How to Build Your Personal Supplement Pyramid

By Michael A. Smith, MD

Here’s a scenario you may identify with: You know you should be taking supplements, but aren't sure where to start. You start researching a bit, and quickly become overwhelmed. Sound familiar?

Truth is, with so much information out there and countless “experts” talking about the latest essential discovery, it’s pretty easy to get frustrated, discouraged, and turned in the wrong direction.

So how do you make sense out of all of this? Well, for starters, this post will probably help quite a bit.

The Supplement Pyramid

The Supplement Pyramid
A supplement regimen is best structured like a pyramid. This pyramid has three levels, starting at the bottom and moving up.

At the bottom is your foundation level, in the middle is your personalization level, and lastly, at the top, is your optimization level.

Let’s look at each one together.

(Note: Please speak with your doctor before starting any new supplement or when adding one to your regimen.)

Level 1: The Foundation Level

A strong foundation best describes the structural integrity of the Egyptian pyramids. This is true for your supplement pyramid as well. So the first level we’re going to build is the foundation.

The supplements within this level support basic life processes, such as cell energy production, growth, repair and regeneration. It’s these foundational supplements that ultimately lead to optimal health and wellness.

No matter who you are or what you’re going through, these are the foundational supplements you should consider starting with:

  1. A Daily Multivitamin – One that provides the key vitamins and minerals you need as well as fruit and vegetable extracts for an extra “antioxidant punch” is ideal.
  2. Ubiquinol CoQ10 – CoQ10 is an essential nutrient for cell energy production. Without it, cells cannot produce the energy they need to perform basic functions.
  3. Essential Fats – An abundance of scientific research substantiates the wide-ranging health benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and fish oil supplements.
  4. Probiotics – Replenishing healthy gut bacteria as we age is critical for digestion and a strong immune system.
Of course, this list doesn’t include all possible foundational supplements, but for most of us, it will be a pretty good starting point.

Level 2: The Personalization Level

We all face different health challenges. Some of us have a history of heart disease, while others have had cancer in their family. This is why your supplement pyramid should address your own specific health needs. We do this within the middle of the pyramid at the personalization level.

Since this part of the supplement pyramid is tailored to your needs, accounting for personal and family health history is the first step in developing it.

Using the list below as a guide, place a check mark next to each body part or system where you or a family member has a problem or diagnosis. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be too specific.

For example, let’s say your sister suffers from tremors of her hands, but her doctors don’t know what it is. That’s okay. In that case, you would just place a check mark next to “brain and nerves”.

  • Brain & Nerves
  • Muscles & Joints
  • Bones
  • Heart & Lungs
  • Gastrointestinal System
  • Kidneys, Urinary & Bladder
  • Skin
  • Diabetes
  • Immune System
  • Eyes/Vision
  • Ears/Hearing
  • Thyroid & Other Hormone Issues
  • Mood Disorders
This list is not exhaustive, it’s just a guide. Once you have identified your health issues, head over to the Life Extension protocols to learn about which nutrients would be best for you. These nutrients will fulfill the personalization level of your pyramid.

Level 3: The Optimization Level

The top level of the pyramid is all about “optimizing” your regimen. This might include extra antioxidants, additional protein and amino acid supplementations, or maybe even the latest longevity herb.

But remember this: The supplements in the top part of your pyramid should be considered after you’ve established your foundation and personalization levels — not the other way around!

Build Your Supplement Regimen from the Bottom Up

Here’s an example: A Life Extension member is looking to start taking supplements. This person has a family history of heart disease and is interested in nutrients for longevity.

Example Steps:

  1. Foundation Level – Start with the 4 foundational supplements listed above.
  2. Personalization Level – Add a pomegranate extract because of their family history of heart disease.
  3. Optimization Level – Add Resveratrol, a powerful nutrient that favors longevity genes.1
Remember, the above is just a hypothetical example — everyone is different and therefore has different needs. The key point is to focus on your optimization level AFTER addressing the foundation and personalization levels — something which is often overlooked.

This is a good way to build a "starter" regimen and we hope that it helps get you on track.


  1. Mol Biol Rep. 2011 Jun 25.


Jeffrey Becker DC said...

We have some differences of opinion on foundation but I like this concept!

Life Extension said...

Thanks Dr. Becker for your comment. We appreciate the differences of opinion for the foundational supplements. But it's the concept that's important!

Dr. Gladd said...

In my office, I use the Mytavin calculator at to help decide on nutrient needs as well.

Life Extension said...

Dr. Gladd, thanks for the information about the Mytavin calculator. From what we can tell, it's a cool tool for identifying nutritional deficiencies.

Anonymous said...

what are the recommended dosing guidelines for Ubiquinol CoQ10?

Life Extension said...

We suggest between 100 and 200 mg/day. Of course, check with your doctor before starting any supplement. Thanks.

Adolfo David said...

I would remark importance of vitamin D in pyramid foundation, at least a multivitamin with high vitamin D dose.

About Q10, considering high absorption of latest LEF Ubiquinol maybe 50-100 mg per day is enough for healthy people, isnt?

Life Extension said...

Hi Adolfo, we couldn't agree with you more!

Anonymous said...

Check with my doctor before taking supplements? :) My doctor told me that supplements are a waste of money. . . .

Life Extension said...

Anonymous, we understand that many people are frustrated with their doctors. However, our information and educational services do not replace doctors. To help you find a doctor that you like, we have a directory of innovative doctors throughout the US. You might find it helpful.

Schaumburg Personal Trainer said...

The article is very entertaining. it gives us new ideas and prospectives to help widen our knowldeged.i will be glad to share this site to other people.

Anonymous said...

A lot of vitamins are sold in Gummy Bear form now for easy chewing/swallowing. Does one get the same nutritional benefits from taking these chewable vitamins?

Life Extension said...

Anonymous - Gummy vitamins tend to contain low doses of nutrients. They may also increase the risk of cavities, due to their sugar content and gummy texture. So, it may not be the best choice for a multivitamin!

here said...

Wow, a really good approach to the whole supplement debate! Thank you.

LifeExtension said...

here - You're welcome. :-)

Anonymous said...

I take too many of your products, but still living at 83.

LifeExtension said...

Anonymous - You're definitely doing something right! Thanks for your support. :-)

Zsazsa Mills said...

I definitely agree with you!

Anonymous said...

the essentials for me as a undermethylator is vit B6 <600 mg, L-methionine 2 grams, calcium 1000 mg, magnesium, 500 mg.

In addition LEF 2-per-day, 10 000 units vit d, zinc, boron, iodine, probiotics, omega

I simply love the 2-per-day, since it fits me and my needs.

Alex Newell ND said...

I love the simple system you shown here. I'd have some tweaks on your suggestions but the concept is useful.

Unknown said...

I know you're not a doctor and I take it with a grain of salt but I'm wondering what you recommend for someone who has the ear disorder known as hyperacusis with tinnitus.

Life Extension said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Life Extension said...

Alex Newell ND - Glad you found it useful. Thanks for reading!

Life Extension said...

Dave Mcconnaughay - One study showed pyridoxine (B6) was shown to help hyperacusis. This link provides suggestions for tinnitus:

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