Interview with Stephen Levine, Ph.D.
Stephen Levine, Ph.D., is the founder of NutriCology, one of the original hypoallergenic supplement companies. Below is an interview with Dr. Levine as he discusses why he founded NutriCology and how he came to pioneer so many key nutritional supplements over the last 30 years, and how he continues to do so.
Since 1979, NutriCology, founded and lead by Stephen Levine, Ph.D., has become well known for its innovation, quality and purity. Over the last twenty seven years, and since its inception, NutriCology has set the record with consistently groundbreaking products. One need only take a brief look into the scientifically adventurous life of Stephen Levine to understand why.
What is your educational background?
My undergraduate work was at Buffalo State University, after which I did a full fellowship at UC Berkeley in the genetics department, where I received a Ph.D. in 1976, with an emphasis on genetics and molecular biology.
How did you come to found NutriCology?
It became obvious that I had chemical sensitivity and environmental illness when I was working as a lab director after graduation. That started my passionate entry into the field of alternative/environmental medicine. My recovery from chemical sensitivities with selenium was memorialized in numerous lay and technical articles, including Prevention magazine, and finally, the writing of a textbook, Antioxidant Adaptation (co-authored by Parris Kidd, Ph.D.). This book straddled both academic science in free radical biochemistry and alternative medicine and became the “new testament” providing an organizing principle for understanding the action of the best known and best selling supplements of the day. These were, of course, vitamins C, E, beta carotene, and selenium. These were fundamentally, antioxidants, i.e. redox-active. My insight into the contribution of redox activities redefined the understanding as to the underlying energetic nature of biological processes, stress and illness for thousands of doctors. From this work, two of NutriCology’s first products were developed: Sodium Selenite and Buffered Vitamin C.
Sodium Selenite, a rather simple solution, is still a favorite form of selenium for many patients. In some patients it produced immediate benefits for chemical sensitivity and in others is allowed patients to recover chemical tolerance over an extended period of weeks and months. Confirming work has been done by Dr. Michael Rosenbaum, M.D., and Alfred Zamm, M.D.
Buffered Vitamin C was developed from some of the initial research in the early 50’s of Theon Randolph, M.D., who was the founder and leader of the environmental medicine movement.
Both products were widely embraced by the environmental medicine community, and used by leaders, Drs. Randolph and Rea, as well as hundreds of doctors from the Clinical Ecology Society. They were also used by many patients and lead to relief and hope for thousands. So it was these first two products, Buffered Vitamin C and Sodium Selenite Solution from which NutriCology was born.
Buffered Vitamin C Study at Haight Ashbury Free Clinic
Buffered Vitamin C (BVC) was so effective for food allergies, I was convinced it would work for addictive cravings. So in 1985, an informal study was conducted at the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic in San Francisco, in which BVC was used by outpatients recovering from addictions. The results were remarkable and BVC reduced withdrawal symptoms and cravings in 90% of the participants.
Why are you able to introduce leading products and see leading trends consistently before others?
It partially comes down to looking at underlying principles. You can’t get more fundamental than electrons and protons and I knew that the energetic principles would have an impact on clinical manifestation of illness. Recently, my theory on free radical and chemical hypersensitivities received considerable support by the monumental research of Dr. Martin Pall, Ph.D., Professor at Washington State University. Also, I have had the tremendous good fortune of being involved with a large and dynamic group of friends and colleagues - a network of leading doctors and scientists whom I am always exchanging ideas with. These personal connections have led to the birth of many groundbreaking products, and will continue to do so for years to come.
What makes the formulas different?
They are different from the start - we don’t generally follow the pack. We work with leading doctors in our industry as a brain trust to bring in what is most interesting and most needed at that time. A small list of the prestigious, or accomplished doctors that we have worked with include: Leo Galland, M.D. (practitioner of the year award 2 times), Jonathan Wright, M.D., Dana Flavin, M.D., Dr. Ba Hoang, M.D., Ph.D., and many others...
You are considered a pioneer in the field of nutritional supplements. What are some of the products you introduced to the marketplace and how did you discover them?
We were the first to introduce many nutritional supplements to the market, two of which I have already discussed Sodium Selenium Solution and Buffered Vitamin C, but here I will list some of the other key products and the stories behind their inception:
By the mid 80’s, a large body of literature existed on melatonin. I was also attracted to it because of some of the esoteric associations between this sleep hormone, which affected dreams, was inhibited by light, and was associated with the third eye (intuition). I tried it in 87’ or 88’, with a friend of mine, and it had sleep-inducing and hypnotic effects. Subsequently, at Dr. Rae’s meeting in Texas I met melatonin researchers Russel Reiter, George Maestroni, and others who where thrilled that I had melatonin available commercially. Reiter read my text and then began testing melatonin for its antioxidant activities. His subsequent research has been responsible for the mass acceptance of melatonin and the very important scientific understanding of its role as an antioxidant. It also appears to be intimately involved in cell protection. Reiter’s book on melatonin and his findings of its profound antioxidant capacity came out just as JAMA and NEJM had seriously embraced antioxidants as key cell protectors. Reiter has commented “melatonin is such a potent antioxidant that its gradual loss could explain why aging accelerates over time. My colleagues and I have suggested that melatonin replacement could result in a significant increase in human lifespan.” I initially put out two potencies: 1.6 mg and 20 mg. Since then, 25 mg has been studied and found to profoundly affect cell growth and to be life-supporting for some patients, with numerous studies to support this.
In 1998, a close friend of mine, Earl Etiennne, Ph.D., the youngest professor to ever teach at Harvard, was intrigued by the pregnancy phenomena - how lactoferrin was so low during pregnancy to protect the fetus from immune system attack, and how high the levels of lactoferrin would become in breast milk after pregnancy in order to further the development of newborn’s immune system. We introduced the first lactoferrin product to the market in the late 80’s. Soon after, the popular press picked up interest in the lactoferrin story, further spreading the word.
I was working with my colleagues Leo Galland, M.D. and Herman Bueno, M.D. who were the prominent researchers in the area of GI immunity and parasites. Galland and Bueno introduced me to the idea of working with Artemisia annua as a broad spectrum microbial balancer. The use of pure artemisinin was being studied at NYU Medical Center. At the time, artemisinin was only made in Vietnam so we connected with a missionary who was able to get some for us. Shortly after this, in 1986 or 87’, artemisinin finally became available. We introduced it in two products: as pure artemisinin, but also as part of our Tricycline product, which contained other herbs for GI support. These products have functioned well for many doctors and patients for many years.
Full Spectrum Antioxidants
Creating a full spectrum antioxidant formula was simply a logical extension of my work on my textbook Antioxidant Adaptation. Antiox™, Improved Antiox™ and Ocudyne™ are combination antioxidants, the first of their kind, with biological activities in areas of immunity, and cellular protection at a very profound level. As predicted, these had a major impact on patients and then on the marketplace, then and now. They still represent some of the most sophisticated products of this category.
We summarized all the research that was available from Japan - mostly from Dr. Hiroyuki Sumi, M.D., the discoverer of nattokinase. We also connected with Dr. Martin Milner, N.D., a cardiovascular specialist, and Dr. Ralph Holsworth, D.O., who later became the leading nattokinase researcher in the U.S. Jonathan Wright, M.D. noted that patients were responding very quickly and powerfully to the product. Once again, this was perfect timing for the needs and awareness level of the doctors and their clinical practice. We were the first to introduce nattokinase to the U.S. market in 2002. We use only the NSK-SD™ form of nattokinase, which is the only form of nattokinase approved by Dr. Sumi and Dr. Holsworth.
Organic Germanium (Germanium Sesquioxide)
In 1985, while I was working on my antioxidant book, the importance of oxygen became clear to me. I came to understand the importance of the role of hypoxia, so I sought to find an effective agent for cellular oxygenation. I found the work of Dr. Kazuhiko Asai, the original Japanese developer of germanium sesquioxide. We then worked with a Berkeley chemist to develop a testing protocol to confirm the purity of germanium sesquioxide. The past twenty years have only deepened my conviction that germanium is a nutrient of enormous value. Presently, we are working with an oncology group in Arizona on a double-blind study of germanium’s impact on energy status in cancer patients.
What are some of the other unique products first introduced by NutriCology?
There are many more products that were first introduced by NutriCology. Ocudyne was the first full spectrum eye care formula, developed in collaboration with Drs. Alan Gaby, M.D. and Jonathan Wright, M.D. Ocudyne was recently improved in 2005, and we believe it to be the most comprehensive eye care formula available.* Pycnogenol, a pine bark extract with powerful antioxidant properties. Mastica (mastic gum), is a resin from the Pistacia lentiscus tree from the island of Chios in Greece. It has remarkable microbial balancing properties (data published in NEJM) in the upper GI, and has been a major breakthrough in GI health. Mastic gum was obtained as a result of collaboration with Dr. Leo Galland, M.D. Stabilium® 200, a very unique extract of Garum amoricum, a large, cold water blue fish found only in the deep ocean waters off the coast of the Armorican Peninsula of France. Garum was originally used by the ancient Celts as a food supplement to improve resilience to physical and emotional stress.* Oralmat® (rye grass extract), is a patented extract of young rye grass Secale cereale from Australia that supports healthy breathing and immunity.* In 2004, we introduced Mucolyxir™ is a very unique product for lung support and mucous regulation that is made from microdose DNA, utilizing the innovative concept of “signal therapy” originally developed by Dr. Allan Lieberman, M.D. and John McMichael, Ph.D.*
What does the future hold for NutriCology?
The past 27 years have been an incredibly rewarding scientific and personal adventure. I look forward to many more years of investigation of science and healing as tools to support, enhance and inspire as many people as possible through new, innovative NutriCology products.
We’ve got some really exciting new products coming, many of which are equally, if not more exciting than what we’ve done in the past. We will be gradually introducing these products over the next few months.
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