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Newsletter v1n22

Newsletter v1n22
Back Issues

"No amount of evidence can persuade anyone who is not listening." Abram Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D.

The DOCTOR YOURSELF (SM) NEWSLETTER Vol 1, No 22 September 10, 2001 "Free of charge, free of advertising, and free of the A.M.A." Written and published by Andrew Saul, PhD. of , a free online library of more than 250 natural healing articles with over 3,500 scientific references.


A riddle: how many years does it take for a truly new way of treating disease to be generally accepted? The answer is forty, according to Abram Hoffer, M.D, Ph.D. There are few physicians who have sufficient experience to personally validate such a claim, but Dr. Hoffer can. He pioneered megavitamin research and treatment back in the early 1950's, and, half a century later, he has still been largely ignored by the medical profession. Why? Because Dr. Hoffer treats with vitamins. And, he gets results.

Dr. Hoffer, now a lively 84 years of age, still maintains an active practice on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. He has written 20 books and over 500 scientific articles that contain more than enough information to set the medical profession on its ear. His work forms the most elegant explanation of orthomolecular (megavitamin) medicine since Dr. Linus Pauling's historic 1968 paper in Science. In fact, Hoffer had a 17-year jump on Pauling; vitamin B-3 (niacin, or niacinamide) to treat behavioral disorders was first used by Hoffer and colleague Dr. Humphry Osmond in 1951. Happy Fiftieth Anniversary!

Why on earth should acceptance take so long ? After all, if megavitamin treatment is so good, how come your doctor doesn't use it? How come it is not on the news? The answer may have more to do with medical politics than with medical science. Consider Hoffer's views on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: "The DSM system (the standard of the American Psychiatric Association) has little or no relevance to diagnosis. It has no relevance to treatment, either, because no matter which terms are used to classify these children, they are all recommended for treatment with drug therapy" combined, sometimes, with other non-megavitamin approaches. "If the entire diagnostic scheme were scrapped today, it would make almost no difference to the way these children were treated, or to the outcome of treatment. Nor would their patients feel any better or worse" (Dr. Hoffer's ABC of Natural Nutrition for Children). Statements like these do not exactly endear one to the medical community.

And, as if such critical statements are not enough, Dr. Hoffer then writes book after book setting out genuine nutritional alternatives to drug therapy. He provides vitamin dosage details, food tables, references, and many, many case histories, numerous research summaries, precise recommendations for optimum diet, comparisons of drugs and vitamins, discussions of food additives, behavioral self-tests, and, most importantly, a wealth of professional experience.

The best part of Dr. Hoffer's writing is that it offers practical, positive advice. Criticisms and even lawsuits over the hazards of pharmaceuticals are on the rise, but neither court nor controversy can cure. "Saying no to drugs" also requires saying "yes" to something else. That something else is nutrition, properly employed.

For those who say there is insufficient scientific evidence to support megavitamin therapy, perhaps they haven't been looking hard enough. Hoffer and his colleagues were first to employ vitamin C as an antioxidant, use the B-vitamins against heart disease, and prescribe niacin to treat behavioral disorders.

Half a century ago.


The United States Patent Office delayed issuing a patent on the Wright brothers' airplane for five years because it broke accepted scientific principles. This is actually true. And so is this: Vitamin B-3, niacin, is scientifically proven to be effective against psychosis, and yet the medical profession has delayed endorsing it. Not for five years, but for nearly fifty.

This may be a puzzler, but isn't the bottom line. This is: The simple way to determine whether vitamins will help is to try them. We are all fortunate to have available to us invaluable guidance from the foremost authority on the subject.

In 1951, Abram Hoffer had just completed his psychiatry residency. What's more, he had proven, with the very first double-blind, placebo-controlled studies in the history of psychiatry, that vitamin B-3 could cure schizophrenia. You would think that psychiatrists everywhere would have beaten down a path to Saskatchewan to replicate his findings.

You'd think so.

In modern psychiatry, niacin and schizophrenia are both terms that have been closeted away out of sight. And patients, tranquilized into submission or Prozac-ed into La-La Land, are often idly at home or wandering the streets, where either way it is highly doubtful that they will get much in the way of a daily vitamin intake. Those in institutions fare little better nutritionally. For everyone "knows" that vitamins do not cure "real" diseases.

But Dr. Hoffer dissents. For half a century Dr. Hoffer has dissented. His central point has been this: Illness, including mental illness, is not caused by drug deficiency. But much illness, especially mental illness, may be seen to be caused by a vitamin deficiency. This makes sense, and has stood up to clinical trial again and again. If you do not believe this, Dr. Hoffer's book Vitamin B-3 and Schizophrenia will provide you with the references to prove it.

We've all been carefully taught that drugs cure illness, not diet. And certainly not vitamin supplements!

But the truth will out eventually, and nothing succeeds like success. Ask the patients who have recovered, like Jim.


Jim had been totally unmanageable. At 21, he'd already been kicked out of the State Hospital for being too violent. So they sent him home to his parents, whom he threatened on a daily basis while punching holes in the living room walls. Jim slept one hour per night, and roamed the streets for the other seven. His face was scaly and severely broken out with acne. His dietary and digestive habits were appalling, and he appeared to be, to quote Far Side cartoonist Gary Larson, just plain nuts.

So there they were, three feet away from me: a psycho with two terrified parents. Medical science had not helped him, and had, ironically, discharged him in the face of its own impotence. So I told the family about Dr. Hoffer's approach: take very large quantities of niacin, starting at three thousand milligrams, plus an equal or larger amount of vitamin C.

And why exactly would this work?

Advanced niacin deficiency, or pellagra, actually causes psychosis, as well as the skin and gastrointestinal problems that Jim was experiencing. He needed more niacin than the average person, and probably a lot more. At really large doses, niacin has a profound calming, sedating effect. Yet it is not a drug, but a nutrient. The safety margin is huge. Dr. Hoffer has prescribed as much as 20,000 milligrams a day. Therefore 3,000 milligrams is actually not a particularly high dose.

About two weeks later, Jim's father called. "Let me tell you what happened," he began. "You know Jim only sleeps maybe an hour a night? Well, the first night on the niacin, he slept 18 hours. He's been sleeping about 7 hours a night since."

"That's terrific," I said.

"That's not all," he said. "Last Friday morning, for the first time in I don't know how many years, Jim came down for breakfast. He walked into the dining room and said 'Good morning, Dad.'"

Even on the phone I could hear the tears in the man's voice. It was wonderful.

And niacin is cheap, non-prescription and easy to monitor: if you flush, you took too much. Still sick, you took too little. No flush and no psychosis means you did it right.

Odd, really, that with a medical mood favoring medication over analysis, that Abram Hoffer's niacin protocol is so unappreciated. After all, why NOT use vitamins? They are far safer than pharmaceuticals. Yet a fundamental bias in both medicine and dietetics rises darkly from the swamp when you even hint of a therapeutic validity for megavitamin doses. Why such resistance to such a useful nutritional tool? Is it perhaps because niacin therapy is really, really cheap? Or is it because it is hard to see psychotic behavior as a nutritional deficiency?

"Pellagra" is the classic niacin deficiency disease. It was once common in the rural South where the poor had little else to eat except tryptophan-poor foods like milled corn. The symptoms are the "Three D's": diarrhea, dermatitis, and dementia. More specific pellagra symptoms include weakness, anorexia, lassitude, indigestion, skin eruptions, skin scaling, neuritis, nervous system destruction, confusion, apathy, disorientation, and insanity. Does this sound a bit like schizophrenia to you?

But the success, convenience and relentless advertising of new so-called "wonder drugs" diminished niacin's popularity. Then, the American Psychiatric Association unscientifically trashed megavitamin therapy in 1973. So now we have growing legions of nutritionally challenged, mentally-malnourished Americans who don't know, or care, that they are malnourished. For they are happily (and legally, and profitably) drugged into a mood-altered wonder land, aptly termed a "pharmacological lobotomy" by fully- recovered former Dr. Hoffer patient Margot Kidder. (She'll tell you her story herself at ) It is disquieting to see an arsenal of "Mother's Little Helper" psychotropic pharmaceuticals are used by millions daily, even while so many doctors and dieticians condemn megavitamin therapeutics out of hand.

The many negative side effects and dangers of these drugs are now restoring interest in niacin. Even trendy "somas du jour," such as Paxil and Prozac, have serious failings. A quick read in the Physicians' Desk Reference (or "PDR.," available at any library) will illustrate this.

Psychosis is not caused by drug deficiency, but rather by a functional nutritional deficiency. There is a chemical found in quantity in the bodies of schizophrenic persons. It is an indole called adrenochrome. Adrenochrome (which is oxidized adrenalin) has an almost mescaline-like effect on the body. That might well explain their behavior. Niacin serves to reduce the body's production of this toxic material. It takes a lot of niacin to do the job.

Dr. Hoffer says: "Dr. Humprhry Osmond, John Smythies and I originated the adrenochrome hypothesis in 1954. We are delighted that (after some 45 years) this hypothesis which has been so fruitful in directing research, which was one of the roots of orthomolecular medicine, is at last receiving serious examination in the establishment literature. It is likely that over the next decade there will be a major explosion of interest into adrenochrome and similar oxidized derivatives of the catechol amines."


Niacin toxicity does exist, but is rare. Dr. Hoffer found that even 40,000 mg daily is not toxic but estimated that over 200,000 mg/day is fatal. The most psychotic person you are ever likely to meet could probably not hold more than 10,000 mg/day, and most of us would never exceed 1,000 mg daily. Medical physicians frequently give patients 2,000 to 5,000 milligrams of niacin to lower serum cholesterol. The safety margin is large. There is not even one death from niacin per year. Check CDC or Poison Control Center statistics, the Merck Manual, and the PDR and see. Side effects of niacin therapy include flushing, skin itching, and, upon large overdose, nausea. Such symptoms vary with dose, the body's need, and volume of food, water, or soluble fiber consumed.

"Negative side effects are easily dealt with by physicians who know niacin," Dr. Hoffer told me. "In most cases they are minor irritants. Some of the side effects may be minimized with vitamin C. The positive side effects, such as increased general health, improved healing, and prolongation of high quality life, are all benefits. In sharp contrast, very few drugs have positive side effects."

So it is a lack of niacin that is the real public health problem. The US RDA is only about 20 mg, and bodily need for niacin varies with activity, body size and illness, according to Williams, Nutrition and Diet Therapy (6th ed, p 239). About half of all Americans will not get even that much from their diets. Niacin's special importance is indicated in that the US RDA for niacin is twenty or more times higher than the RDA for other B-vitamins, and that's just for everyday, healthy people.


Dr. Hoffer's clinical megavitamin research has included work with over one thousand cancer patients. Those taking large quantities of vitamins achieved significantly longer life, and vastly improved quality of life. I cannot imagine a more important and uplifting news for the family of a cancer patient.

Not everyone agrees with this.

Certain politically powerful medical authorities have openly discouraged cancer patients from taking large doses of vitamin C. It is unethical for any doctor to deny therapy that might be of value to her patient. Still, the number of cancer patients who have ever had their doctor recommend a therapeutic trial of large quantities of vitamin C remains small. I predict that there will eventually be a class-action lawsuit brought against orthodox medicine by patients who were wrongly kept from supportive high-dose vitamin therapy.

The grounds for disparaging vitamin C usually center on three inaccurate claims: 1) vitamin C is ineffective against cancer; 2) vitamin C interferes with conventional cancer therapies; and 3) vitamin C is in itself harmful to the cancer patient.

Hoffer refutes each of these fallacious views with the authority of 50 years of medical research and medical practice behind him. So let's let him set the record straight:

1) There are many controlled studies that demonstrate that vitamin C is indeed effective against cancer. These studies are discussed in Hoffer's book Vitamin C and Cancer. Some of the most interesting studies were done in Japan, using over 30,000 mg of vitamin C a day. Extensive clinical reports from orthomolecular (megavitamin) physicians, such as Robert F. Cathcart III, MD ( ), indicate that higher quantities of vitamin C are even more effective.

2) Vitamin C reduces the side-effects of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy. Patients on a strong nutritional program have far less nausea, and often experience little or no hair loss during chemo. They experience reduced pain and swelling following radiation. They have faster, uncomplicated healing after surgery. Such vitamin-mediated benefits mean that oncologists can give vitamin-taking patients the full dose of chemotherapy, rather than having to cut the dose to keep the patient from giving up entirely. Obviously, full-strength chemo is more likely to be effective against cancer than reduced-strength chemo. A similar benefit is at work with radiation therapy: the full intensity of treatment is far better tolerated by an optimally-nourished patient. With surgery, the risk reduction aspects of vitamins, both pre- and post-op, are well established. Therefore, vitamin C, far from being detrimental, makes a most positive contribution to the conventional treatment of cancer.

3) Even at very high doses, Vitamin C is an unusually safe substance; countless studies have verified this. As an antioxidant, collagen-building co-enzyme, and reinforcer of the immune system, vitamin C is vital to a cancer patient. Yet the blood work of cancer patients will invariably show that they have abnormally low levels of the vitamin. What is dangerous is vitamin deficiency.

Fortunately there are physicians like Dr. Hoffer who still look to the patient, and not the test tube, for their answers. A patient's therapeutic response is the highest of all guiding principles in medicine. If it works, do it. If it seems to work, do it. If it does no harm, do it. Remember: If there were a sure cure for cancer, you would have heard about it. There isn't. But this just makes it all the more important for patients to demand adjunctive vitamin therapy from their physicians. The number of conventionally-educated, hospital trained doctors that support vitamin C therapy is growing. Hoffer was among the first. Your family doctor could be next.

But rather than wait, I would go so far as to advise reading everything Dr. Hoffer has ever written. The following would be a great start:

Vitamin B-3 and Schizophrenia: Discovery, Recovery, Controversy by Abram Hoffer, MD (1998) Quarry Press, Kingston, Ontario Canada ISBN 1-55082-079-6 Softcover, 150 pages plus bibliography and two appendices.

Vitamin C and Cancer: Discovery, Recovery, Controversy by Abram Hoffer, MD, PhD, with Linus Pauling (1999) Quarry Press, Kingston, Ontario ISBN 1-55082-078-8 Softcover, 180 pp plus bibliography and 74 pp of appendices

Dr. Hoffer's ABC of Natural Nutrition for Children by Abram Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D (1999) Quarry Press, Kingston, Ontario ISBN 1-55082-185-7 (Softcover, 280 pages plus tables and bibliography)

Abram Hoffer's complete nutrition bibliography of books and journal articles is posted at is Dr. Hoffer's cancer information home page. is Dr. Hoffer's schizophrenia information home page. has information and posted articles from the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, of which Dr. Hoffer is editor-in-chief.

You can also read articles of his at and reviews of his books at

ACT NOW TO MAKE VITAMIN PURCHASES TAX EXEMPT John Hammell ( ) at IAHF writes: "Please call your Senators and ask them to cosponsor S 1330 IS, the Dietary Supplement Tax Fairness Act of 2001. This bill was introduced by Senators Hatch and Harkin on August 2, and would provide for the IRS to allow tax exempt status for any dietary supplements that you buy so you can write them off just like medications. Please therefor call your Senators today via the Capital Switchboard at 202-225-3121 and if you aren't sure of the name of your Senators give them your zip code and they can look them up. All you have to say to the person who answers is that you are a constituent and that you would like for the Senator to Cosponsor S 1330 IS: Dietary Supplement Tax Fairness Act of 2001 because you would like to write off all expenses for vitamins.

OUR ACCESS TO VITAMINS SHOULD NOT BE RESTRICTED More from John Hammell: "Also, please call your Congressman and ask him to cosponsor Foods Are Not Drugs Act of 2001 HR 2265 IH. It only has four cosponsors to date and the bill needs many, many more to pass.

"Please help! Contact your Congressman via that same Capital Switchboard number (202-225-3121). Tell them you want him or her to cosponsor HR 2265 IH, The Foods are Not Drugs Act, because present law allows the FDA far too much leeway to ban safe products through restrictive United Nations CODEX Vitamin Standards currently under development."

(Editor's Note: For easy letter-writing hints and email links to the Senate, please look at More information on CODEX is posted in the Doctor Yourself NEWSLETTER Vol 1, # 4 Dec. 22, 2000, which you can read at . You will also want to check for greatly expanded coverage of this important subject.)

COMING NEXT ISSUE: "Are those beaks coming up in my garden?" Or: Why Chicken is in the "Meat" Group Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Chemo, Radiation, Vitamins Why Rice is Nice Doctors' Strikes: No Worries

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