Pillbox: Step 4 of Get Cooperized is to take the right supplements for you. Did you grow up taking vitamins?
Dr. Cooper: My father was a practicing periodontist, and in his practice he became convinced of the benefits of nutrition and supplementation on gum health and periodontal disease. He found patients with pyorrhea and gingivitis who ate a diet low in sugar and high in vegetables, and took a multivitamin, had much better gum health than patients who didn’t. From the age of about twelve to entering medical school I took a daily multivitamin called the Alphabet Tablet.
In medical school, I was taught that vitamins were a waste of time, that they made the pharmacist rich and the toilet water expensive. I confess I critiqued my father back in the early days, and during this time of my life I personally stopped taking vitamins.
When I transferred from the Army to the Air Force and started working with the astronaut program, I started reading up on vitamins, particularly vitamin C and immunity, and iron, and thought vitamins might be helpful, but I really didn’t have any good data.
About fifteen years ago I started working on trying to quantify the impact of vitamins. After the first Cooper Complete study was published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition showing reduction of LDL cholesterol, homocysteine, and C-reactive protein, I started taking multivitamins.
Pillbox: Is there a particular multivitamin you take?
Dr. Cooper: I take Cooper Complete Original Iron Free, four tablets in the morning with breakfast and four tablets in the evening with dinner. I like taking the eight-tablet-a-day formula as it contains Coenzyme Q10.
Pillbox: What multivitamin do you recommend to your patients?
Dr. Cooper: For my patients, I recommend a minimum of Basic One (the Cooper Complete one-tablet-a-day-product) multivitamin and mineral formulation. For patients with cardiac disease, I also put them on a minimum of 100 mg Coenzyme Q10.
Pillbox: What about vitamin D?
Dr. Cooper: The 2,000 IU vitamin D in the Cooper Complete Original Iron Free multivitamin and mineral supplement keeps my vitamin D level in the optimal range (between 40- and 60 ng/mL), but very commonly I recommend my patients take up to 4,000 to 5,000 IU vitamin D daily in order to get their levels up.
Pillbox: Do you take omega-3 fatty acids?
Dr. Cooper: Yes, I take 2 grams twice a day – two of our Advanced Omega-3 softgels at breakfast and two at dinner (which provides a total of 1,520 mg EPA and 880 mg DHA). This keeps my omega-3 level around 10 or 11 percent. At Cooper Clinic, we run the HS-Omega-3 Index® test on all patients, and want a level of at least 8 percent.
I started taking this higher level after reading neurosurgeon Dr. Joseph Maroon’s book Fish Oil: The Natural Anti-Inflammatory. Dr. Maroon found that when he put patients with back pain on 3 grams of EPA/DHA (combined) per day, the vast majority could avoid surgery.
I take 2 grams of omega-3 because of the analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties in the omega-3. After fracturing my leg in 2004 while snow skiing, I find that I have leg pain if I don’t take this level of omega-3.
Pillbox: Do you eat lots of seafood too?
Dr. Cooper: Oh yes. I eat lots of seafood, particularly salmon, and have it several times a week. At work, for lunch I really like the southwestern wrap with salmon at Cedars Woodfire Grill (inside Cooper Fitness Center). At home, we regularly have salmon for dinner.
Pillbox: You mentioned inflammation and joint pain. Do you also take Cooper Complete Joint Health?
Dr. Cooper: Yes, I’ve been taking our Joint Health, with glucosamine and chondroitin, for many years. I’m convinced that the combination of this product and the omega-3 keeps me walking without pain. While I no longer jog, I can walk, and this combination keeps me pain free.
Pillbox: Many adults have issues with insomnia. What do you suggest for these patients?
Dr. Cooper: Sleep is a major problem for many adults, and adequate sleep is imperative for brain health. Both too little and too much sleep is dangerous to our health. For this reason, I recommend a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night, and not more than 10 hours per night. Too much sleep can lead to cardiovascular problems from the extended inactivity.
I confess I’m a bit of a night owl, and my personal routine is that I often find a short nap in the afternoon is a real help. President John F. Kennedy took a 45 minute nap after lunch, and I remember that my dad broke away at lunchtime every day and took a short 30 minute nap.
While I don’t take melatonin, I find about 50 percent of patients who take melatonin find that it helps them sleep. The recommended dose is 3- to 6 mg melatonin.
Pillbox: How do you remember to take your supplements?
Dr. Cooper: It’s just a habit. We keep them in the kitchen. I’ve found that if I miss a few days my knee starts hurting, so that’s a good motivation for me to take them.
I do feel my combination of regular physical activity, my vitamin supplementation, my diet and my weight, which is the same it was in high school, is the reason I’m in good health and enjoying a good life at 84 years of age
Pillbox: Do you take any non-Cooper vitamins or supplements?
Dr. Cooper: I don’t take any non-Cooper supplements, but I do add one tablespoon of Benecol margarine to my oatmeal every morning. One tablespoon with oatmeal helps me keep my cholesterol under control. (Note: One tablespoon of Benecol® Spread contains 0.5 grams of plant stanols, an ingredient derived from natural plant sources, proven to reduce cholesterol levels.)