My Health Regimen — Exercise, Diet, Supplements

by Ben Best


  4. DIET

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Much of the material below has been out-of-date since late 2004. There were many shifts in my regimen in 2010, which are documented in My Resumption of Caloric Restriction with Adequate Nutrition. The most up-to-date compilation of the supplements I am taking (the list changes very often) can be found in the EXCEL file Daily Supplements of Ben Best.

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I have been health-conscious for as long as I can remember being concious of anything. I have done my best to preserve my body as well as my mind through healthful and careful living. Considering that only 26% of smokers live to age 80 — in contrast with 57% of nonsmokers [ADDICTION 97:15-28 (2002)] — I do not smoke cigarettes, cigars or marijuana. Each cigarette reduces lifespan by an average of 11 minutes, meaning that each pack of cigarettes reduces lifespan an average of 3 hours and 40 minutes British Medical Journal Letters, 1 January 2000. Smoking is also detrimental to appearance insofar as 20 cigarettes per day to age 70 adds nearly 10 years of skin aging to the effects that chronological aging have on the skin [BRITISH JOURNAL OF DERMATOLOGY; Leung,WC; 147:1187-1191 (2002)].

I have never taken LSD or other so-called "recreational drugs" — out of concern for the health of my brain. Nor do I drink coffee or alcohol. As is detailed in my alcohol essay, ethanol does not reduce the risk of heart attack for those with low blood cholesterol, but does cause brain atrophy and hippocampal damage in all doses.

I follow a somewhat regular program of diet, exercise and nutritional supplements which is intended to keep me in a good state of health and (hopefully) to extend my lifespan. To help clarify & justify my regimen I am posting it on my website, subject to continual revision & improved scientific justification.

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The primary purpose of my exercise program is to maintain cardiovascular health. Cardiovascular problems are the leading cause of death, the second most common cause of dementia and a significant contributer to failure of other body organs, including sexual dysfunction. (For more details concerning cardiovascular disease, risk factors and prevention — see my essays Sudden Cardiovascular Death and Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease.)

A 12-year prospective study of a cohort of nearly 45,000 male health professionals concluded that coronary heart disease is reduced in proportion to average exercise intensity, independent of the amount of physical activity. Risk reduction comparing the extreme quartiles was 0.70 (ie, the highest quartile had 70% the risk of the lowest quartile) [JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION 288(16):1994-2000 (2002)].

Although excessively strenuous exercise can generate harmful levels of free radicals, regular endurance exercise protects against free radicals by increasing muscle levels of SuperOxide Dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase and reduced glutathione (GSH) (but has no effect on catalase) [MEDICINE & SCIENCE IN SPORTS & EXERCISE 31(7):987-997 (1999)]. Xanthine oxidase may be the greatest source of free radicals during exercise [FREE RADICAL BIOLOGY & MEDICINE; Gomez-Cabrera,M; 44(2):126-131 (2008)]. Vitamin E is particularly protective against exercise-induced free radicals [AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSIOLOGY 264:R992-R998 (1993)]. But Vitamin E has a pro-oxidant potential that can only be prevented by agents like Vitamin C and CoEnzyme Q10, which eliminate the alpha-Toc. radical [ARTERIOSCLEROSIS, THROMBOSIS AND VASCULAR BIOLOGY 16:687-696 (1996)]. (For more details see General AntiOxidant Actions)

As a possible benefit unrelated to cardiovascular disease or free radicals, exercise (running) has been shown to increase cell proliferation and neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus of the adult mouse [NATURE NEUROSCIENCE; van Praag,H; 2(3):266-270 (1999)].

I usually have about 3 aerobic exercise sessions per week (alternating days, if possible). I formerly began with 5 or 10 minutes of stretching. I had several incidents of torn muscles early in my exercise regimen which did not recur since doing stretching. My stretching was concentrated on stretching my leg muscles, because these are the most vulnerable to being torn. I may resume stretching, but my current mode of exercise does not put great stress on my muscles.

I spend 40 minutes on a stairmaster machine. During that 40 minutes I usually am looking at index cards containing information that I am trying to learn. Stairmaster provides vigorous low-impact cardiovascular workout which I greatly prefer to treadmill (which is high impact) and exercise bicycle (which is less vigorous and hard on the butt). Treadmills are not only high impact, but have the risk of injury if footing is lost.

I have had to buy my own Stairmaster 4500PT which is worth the expense, I believe. I have tried running and invariably injured myself in addition to experiencing the damaging high impact to joints (which has been shown to accelerate joint aging). I have had twisted ankles, a gashing wound to my leg and have felt that I was in too much danger of eventually bening struck by a motor vehicle. Exercise equipment is safer and ensures that exercise is not at the mercy of weather.

I estimate my basal metabolic rate to be about 65 Calories per hour, equivalent to about 75 Watts. I always weigh myself before showering — a bit of "bio-feedback" intended to impress on my mind the effect my eating habits are having on my weight.

Although exercise is reputed to facilitate sleep, my workaholic personality frequently leaves me sleep-deprived. Sleep deprivation elevates blood cortisol and lowers glucose tolerance — which can lead to high blood pressure and increased insulin resistance [LANCET 354:1435-1439 (1999)].

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I eat three meals per day at approximately 8 hour intervals, at which time I take my supplements (which are best taken with food). I rarely snack during the weekday daytime, but do snack in the evenings.

For a period of about six months during my most intense practice of CRAN (Caloric Restriction with Adequate Nutrition) I weighed all of my food and calculated my calories. Records for two of those months are preserved on my website:

My practice of CRAN is currently less rigorous and more intuitive (less militaristic) in hopes of keeping my psychological strain to a tolerable comfort level, to minimize the attention I pay to food and (to some extent) to pleasure myself. I monitor my weight and try to restrain my eating accordingly. I walk a not-very-fine line between not being too hard on myself (even allowing myself some self-indulgence) and restraining the incessant compulsion to overeat.

I rarely eat at restaraunts (fast-food or otherwise) and rarely cook food or eat meat and never eat candy. Although I am mostly vegetarian, I occasionally (once every few months) eat meat. Dairy products (skim milk and fat-free yogourt — also spelled yogurt & yoghurt) are staples of my diet.

Animal fat contains higher levels of pesticide and is more saturated than vegetable fat. Reducing dietary saturated fat improves insulin sensitivity and reduces LDL cholesterol [DIABETOLOGIA 45:369-377 (2002)]. Dietary fat takes less energy to convert to body fat than does carbohydrate, but carbohydrate stimulates that appetite more than fat. Epidemiological evidence indicates that adherence to a vegetarian diet for more than two decades can increase lifespan 3.6 years [AMERICAN JOURNAL OF CLINICAL NUTRITION 78(Suppl):526S-532S (2003)].

An 11-year study of German vegetarians showed significantly reduced mortality, with the greatest reduction among moderate vegetarians — presumably because those who adopted the practice for purely ethical reasons were less likely to concern themselves with nutritional planning [INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF EPIDEMIOLOGY 22(2):228-236 (1993)]. In a 21-year follow-up of 1,225 vegetarians and 679 health-conscious (mostly non-smoking, non-obese) non-vegetarians the German study found that all-cause mortality among vegetarians was not significantly less than for health-conscious non-vegetarians, although vegans had a higher mortality risk than lacto-ovo vegetarians. Fewer than 10% of the health-conscious non-vegetarians consumed meat (including fish) at least 3 times per week, but those that did had a significantly higher incidence of ischemic heart disease. Those who ate fish more than once per month had a significantly elevated risk of death from ischemic heart disease. Despite the fact that only 4% of the vegetarians and 8% of the non-vegetarians were smokers (much lower than the general German population), smoking proved to be the strongest determinent of mortality (particularly from cardiovascular disease, rather than from cancer) — which could mean that meat consumption was not the key determinent of ischemic heart disease for the non-vegetarians [CANCER EPIDEMIOLOGY BIOMARKERS & PREVENTION; Chang-Claude,J; 14(4):963-968 (2005)]. I reported this study in detail because it is longitudinal, includes so many people and covers such a long time period. But as with so many epidemiological studies there were so many unusual details and confounding factors that conclusions do not seem very definitive to me. A prospective study of over half-a-million people found elevated mortality, cancer mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality in those who at red meat and processed meat (sausage, hot dogs, etc.) [ARCHIVES OF INTERNAL MEDICINE; Sinha,R; 169(6):562-571 (2009)].

My daily breakfast consists of:

     150 grams Broccoli tops (I dispose of the stems)
     150 grams Frozen blueberries
      25 grams Designer Whey Protein (Natural)
       1 tablespoon linseed (flaxseed)
       1 teaspoonful Herbal Mix
       1 drop liquid Deprenyl (1 mg)

These ingredients are put in an industrial strength Vita-Mix Blender and liquified. Weekdays I watch business TV (CNBC or Report on Business) while having breakfast and taking supplements. If I am diligent, I then floss my teeth.

Broccoli has the one of the highest levels of phytochemicals of any vegetable — and is one of the most nutritious of vegetables. Blueberries has the most phytochemicals of any fruit. Herbal Mix is loaded with phytochemicals. The benefits of Whey Protein are described on my website, as are those of Deprenyl.

My breakfast tends to be at around 7:15 am on weekdays, but can be nearly any time on weekends, since I may sleep-in and decide to postpone eating until later in the day. I may eat some oatmeal mixed with nonfat yogourt to give some solidity to my meal. The solidity seems important insofar as I take the largest portion of my daily supplements in the morning.

My lunch is typically eaten at my desk at around 4 pm on weekdays (workdays) and consists of either 200-350 grams of Sunrise Extra-Firm Tofu or (more often) 250 grams of Cottage Cheese (1% fat) containing 85 grams of SunSprout Crispy Sprouts (a mixture of sprouted green peas, yellow peas, adzukis, lentils and mung beans). After eating I take my afternoon dose of supplement.

My eating on evenings, weekends and vacations/holidays is less rigorously formalized. I try to eat lots of vegetables, notably sweet peppers (especially green, though I find red, orange and yellow more tasty), celery, tomatoes, lettuce, pickles and cabbage (high-water, high-fiber vegetables, as much as I can stand it). I don't eat avocadoes due to the high fat or carrots due to the high glycemic index. I do have a sweet tooth, but I try to limit my consumption of fruit. I do not eat bananas or grapes (empty calories), but do eat some apples, oranges, plums, strawberries and blueberries.

In addition to avoiding sugary foods, I try to avoid bread & potato because these have a high glycemic index — which can lead to spikes in insulin/blood sugar that increase protein cross-linking & insulin-resistance which accelerates aging and can lead to adult-onset diabetes. To appease my craving for carbohydrate I eat oatmeal mixed with nonfat yogourt or may nibble on (Post) spoon-size Shredded Wheat & Bran. But at least once per day my first effort to gratify carbohydrate-craving is to heat a high fiber-mix (containing carbohydrate) that I make. I make up these mixtures in lots of 100 containers or so (empty cottage cheese containers). Each container consists of:

     125 ml (1/2 cup) Fibre One Cereal
     125 ml (1/2 cup) Quaker Oat Bran
     125 ml (1/2 cup) Quaker Wheat Bran

When I eat one of these containers, I first mix 15 ml (a tablespoon) of unflavored, sugarfree Metamucil (60%w/w psyllium hydrophilic mucilloid) with water in a bowl until I get a thick, uniform liquid. Then I dump-in the container contents and mix to get an incredibly nutritious high-fiber "meal". Since I take supplements three times daily (weekdays/workdays) at 7:15 am/4 pm/midnight, I try to have the high-fiber "meal" in mid-evening on weekdays, because I believe it would interfere with the absorption of my supplements otherwise.

Oat Bran lowers blood cholesterol, and blood glucose and blood insulin — the latter of benefit in reducing glycation (see my article Mechanisms of Aging). Wheat Bran and psyllium both reduce the chance of hemorrhoids and in animal experiments are highly protective against colon cancer [CANCER LETTERS 75:53-58 (1993)]. FIBRE ONE has wheat bran & corn bran and is sweetened with aspartame rather than with loads of sugar (unlike the other high fiber cereals).

My diet mostly goes out the window when I travel, but I have gotten to the point where I find fat & sugar very unappetizing. Because most commonly served/sold food seems loaded with fat & sugar, I now tend to lose weight when I travel, whereas formerly I would gain weight.

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It is my intention to eventually document my reasons for taking every supplement that I take. Frankly, I cannot remember all of the reasons that I started taking some of the supplements and/or have lost the references. I have made a good start on this documentation in the supplement-specific essays in the nutraceuticals section of my website.

I pre-bottle my morning & evening doses, but take my afternoon dose straight from the three original bottles.

MORNING DOSE (7:15 am, weekdays)

AFTERNOON DOSE (4 pm, weekdays)

EVENING DOSE (midnight, weekdays)


The general scientific background justifying the supplements I take is either in my cardiovascular disease essays, Sudden Cardiovascular Death and Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease — or my essay on the molecular mechanisms of aging, Mechanisms of Aging.

I try to take more minerals & unsaturated (oxidizable) fats (Cod Liver Oil, max DHA) at night because my metabolism should be slower when I sleep, reducing free-radical activity. I take melatonin when I am going to bed tired & late and don't expect to awaken before morning. (Melatonin is a mild soporific in addition to being an excellent antioxidant for protecting the cell nucleus, reducing DNA damage from free-radicals. It readily crosses cell membranes.)

Some of the benefits of Vitamin&E, Vitamin&C and CoEnzyme Q10 are described in the section on exercise above.

Detailed information on essential fatty acids can be found in my essay Fats You Need — Essential Fatty Acids. For more details about DHA see my essay DHA for Hearts and Minds.

TMG reputedly lowers blood homocysteine, a substance that impairs normal endothelial cell function leading to atherosclerosis [THE LANCET 355:517-522 (2002)].

I take DHA plus Calcium & Magnesium in the mornings because heart attacks are most common in the mornings. (Calcium & Magnesium do not promote the Fenton reaction.) I figure that higher metabolism in the morning and into the day may make for better assimilation in tissues. I try to keep my afternoon dose simple. Because I usually have returned from exercise in the afternoon, the emphasis is on water-soluble antioxidants (NAC, precursor to glutathione & vitamin C) and mitochondrial anti-oxidant (CoEnzyme Q10).

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I am close to 5'8" tall and am of medium frame (bone thickness)


WEIGHT (Pounds)






HDL (MMOL/L) ***

LDL (MMOL/L) ***

1988 ? ? 5.1 / 91.8 6.6 344 0.91 1.43 2.11
1989 158 130/96 4.8 / 86.4 9.0 339 1.82 ? ?
1991 168 124/90 4.8 / 86.4 7.3 358 2.10 1.31 1.95
1992 157 130/94 5.1 / 91.8 6.3 308 0.83 1.12 1.76
1993 150 120/80 5.5 / 99.0 7.8 349 1.94 1.20 2.41
1994 130 110/80 4.7 / 84.6 5.1 215 2.02 1.45 1.03
1995 120 106/70 4.4 / 79.2 5.1 233 1.00 1.26 1.43
1997 112 100/80 4.4 / 79.2 5.1 186 0.71 1.52 1.31
1998 123 110/70 5.5 / 99.0 7.6 251 0.98 1.26 1.17
1999 134 110/80 5.1 / 91.8 7.7 201 0.99 1.55 1.00
2000 132 110/80 5.0 / 90.0 5.5 188 0.58 1.34 1.38
2001 134 110/80 5.2 / 93.6 4.9 215 0.66 1.24 1.43
2002 134 94/60 4.0 / 72.0 5.5 282 0.48 1.53 1.36
2004 135 120/80 5.1 / 91.8 4.6 279 1.12 1.32 1.80

    ** NOTE ON GLUCOSE: Multiply by 18.0 to convert mmol/L to mg/100mL (because glucose is 180.0 g/mol)

    *** NOTE ON CHOLESTEROL: Multiply by 39 to get an approximate conversion of MMOL/L to MG/DL

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