• Karl Thunemann

Stand Close, Pal—but not THAT Close

By Karl Thunemann


When did I become a habitual user of supplements? I suspect my dad may have used a few, but I am not sure. Just opening up this topic brings to mind a great aunt and uncle who were always hawking some miracle cure they promised would change your life.


They always seemed to be on the road. They would stay overnight and make their pitch. The only actual product I recall was some miracle salve that was supposed to restore bald men’s hair. My dad was going bald, and they sold it real hard. They left him with a free sample. He tried it a couple of nights, mostly out of politeness, but of course noting happened. Plus, it was very messy! I think of these relatives as hucksters, but my friend Gertrude suggests perhaps that they were simply “vulnerable.” Maybe she’s right. I did not know these relatives very well. Once one of their young adult sons stayed overnight, and for breakfast he had six biscuits of Shredded Wheat, eaten from a cut-glass serving bowl. I was astonished.





My dad was very health conscious. He subscribed to Prevention magazine, and he was follower of Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the Royal Canadian Air Force physician who advocated regularly running for 12 minutes. The goal was to cover 1.5 miles in that stretch, which Dr. Cooper considered a standard of fitness. There is still an institute devoted to this cause, which passed its 50th anniversary in 2018. You could look it up. * Into their 70s, my dad and my mother were still backpacking in the High Sierra, carrying their gear and provisions over 10,000-foot passes. (When he died of Alzheimer’s at age 90, he was still remarkably fit.)


A while back I started receiving emails from someone who said he was a nutritionist. Every email was topped with a spectacular claim, but t you had to watch a video and jump through other hoops to get to the heart of the matter. This is a common, irritating ploy in marketing supplements …

In my late 20s and early 30s I set out to meet Cooper’s standard, but every time my 1.5-mile time came within hailing distanced of 13 minutes I would be laid up to injuries to my feet or ankles. So, I would have to take a break before resuming this course of self-abuse. This must have sent me on a search for supplements to reduce my exposure to injury. I don’t have a clear recollection. But in the end, I became a regular user of supplements. Now I use (taking a break to go count) nine supplements and five prescriptions.


I choose my supplements carefully. I am happy to have found a couple of independent organizations that evaluate these products and set standards for different categories. This does not make me a candidate for Supplement Man of the Year, but I’m spreading my money to earnest, worthwhile companies.


A while back—a year, maybe two—I started receiving emails from someone who said he was a nutritionist. Every email was topped with a spectacular claim, but I was usually able to resist. The claims were huge, but you had to watch a video and jump through other hoops to get to the heart of the matter. This is a common, irritating ploy in marketing supplements, and I had little trouble hitting the delete button. Then quite recently he sent out a sweeping claim for Antarctic krill, claiming that it was far superior to fish oil at delivering omega 3. I looked at several other sources for similar evaluations and – amazingly, researchers seemed to concur. So I bought a bottle of krill gels, though not from the supplier touted in the original.


As soon as I started taking these new gels, I felt a little dizzy, out of balance. On the third day, standing in the vestibule of my apartment, I collapsed without warning. A soft landing, though with aches and pains that lasted a few days. Luckily, I had bought only one bottle. My wife put it on the “sharing table” at out co-op. and it was gone the next morning.


How did I get on this nutritionist’s mailing list? I have to suppose he bought my email from one of my laxer suppliers. I was very happy to unsubscribe from his list. I was struck by an eerie parallel to my campaign to “make friends with death.” Sometimes, you just have to ward off “death” with a leery eye.


*50 Years of the Cooper 12-Minute Run - Cooper Institute