bees” to all
the fifth-grade boys. I practiced medicine like a typical small-town
GP and, by and large, felt satisfied with the care I was providing.
I realized that most people I “treated” weren’t
really getting better, but they were receiving high-quality conventional
care. Through prescription drugs, I was quite adept at bringing symptoms
of high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease under “control.”
While this meant my patients’ numbers were better—blood
pressure or blood sugar was lower, or there was less chest pain—the
underlying disease processes continued unchecked. This bothered me.
Life is a continual learning experience and,
as a physician, I have come to regard pain as among the sternest but
most effective of life’s teachers. Thanks to a major knee injury
suffered on a local ski slope some years ago, I found myself in the
formal role of patient for the first time in my life, and I sought
conventional medical care. I went to the best orthopedic surgeon I
knew, a colleague I held in enormous respect.
After several modalities of conventional treatment
still left me with constant residual pain in my knee, I did what I
have since discovered many of my patients have been doing for years:
I began to look at alternatives. Along with life’s teachers
are life’s angels, who show up in most unexpected places at
most unexpected times. My angel appeared in the form of a patient
advocate of alternative medicine. Through his persistence, this individual
forced me to open my eyes to an entirely new, to me, parallel world
of medical alternatives.
In my family, medical doctors were treated
with a certain amount of reverence, and conventional medical care
was the only alternative. Yet, my patient advocate of alternative
medicine—and angel—taught me that there was an entirely
different paradigm of medical care available, completely separate
from the world of prescription medications and surgery in which I
had lived for so many years. I learned that vitamins and herbs could
actually be used to treat diseases. He convinced me to try to treat
my painful knee condition with a specific herbal concoction derived
from the inner bark of a certain type of pine tree that grew only
in the south of France.
Feeling like something of a traitor—perhaps
a bit like Adam and Eve nibbling at the prohibited fruit—I squeamishly
began to take pine bark capsules. It took more than three months but,
much to my surprise and gratification, the pain in my knee that I
had been experiencing for over a year and a half went completely away.
Being a scientist, I decided to perform an experiment to see if my
improvement was really the result of the herbal concoction, a placebo
effect, or simply a coincidence. I quit taking it. My knee pain returned
with a vengeance. I restarted the pine bark extract and, within a
few weeks, the pain went away. I repeated the sequence once again:
I quit taking the nutritional extract and the pain returned. I restarted
it and the pain resolved. As a physician, I am well aware of placebo
effects, but these generally go away after a limited period of time.
I continued taking the extract, and after a few years I noticed that
the pain was gone whether I took it or not. I suspected this was probably
just the natural course of the healing process; nevertheless, the
nutritional extract seemed to have given me pain relief earlier on,
and my interest in alternative medicine was piqued.
I undertook a serious study of integrative
medicine with an emphasis on nutritional medicine. I began to learn
how to treat diseases with vitamins and other nutrients rather than,
or in addition to, prescription drugs. And the more I learned, the
more I wanted to know. I went to numerous complementary medicine conferences
and read everything I could find about nutritional medicine. There
was so much to learn, I felt like I was back in medical school again.
As my knowledge and understanding increased,
I slowly began to offer my patients the option of continuing with
the conventional treatments they had been receiving from me (in most
cases, prescription drugs) or the opportunity to try treatments involving
dietary changes or nutritional supplements, either in place of or
in addition to conventional care. I was surprised to find that the
overwhelming majority of my patients wished to take advantage of these
My patients did far better on combined care
than they had on prescription medications alone. Over the past 10
years, I have treated thousands of patients who had serious chronic
illnesses with nutritional protocols that I have learned and modified
for my practice. For example, I see a large number of people with
coronary heart disease. Most of these patients come to me looking
for an alternative to some type of heart surgery that has been recommended
to them. For some, I concur with their cardiologists and recommend
immediate surgical intervention because the disease is too far advanced.
Yet, for the significant majority, I find that the nutritional and
lifestyle program I recommend for heart disease, involving diet, exercise,
aggressive supplementation, detoxification, and stress management—as
well as prescription drugs when needed—staves off heart surgery.
At the same time, I am able to document quantifiable improvements
in these patients’ conditions, such as going from abnormal to
normal cardiac stress tests, eliminating angina pain, and improving
I derive particular satisfaction from successfully
treating people with diseases for which conventional medical practice
has little to offer. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the
leading cause of vision loss in older individuals in this country,
yet presently there are no prescription drugs or surgical procedures
that can help prevent the inexorable decline toward blindness. To
their credit, conventional ophthalmologists have recently begun to
recommend multivitamin/mineral supplementation for their AMD patients
based on the AREDS (Age-Related Eye Disease Study) sponsored by the
National Institutes of Health.3
Yet, like Ray, I find the conventional supplement
recommendations pre-compromised or too watered down, particularly
since I have a family history of macular degeneration, and I don’t
feel that slowing down the rate of visual decline is enough. I want
my patients’ vision to improve. This requires a more aggressive
nutritional approach: combining dietary strategies with much larger
doses of vitamins and minerals and working to correct digestive disturbances
that inhibit absorption of nutrients. Using this approach, it is possible
for patients to stabilize and even improve their vision.4 This is
rarely seen with one- or two-pills-a-day supplementation alone.
Among the greatest devastations for young
parents is learning that their child suffers from one of the autistic
spectrum disorders. Yet I get enormous satisfaction treating children
diagnosed with such diseases. I have nothing but admiration for the
dedicated pediatricians, allied health personnel, and special education
teachers who have devoted their lives to working with these children.
I am saddened, however, by the ineffectiveness of their approaches,
which rarely alter the progression of these disease processes.
Our program involves a special diet (avoidance
of wheat and dairy products), aggressive nutritional supplementation,
correction of digestive disturbances, and detoxification strategies.5
The majority of children we treat under the age of 6 experience some
degree of improvement on this regimen.
There is a long list of ailments for which
conventional medicine alone provides limited benefit: chronic degenerative
neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple
sclerosis; digestive disturbances, including irritable bowel syndrome,
colitis, and Crohn’s disease; and multisystem diseases such
as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. For these, an integrated
approach, using complementary therapies, is of considerable benefit.
Tens of millions of American adults suffer from type 2 diabetes, obesity,
high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol. In the majority of
cases, it has been my experience that where our program is followed
strictly, the prescription drugs used to treat these conditions can
be either reduced or eliminated entirely.
As the years passed and I gained more experience
with nutritional medicine, I decided to write a book to share what
I had learned with people outside of my practice. With the assistance
of several physician colleagues and friends, I completed The Baby
Boomers’ Guide to Living Forever in April 2000.
In the course of researching the topic of
nanotechnology for this book, I met Ray at the 1999 Foresight Institute
Conference in Palo Alto, California. He was there as one of the nation’s
foremost futurists. Overhearing Ray discuss his interest in nutritional
supplementation and other life extension therapies, I struck up a
conversation. I asked him to look over the manuscript of my book and
write a “testimonial” paragraph for the back cover, which
he kindly agreed to do. A few months later, he flew from his home
in Boston to my clinic in Denver to undergo one of the comprehensive
health assessments and longevity evaluations we offer.
My nutritional medical practice in Denver
has its share of celebrity patients, and Ray Kurzweil is one of them.
Ray is unique in that I devote more of my time attending to his health
concerns than any dozen of my patients, celebrity or otherwise, put
together. But, then again, Ray is quick to admit that he is unusually
demanding. I am not surprised that Ray became frustrated with a previous
physician who preferred to spend his time on patients who “were
For my part, I have no regrets whatsoever
about the amount of time I spend working with Ray on his personal
health issues, or the fact that I have to defend every single opinion
or suggestion I offer to him. Ray is another of the angels who have
entered my life to guide me in the right direction. I feel a special
sense of mission in helping him remain alive and well for many years
into the future, as this unusually creative and gifted individual,
who has already brought so many wonderful insights and inventions
to the world, has much yet to share. He has also helped me to refine
my focus and leave no loose ends in any medical endeavor.
Moreover, a number of other benefits accrued
from the process of working with Ray. In the course of refining his
personal health program, he and I began to explore numerous health-related
topics, including diet, nutritional supplementation, exercise, detoxification
therapies, hormone replacement, and even protection from NBC (nuclear,
biological, or chemical) terrorism. We’ve both learned a great
deal from our intense collaboration on health issues. Our dozens of
e-mails back and forth turned into hundreds and now number in the
tens of thousands. So much information was passed between us that
we decided to organize it as the basis for a book.
As members of the baby boomer generation,
Ray and I have more than a casual interest in our program. Since we
are both now in our mid-50s, demographic analysis would ordinarily
suggest that we each have perhaps 25 years left, with gradually declining
vitality and health. By following the advice presented in this book,
and with some help from the accelerating technologies that Ray speaks
about, we hope to be not only alive but vital and “young”
a quarter century from now—right at the time corridor when the
prospects for truly radical life extension are likely to occur. It
is our fervent hope (bolstered by extensive research) that by following
the suggestions offered in Fantastic Voyage, we and our readers will
be able to significantly increase our chances of being alive when
extreme longevity becomes commonplace. To that lofty goal, we raise
a toast—of freshly squeezed organic vegetable juice—in
the hopes that we can join together with our readers to celebrate
the 22nd century.