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Transcend: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever Hardcover – April 28, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
According to futurist Kurzweil (The Singularity is Near) and homeopathic medical doctor Grossman (The Baby Boomer's Guide to Living Forever), medicine is transforming into an information technology, which by its nature advances at an exponential rate. Thus, those interested in "radical life extension" must make it their immediate goal to live through the next 20 or so years, in order to see advances like DNA reprogramming and submicroscopic, cell-repairing robots. This "guide to Bridge One" outlines nine areas: talking with your doctor, relaxation, assessment, nutrition, supplementation, calorie reduction, exercise, new technologies, and detoxification. Familiar common-sense health advice abounds, but is practical and thorough; along with one to five cups of green tea each day, the authors provide low-cal recipes like Ginger Turkey Burgers and Herbed Zucchini. A detailed exercise routine for aerobic and weight training is also included. Kurzweil and Grossman, who last explored this subject together in 2005's Fantastic Voyage, also look at supplements, medical tests and hormone "optimization"; happily, chapters on calorie reduction and detoxification avoid trendy, potentially dangerous approaches. Whether or not it's true that, within two decades, we'll have the tools to live forever, this is an intelligent, optimistic guide to healthy living, with an intriguing view of medicine's future.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“Ray Kurzweil knows more about the future of technology than anyone on the planet. If you want to have the greatest chance of seeing the next century, read TRANSCEND today.” ―Dean Ornish, MD, founder and president, Preventive Medicine Research Institute; clinical professor of medicine, University of California, San Francisco; author, The Spectrum and Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease
“Kurzweil and Grossman have created another breathtaking book--a concise yet comprehensive guide to staying healthy and living life to the fullest. This visionary and must-read book also provides a brilliant and entertaining view of our transcendent future if we follow the TRANSCEND program.” ―Dean Kamen, physicist and inventor of the first wearable insulin pump, HomeChoice portable dialysis machine, IBOT Mobility System, and Segway Human Transporter, and recipient of the National Medal of Technology
“TRANSCEND provides a comprehensive yet easy-to-read review of the latest scientific and medical research related to the process of aging and age-related diseases, which will eventually affect all of us. Ray and Terry present an insightful view of the remarkable future that awaits us through growth of technology, while providing the motivation today to stay in shape to enjoy this future. This extremely well researched book provides a vision and roadmap for keeping both body and mind healthy so that we can take advantage of future advances to prolong healthy lifespan. ” ―Ron Kahn, MD, Mary K. Iacocca Professor, Harvard Medical School; former president and former director of research, Joslin Diabetes Center
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I stressed over what grade to give Transcend and ultimately gave it an Amazon **** grade (say, B+). Why that high? Why only that high?
First, I'm an MD, PhD with 30 years of clinical practice
and 10 years of medical research. (Google bobblum.com or just "Bob Blum")
Ray Kurzweil was a classmate of mine at MIT in the sixties.
I just met Terry at the Foresight Convergence Conference in 2008.
I had read Fantastic Voyage, their first joint effort, several times and always had a hard time deciding whether to recommend it to friends and colleagues. 80% of Fantastic Voyage was first rate information. 20% was highly controversial, fringe medicine (alkaline water and obscure supplements).
I complained to Ray in a letter expressing concern about his personal health - 250 pills a day is just too many, portending too many interactions - and also to Terry. My advice was to please label or rate the scientific evidence that forms a basis for each of their drug recommendations. Terry told me that their forthcoming book TRANSCEND would solve the problem. It DOES. Most of that controversial 20% has been surgically removed. Gone is much of the pseudoscience.
What's left follows closely (and expands) the world according to Drs. Dean Ornish, Andrew Weil, and many other admirable health writers.
The book summarizes the best of current medical advice on how to stay healthy. If you're not a health professional and have not read many books like this I would strongly recommend it. So, for most of you that's my advice... buy the book (and live by it).
Now, I'll be more specific.
TRANSCEND is a mnemonic for their health recommendations: Talk to your doctor, Relaxation, Assessment, Nutrition, Supplements, Calorie Reduction, Exercise, New Tech, Detoxification. That's a worthy list.
In re: Talk to your doctor and Assessments. Much of this is a list of tests to request, and as they rightly state, many of these tests will not be covered by insurance. This means you will have hundreds of dollars in unreimbursed expenses for tests of unproven efficacy.
During my meeting with Terry at Convergence he emphasized the importance of carotid ultrasound and coronary calcium scoring for men over 45 or women over 55. I totally concur. There is nothing like seeing the calcium plaque in your arteries to put the fear of the Lord into you.
However, for many of the other tests (neurotransmitter levels, mineral analysis, digestive function, eg) it is unclear how often, if ever, the tests should be done. With the country's economy in tatters and healthcare already climbing toward 20% of GDP some of these tests will always be for the well-to-do, worried well.
In re: Nutrition. I bristled when I saw that 66 pages were devoted to low fat recipes, since (IMHO) this is usually a worthless page-filler. However, I've changed my mind on this. In this era when so many foods that are readily available are condemned (most fats, much of animal protein, fast carbs) readers want to know "ok, so what DO I eat?"
I actually made their soy yogurt Waldorf Salad, the quinoa, and the zucchini and have lost 3 pounds from my usually cerebrotonic, ectomorphic frame. Basically, folks, this is where to get your vitamins and minerals. As Mark Bittman (NY Times Food Critic) says, "it's the carrot, not the beta carotene." I single out for especial praise their Transcend Food Pyramid - they nailed it - veggies and water are the base.
In re: Supplements. This is the arena in which Ray and Terry were particularly on thin ice in Fantasic Voyage. Ray's mammoth daily consumption of supplements to "reprogram his biochemistry" is notorious. I was delighted to see that their public recommendations for supplements have been greatly toned down. Whether this reflects a change in their own personal consumption is not stated. Since I'm a great fan of Ray's proselytizing on behalf of the Singularity, I hope it does. When I asked Aubrey (Engineered Negligible Senescence) de Grey (he of the Methusaleh beard) how many pills per day he takes (in contrast to Ray K's 250), he said "none. My wife is a good cook."
And now, here's the key problem - no discussion of methodology for arriving at medical truth. It's called evidence-based medicine -
Wiki it - and it needs to be a core piece of every book like this. Inquiring readers want to know, "should I take Resveratrol or alpha-lipoic-acid? How about CoQ10 or calorie restriction? Should I take vitamin E even though large clinical trials indicate that it might contribute to my death?
The hundreds of references that were in Fantastic Voyage were a good thing - they must be there. Furthermore, it needs to be absolutely clear that many of the supplements that are still on their recommended list have only weak, inconclusive, or contradictory evidence. That Ray and Terry (and Andrew Weil) sell supplements is an obvious conflict of interest. They owe it to their readers to present all the evidence not merely that which supports the consumption of particular supplements.
Again, I recommend this book, especially for the lay reader, since I endorse the TRANSCEND plan. My key reservation is that the presentation of evidence (con as well as pro) needs to be expanded and better referenced.
Addendum (February, 2012): My personal diet and nutrition recommendations have departed from
what Ray and Terry recommend. Please see my essay "Optimal Nutrition: Are Fats Killers or Saviors?"
on bobblum.com. That article includes scores of links to videos and pdfs on the web. Everything is free;
I sell nothing.
In another article on my website I also addressed the key issue of clinical evidence:
how do medical scientists/ statisticians determine "Does Drug X Really Work?"
Also see my short piece entitled "Transcend Drugs!" that shows exactly how the Natural Standard
(THE authority on supplements) rates the supplements that Ray and Terry recommend in Transcend.
That said, the authors did not do their homework with their medical advice, but pretend that they have- this is troubling at best and dangerous at worst (this is coming from a practicing physician). Their advice to the reader is additionally tainted by their potential profit by the sale of supplements. I found this disappointing.
For example, they recommend vitamin E, saying with confidence that it will reduce the risk of heart attack by 3/4. This advice is based on a single study that was published in 1996. There have been dozens of studies on cardiac risk and vitamin E, and it still isn't clear if it helps at all... And if it does the benefit is likely small, and there actually may be some risks to taking it which offset the benefits.
The emphasis on supplements seems problematic in general. A healthy diet is the best medicine and should come first- and we know now that low sugar and high nutrition is the way to go. A pile of supplements without getting diet right is pointless. The advice the book gives regarding diet is partially correct, but they push low fat hard and this is not clearly supported by modern research either. A good number of studies support healthy high fat diets- fats are necessary to keep people healthy and help to stabilize blood sugars and weight.
There are a number of excellent ideas in this book along with bad/false ideas. I could forgive false ideas proposed with caution and no secondary gain- but these ideas are given with a confidence that makes the whole work feel inauthentic and poorly validated. Sifting the good from the bad is hard work, and I wish they did more of that for us before publishing.