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A personal approach

Author and medical educator Steven Masley practices personalized nutrition from his clinic in Naples, Fla. Masley believes nutrition offers powerful tools to treat aging-related conditions and believes the medical establishment is ignoring obvious answers to a range of health crises as the nation ages. Masley’s detailed evaluations examine heart health, bone health and mental acuity and compare the results against nutrient deficiencies to create a personalized nutrition plan.

nbj: What typically brings a patient to your clinic, is it specific conditions or general concerns about aging?

Masley: It’s general concerns about aging. Sometimes someone will come in because their brother had a heart attack or, they get diagnosed with diabetes and don’t want to be taking all of those meds, but most often it’s just people want to know, ‘How am I aging?’ and what can I do to optimize that process? That’s the most common thing we see people for.

nbj: What are they learning that they wouldn’t find out at a
routine physical?

Masley: Your average doctor gets paid by the insurance companies to treat and manage disease. They do not. It’s not covered to focus on how are you aging, how to optimize that process and I’d say 95-99 percent aren’t, they don’t spend any time on it at all, which is kind of sad. But let’s just take a couple of the most common aging accelerators for men and women we have. One would be cardiovascular disease for men and women, and most doctors aren’t measuring how your arteries age. We do ultra sound now that measures how old your arteries are now and how quickly they’re aging over time. Are you growing plaque? Is it shrinking or not? What’s really cool is, nutrition factors are the most powerful predictors of how your arteries age, for a man or a woman. Whether you’re meeting key nutrient needs—which everybody should be focusing on — you could stop or reverse your artery plaque growth, the number one killer for men and women today if we spent more time on this.

nbj: What is the nutrition intervention?

Masley: We’ve published this and presented it at meetings with the American Heart Association, American College of Nutrition—we’ve shown that there are some key nutrients that are really important. If you eat these, you are either going to not grow plaque, or you can shrink plaque.  Those nutrients would be really simple things that we should be more focused on. Fiber, magnesium, fish oil, Vitamin K, Vitamin D, potassium. Measuring your nutrient intake, and making sure you meet those key nutrients, is more powerful and more effective and has a lot less side effects.

nbj: What does the medical establishment get wrong about aging?

Masley: They’re being told not to measure aging. Don’t assess it. It’s not a disease state and you won’t be reimbursed. The average physician is absolutely, emphatically being told they’re not supposed to be doing this.

nbj: If people are not getting that help from their doctors, where can they get it?

Masley: For the key nutrients we’ve just identified that really impact aging speed, I mean most people could do a self-assessment for their fiber intake, magnesium, potassium, Vitamin D, fish oil, Vitamin K, B12. Those are easy to do. I think that our best efforts would be spent getting the public to do a personal nutrient assessment, make sure they’re not nutrient deficient, especially if they have a health concern. And we know where the nutrients are really important for that, like cardiovascular disease.

nbj: Then who needs the personalized nutrition you provide?

Masley: On individuals who are highly motivated, we measure how they’re aging, and we go through and do an analysis of their individual nutrition. We make sure all of their nutrient needs are met. We’ve corrected their deficiencies, and clearly the results show that my average patient who does that is younger, trimmer, fitter, mentally sharper, not losing memory. They’re shrinking artery plaque. I mean everything is getting better as they age. I can pretty emphatically say it works.

nbj: In some ways it sounds like counseling.

Masley: It is. It’s focused educational counseling. It’s like my patient today, a healthy looking guy, fit, athletic, totally uncontrolled blood pressure, and probably the three most important nutrients for blood pressure—magnesium, potassium, calcium and fiber—were dramatically low, even though he was trying to eat well. He hadn’t targeted it based on his health issues. I could have put him on two or three drugs, or we could just fix those deficiencies and that would probably take care of it. By fixing his nutrient needs, it has a lot more health benefit and dramatically less side effects than putting him on two or three drugs.

nbj: What are the major misconceptions about aging and nutrition?

Masley: There’s either the thought that all supplements are bad, we don’t need them, or supplements are all powerful and do everything. It’s really in between. You have to eat healthy food. You need to be active. You need to manage your stress. And if you meet those nutrient needs while you do those things, it has dramatic, powerful effect. These things are not omnipowerful. They only work when they’re part of a correct, health program. Quality is a concern in the industry.

nbj: What could supplement industries be doing at that intersection of aging and personalized nutrition?

Masley: The educational part would be to come up with these algorithms that we could make available: ‘Here’s how much magnesium you need in a day. Here’s how you could get it from food. If you don’t get it from food, here are some magnesium supplement sources.’ I think calcium is a really good example of this. We push calcium, calcium, calcium, but it’s not that simple. Say for example, your needs are 1000 MG a day. It’s your food plus your supplement intake that should be 1000 MG. It’s not one or the other. People have to know how to assess their dietary intake so they can add the right amount of calcium in a supplement so their total is a right dose. We need to do that a lot better. Help people identify for magnesium, for calcium, for fish oil. How much do you get from food, how much do you need from a supplement? The better we do that, it would be good for the whole industry, and it would be good, actually, for healthcare in a big way.

nbj: What do you see as the future of the practice of personalized nutrition and aging?

Masley: I think there’s more and more interest in this. I’m not expecting the M.D.’s to really get on board. I think more dentists are doing this. More chiropractors are doing this. There are more nutritionists out there. It’s a lot easier to be able to start to do this online now. It’s kind of sad that we’re leaving the M.D. physicians out of this, but I think that’s the trend.

nbj: Most of your patients are in the 40 to 60 group. What happens at 60?

Masley: It’s a different generation with different interests. The folks past 65 are very M.D.-dependent for their information. Generally speaking, if they’re over 65, it’s ‘I want to use Medicare. I want to use my insurance. I want to go see an M.D. doctor. And they’re not getting good nutritional care because Medicare doesn’t cover any of this. Are you meeting your nutrient needs and how are you aging? It’s not part of the disease model? I think the younger half of the baby boomers, those who are definitely older than millenniums, but not in the 60+ range, those are the folks who are online. They’re reading. They’re interested. That’s the peak market right now for this kind of personalized care. It’s not the biggest need. The biggest need is probably the 65+ year olds. But the biggest opportunity, I think, is people in their 40s and 50s.

nbj: What do you expect to see when the millennials start coming to you in 15 years?

Masley: They’re connected. They’ve got tools. They know how to use them. I do see young adults. I see anywhere from 15 to 30-year- olds. When they realize that their grossly nutrition deficient, when I share this data with them, they jump on it and they immediately know how to go online, figure out what their needs are, calculate this and—boom—they’re off with it. They’re going to be a great, but they don’t have that many needs yet. They’re going to know how to use all of the tools we create. We’re about 10-15 years out from them being needy enough to really benefit these in a big way.

nbj: Do you expect them to age better then?

Masley: No, because their lifestyles are so much worse. Actually, all the scientific data which shows the millennial generation is going to have the shortest life span of anyone in recorded history. They’re going to get sick younger. They’re aging at an accelerated rate. I mean there’s data looking at artery plaque. The average adolescent who is obese has the artery plaque of somebody in their early 40s.

nbj: So they have this potential to do something about it, but you don’t expect them to get it.

Masley: They’re going to have the potential to age really fast and have all of these needs come crashing down in the next 10 to 15 years. If they took care of themselves, obviously they could age better. But we’re not reaching them. The average millennial is aging very rapidly. Even though they’ve got all of these tools, we haven’t reached them, despite that they’re the ones who have all the savvy and know how to do this.

nbj: When they do come to you, are they aware of aging?

Masley: No, they’re kind of oblivious, but they really get mad when they find out that they’ve been ripped off by the food industry and they’re grossly nutritionally deficient. They realize ‘Oh my God, I’ve got all these symptoms and they could all be fixed if I just met my nutrient needs and stopped this junk that I’m doing.’ They’re not worried about aging, but they care about how they feel. If they feel tired and worn out and they’re bloated and gassy, if they don’t look good and they don’t function well, and they realize it’s because they’ve been manipulated by the food industry, it makes them mad. That’s really powerful. I love that. It empowers them. This millennial generation does not like being manipulated.

nbj: What does someone spend when they come to see you?

Masley: We do anything from a one-hour nutrition consult for $350, which is a couple of hours for my staff to put together, to anywhere between $3500 or $4000 for an all-day physical when we’re doing imaging and artery measuring and bone density and hormone levels. So it’s a 6-7 hour assessment for somebody to come in for a day.

nbj: What is your biggest worry about the state of aging in the United States?

Masley: I think of cardiovascular disease, memory loss, but I also think of diabetes—this whole metabolic syndrome, blood sugar control. That also is nutrient deficiency related, fiber related, too much sugar, not enough activity. I think that the biggest threat to the U.S. health industry, in terms of having to take care of sick people and all of that and the load on us, is metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes. I think 95 percent of people can totally reverse that within a few weeks with lifestyle changes. We’re not getting the word out adequately for that. Memory loss, cancer, heart disease, diabesity, obesity, they’re all related to metabolic syndrome. It should be treated with lifestyle, but we’re treating it like a disease that needs drug therapy. It’s just a major disconnect. How do we get the word out? How do we make this difference? How do we personalize it? It could be completely reversed. I think that’s one of our biggest challenges we are facing.

nbj: What’s the biggest anxiety for your patients?

Masley: They’re afraid that I’m going to tell them they’ve got some horrible, untreatable disease. They’re thinking, ‘Okay there’s this big lesion on my neck and it’s too late, or I’ve got cancer, or you’re going to tell me I’ve already got advanced memory loss and there’s nothing I can do about it.’ Their fear is they’ve screwed up, they haven’t taken care of themselves and they’re not going to get out of it. I try to tell them 99 percent of the time, it’s not to late, 99 percent of the time you can rejuvenate your life; totally restore your health, your vitality and feel awesome, have increased productivity, improve memory, shrink plaque. Niney nine percent of the time we can make a huge difference in peoples’ lives. They’re afraid for the 1 percent--that it’s too late and they blew it and they should have come sooner.

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