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Newsletter v4n20

Newsletter v4n20
Back Issues

"Just because you are paranoid doesn't mean they're not all out to get you." (A favorite psychiatrist's joke.)

The DOCTOR YOURSELF NEWSLETTER (Vol. 4, No. 20, for September 20, 2004) "Free of charge, free of advertising, and free of the A.M.A."

Written and copyright 2004 by Andrew W. Saul of , which welcomes 1.5 million visitors annually. Commercial use of the website or the contents of this Newsletter is strictly prohibited.

SOY, OH BOY, OH BOY! My ever-vigilant readers will not let me get around this topic, so here we go.

B. E. writes: "I have read in numerous places that soy is bad for you. I would appreciate any info you can provide about this. I cannot think that lecithin would be harmful but there are reports about soy products being bad or poisonous to the body. What is the truth on this?"

A. T. writes: "I have been reading some articles about soybeans, I would like to have your opinion on these articles."

Many of what I consider to be reputable sources (including the Weston Price Foundation and Dr. Joseph Mercola, among others) have come out against soy. I have considerable respect for these writers, as do many of my regular readers. I am not a soy boy, but I do think that for most healthy people, eating some soy products does not qualify as high-risk activity. That word again is "some." I am not looking for a jousting match here. As W.C. Fields said, let's take the bull by the tail and face the situation: don't the wildly high hormone counts in meat and milk cry out for our more immediate concern? By comparison, it's my true view that tofu harms too few. (Say THAT three times fast.)

I propose a pair of soy "litmus tests."

First, a CON-TEST: Ask anyone opposed to soy specifically what protein sources they'd prefer that you do eat. If they allow feed-lot meat and factory-farm milk, that's not logical. Of course, if they say no to those too, what's left? Avoiding meat, avoiding dairy products, AND avoiding soy may place an unreasonable crimp on peoples' food choices. Not everyone has the money to buy organic; not everyone can (or wants to) hunt wild game. Too much perceived prohibition sometimes leads the public to the oldest junk-food diet excuse there is: The "what the heck; we've all got to go sometime, so let's go eat at McNothing's" attitude.

I think that is the real danger.

To me, eating tofu, tempeh, miso, and the occasional TVP meat substitute is better than eating the meat. My experience tells me that real people living real lives are going to crave one or t'other.

That, or go nuts. Yes, nuts may be the protein source we can all get along with. Truth is, they are generally and unfairly portrayed as high-fat (or worse, as salted, or "honey roasted"). Nuts as a main dish makes the protein issue moot. Unsalted, dry roasted or raw, nuts are good food when well chewed.

Now, the PRO-TEST: Ask any soy-booster exactly how much soy they actually eat. If it is a tofu- enhanced meal twice a week, is that really so bad? I concede without hesitation that OVER consumption of soy is unwise. But having raised my kids, and myself to this day, on the periodic tofu "hotdog" and bean-curd stir fry, I think we are spending too much time barking up the wrong tree.

Let's go after the big stuff, and here it is:

1) High fiber (bean and whole grain based) diets enhance excretion of excess hormones, including estrogens. Vegetables and vegetable juices do likewise. This is good news whether or not you are a soy fan.

2) A Medline search for "soy, cancer" yielded 644 studies, some of which claim harm and some which claim benefit. While these studies date from as early as 1975, soy research has only really taken off quite recently. It is fair to say that this question will not be answered to everyone's satisfaction anytime soon, and almost certainly not by me.

There are many well-designed studies showing that soy products help fight cancer, and in my opinion these cannot be disregarded. It seems to me that the studies that show soy benefits look at soy as part, and only part, of a good non-Western diet. The negative studies generally involved high soy consumption.

You know what I'm going to say next, don't you.

3) I am against excessive consumption of practically anything, including soy. Like meat, milk or eggs, soy could well fit the role of a condiment. Simple truth: None of these should be eaten to excess. What we should be consuming in vast quantity are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans/nuts. These are the "New Four Food Groups" endorsed by Physicians for Responsible Medicine and and especially

4) I am yet to be convinced that soy is the ultimate culprit behind our American epidemic of health problems, including thyroid ( and infertility issues (see Item 10 at


M. R. writes: "I have estrogen-positive breast cancer. My oncologist told me I have to totally eliminate soy, soy protein, soy lecithin and soybean oil from my diet. Could you please tell me if "lecithin" is the same as "soy lecithin"? Many food products contain "lecithin" and I do not know if that means soy or not."

You can assume that lecithin, whether as liquid, granules, or capsules, is made from soy unless the label clearly states otherwise. I know of no other commercial source.

T. L. writes: "Would lecithin increase estrogen in men since it is soy based? I suffer low testosterone, I think from my alcohol binges, and am being treated with AndroGel."

For both writers, I personally think there is precious little chance of hormones hiding in your lecithin, a highly refined end product that bears almost no chemical resemblance to a soybean. I would think you'd want to stay away from hormone-loaded commercial cow's milk and hormone- laden commercial dead cow muscles. I wonder if your beef-and-dairy-P.R.- fed doctors have mentioned that? However, just to be "soytain," (N'yuk, n'yuk) you can take a "purified lecithin" (phosphatidyl choline) supplement if you prefer and can afford it. (Note to my new readers: I will make neither brand nor purchase suggestions.)

I think lecithin supplementation is truly important, bordering on essential. Lecithin is a cornerstone of the Dr. Rinse artery-clearing therapy. In addition to essential fatty acids, lecithin contains a large quantity of choline, which your body makes into the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

Acetylcholine, lecithin and your nerves Lecithin and Parkinson's disease

Some lecithin is found in egg yolks (about 5%), and animal brains are loaded with it. And I forgot my spoon! Makes eggs, or even soy, look pretty good by comparison, eh?

How I take my lecithin

For now, this constitutes my soy-related message as clearly as I can put it. I am not a physician, and certainly not an endocrinologist. But you've relentlessly asked for my viewpoint, and there you have it.

Of course I'm going to get a slew of mail on this one, so go ahead: make my day. (Email In previous issues, I have already annoyed a bevy of Registered Dieticians, the Price Pottenger people, and who knows who else. A sampling of soy letters received will likely appear in future issues of the Doctor Yourself Newsletter.

"FOOD FOR THOUGHT FOR CANCER PATIENTS: Andrew Saul will discuss alternative cancer therapies next Thursday at Seymour Library."

by ELLIOTTE BOWERMAN Messenger-Post Newspapers

It can strike anyone, anywhere and at any time. It comes in many forms - breast, prostate and lung, to name just a few. For many, just hearing the word scares them. Cancer. Andrew Saul, author of DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works, ( believes people diagnosed with cancer need to take more control over their treatment and to remember "your doctor works for you." He said people need practical information about easy, inexpensive and effective ways to fight cancer. Research, Saul said, has proven these methods to be somewhat successful, but many doctors remain unaware of them. Next week at Seymour Library, Saul will outline the research supporting the use of vitamin supplements and diet in the fight against cancer. "We're going to be lucky to have him here," said Steve Huff, library director of programming. Huff said he began the library's talk series with Saul because many people have questions and concerns about cancer treatments. "People are beginning to realize that when you have an illness, you don't just throw yourself at the mercy of your doctors," Huff said. Saul has a Ph.D. in behavior and taught science and writes for the peer- reviewed Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine. He said his talks empower and inform people about alternative treatments of illnesses.

"More Americans live off cancer than die from it," Saul said. "It's become, unfortunately, a business." Nutritional research, he said, has been overshadowed by drug studies funded by pharmaceutical companies. "I don't think there's a magic-bullet cure for anything," Saul said. "The answer to cancer is not in a pharmaceutical product." Saul said research has shown that healthy eating improves the immune system, making it stronger against attacking cancer cells. Saul, a Holley resident, believes cancer patients should combine chemotherapy and radiation treatments with vitamin supplements and a near-vegetarian diet. Saul said people need to eat less food in general, and fat, sugar, junk food and chemical additives in particular. Plants should be the majority of the diet. The former dairy farmer said milk, cheese and meat are healthy when considered "condiments," just added for flavoring. "One of the few free choices we have is what we will or won't eat every day," Saul said. "You can't hurt yourself from eating right." Saul said studies has found high levels of vitamin C can improve cancer treatment, and sometimes even help cure the disease. Some people question the safety of taking large doses of vitamins, but Saul said no one has ever died from taking too many supplements. He emphasized he has no affiliation with any aspect of the supplement or pharmaceutical industry. He said he just wants to "de- mystify medicine." "The whole idea here is education, not medication," Saul said.

(Reprinted with the permission of Messenger Post Newspapers

ARTICLE COMMENTARY: The newspaper quoted me accurately. However, they somewhat understated my position on the value of natural cancer therapies. And, for the record, an average of two kids a year die from large overdoses of iron supplements. There are no deaths from vitamins, regardless of the quantity taken. Deaths are from vitamin deficiency.

For information about my book, "DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works" please go to .

IS "FREE" THE BEST WORD IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE? FREE BOOKS PAGE: Links to thousands of books that are free on the Internet

FATTER THAN EVER Good grief: America is now so fat that it's the cover story for National Geographic. The Geographic has always dealt with large subject matter, things like dinosaurs, manatees, oceans, glaciers and continents. Now it's our own flabby landscape that gets explored in the August 2004 issue. The excellent Geographic article brings forward an important and sad truth that the advertising-supported news media have failed to emphasize: Americans are NOT eating less fat. We are eating more fat than ever. The PERCENTAGE of fat is slightly down, but only because we are eating more of everything else. Fat consumption is up. Consumption of sugar and "garbage grains" (processed white-flour foodless foods) is really up. And our health? It's really down, especially that of our kids. (Newman C. Why are we so fat? National Geographic, August 2004, p 46-61.

What to do? Become a near-vegetarian today, and drag you family along with you kicking and screaming if need be. ( and That, or buy your family plot early.

There is no nice way to put this: our lifestyles are the enemy, and yet our lifestyles are within our control to change.

More on weight loss:

BEAN DIP MADE EASY (and no-fat) Start with one cheap can of "Pork and Beans." (Relax: there's even less pork in that can than there is pro-vitamin research in the Pharmaceutical Journal.) Empty contents of can into blender; add some water, chili powder, and, if you're making it for me, a blast of cayenne pepper sauce. Intermittently pulse-blend the mixture. Serve, not with potato chips, but with cut up celery, cucumber, zucchini, or broccoli as your dip delivery device. Most commercial bean dip has lots more fat and lots more salt than this method.

KIDNEY STONES Are some dieticians after me again?

"I have concerns regarding statements that you make on your website such as the one regarding calcium oxalate stones, where you write "if a person gets adequate quantities of B-complex vitamins and magnesium, this type of stone does not form." ( This is fantastic news, since, as I am sure you know, approximately 85% of all problematic renal stones are of the calcium oxalate type. Could you please send me the study reference to back up this dramatic claim that you make. I am so glad to hear that other efforts, such as adequate hydration, are not necessary in avoiding this type of stone. I also find it interesting that you would recommend a low oxalate diet, when B vitamins and magnesium are all that is necessary to avoid this type of stone. However, you don't find it important to limit vitamin C, which is a potential source of oxalate that could contribute far more to circulating levels of oxalate, than dietary sources of oxalate, which as you know, are usually poorly absorbed. How do you justify this advice? Do you think there could be a chance that you give potentially dangerous medical advice, because of commercial conflicts between your book and scientific accuracy. That's the concern that this dietitian has with you teaching or providing medical advice."

Thank you for your letter. "Vitamin C," wrote board-certified chest physician Frederick R. Klenner, M.D.," is one of the safest substances you can put in the human body." Vitamin C is remarkably safe even in enormously high doses. Compared to commonly used prescription drugs, side effects are virtually nonexistent. It does not cause kidney stones. In fact, vitamin C increases urine flow, favorably lowers urine pH, and prevents calcium from binding with urinary oxalate. All these features help keep stones from forming. I support a low oxalate diet because there is no advantage in a high oxalate diet, and why not have an extra margin of safety? I also specifically do recommend "adequate hydration," at the very webpage of mine that you cited (, with these words: "Maximize fluid intake." In fact, this is first on my list of eleven "Ways for anyone to reduce the risk of kidney stones."

As you asked for references to back up my statements, you can start with these.

Gerster H. No contribution of ascorbic acid to renal calcium oxalate stones. Ann Nutr Metab. 1997;41(5):269-82.

"Even though a certain part of oxalate in the urine derives from metabolized ascorbic acid (AA), the intake of high doses of vitamin C does not increase the risk of calcium oxalate kidney stones. . . (I)n the large- scale Harvard Prospective Health Professional Follow-Up Study, those groups in the highest quintile of vitamin C intake (greater than 1,500 mg/day) had a lower risk of kidney stones than the groups in the lowest quintiles."

Also: Revusova V, Zvara V, Karlikova L, Suchanek B. Prognosis of urolithiasis and nephrocalcinosis in hypomagnesemia. Czech Med. 1985;8(4):207-13.

Kridl J, Zvara V, Revusova V, Gratzlova J, Ondrus B. [Inhibition of calcium oxalate urolithiasis with pyridoxine and magnesium in an experiment] Bratisl Lek Listy. 1984 Jan;81(1):21-8. Slovak.

Ringsdorf WM Jr, Cheraskin E. Nutritional aspects of urolithiasis. South Med J. 1981 Jan;74(1):41-3, 46. Review.

Schneider HJ, Hesse A, Berg W, Kirsten J, Nickel H. [Animal-experiment studies on the effect of magnesium and vitamin B 6 on calcium-oxalate nephrolithiasis] Z Urol Nephrol. 1977 Jun;70(6):419-27. German.

Revusova V, Gratzlova J, Zvara V, Kridl J, Suchanek B, Breza J. The evaluation of some biochemical parameters in pyridoxine-treated calcium oxalate renal stone formers. Urol Int. 1977;32(4):348-52.

Izashvili NP, Kasabian EV. [Metabolism of vitamin B6, citric and oxalic acids, calcium and magnesium in nephrolithiasis] Urol Nefrol (Mosk). 1973 May-Jun;38(3):9-13. Russian.

Gershoff SN. Production of urinary calculi in vitamin B6-deficient male, female and castrated male rats. J Nutr. 1970 Jan;100(1):117-22.

Takasaki E, Shimano E. The urinary excretion of oxalic acid and magnesium in oxalate urolithiasis. Invest Urol. 1967 Nov;5(3):303-12.

[No authors listed] The effect of magnesium and pyridoxine on formation of calcium oxalate stones in man. Nutr Rev. 1967 Oct;25(10):304-5. Review.

Gershoff SN, Prien EL. Effect of daily MgO and vitamin B6 administration to patients with recurring calcium oxalate kidney stones. Am J Clin Nutr. 1967 May;20(5):393-9.

Lyon ES, Borden TA, Ellis JE, Vermeulen CW. Calcium oxalate lithiasis produced by pyridoxine deficiency and inhibition with high magnesium diets. Invest Urol. 1966 Sep;4(2):133-42.

I invite my readers to print out this Newsletter and keep it handy. Yes, you too might have your vitamin C consumption called into question by a trained health professional.

As they say on the TV infomercials, "But wait! There's still more!"

E. D. (another R.D.) asks: "What are you doing promoting vitamin C megadoses, when the body can't absorb them anyway? All you get is expensive urine."

It's a myth is that your body doesn't absorb extra vitamin C and all you get from taking vitamin supplements is expensive urine. ( Urine is what is left over after your kidneys purify your blood. If your urine contains extra vitamin C, that vitamin C was in your blood. If the vitamin was in your blood, you absorbed it just fine. It is the absence of water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C in urine that indicates vitamin deficiency. If your body excretes vitamins in your urine, that is a sign that you are well-nourished and have nutrients to spare.


"We estimated that in 1994 overall 2,216,000 (1,721,000-2,711,000) hospitalized patients had serious Adverse Drug Reactions and 106,000 (76,000-137,000) had fatal ADRs, making these reactions between the fourth and sixth leading cause of death. The incidence of serious and fatal ADRs in US hospitals was found to be extremely high."

(Lazarou J, Pomeranz BH, Corey PN. Incidence of adverse drug reactions in hospitalized patients: a meta-analysis of pospective studies. JAMA. 1998 Apr 15;279(15):1200-5.)

And, according to a paper authored by two PhD's and three medical doctors, it is probably far worse than that. There may be as many as a million deaths each year caused by modern medicine.

READERS ALSO SAY: V. R. writes: "I am a proponent of vitamin C and take 6-8 grams (not mg) per day. If I feel something coming on, I double the dosage for a day or two and it never comes on."

Me too.

R. R. says: "I have taken vitamin E 400-800 IU/day since a heart attack when I was 42 years old. I am now 74. Docs find nothing wrong with my heart, and I am stronger and more active than ever."

That's what I take as well.

S. C. writes: "I just wanted to say thank you!, and I love your fever page! ( I've been worried about my daughter's fever (my mom's a Tylenol proponent and I'm a natural kinda gal) and your page helped me immensely! I'm getting the carrot juice going right away."

I appreciate your kind compliment, and good for you. Juicing has really helped our kids' health at all ages and stages.

DOWN SYNDROME AND VITAMINS The Pioneering Work of Ruth Flinn Harrell: Champion of Children (Reprinted with permission from the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, 2004. Vol 19, No 1, p. 21-26.)

The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it. (Chinese proverb.)

Early in 1981, the medical and educational establishments were shaken to their socks. Ruth F. Harrell and colleagues, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (1), showed that high doses of vitamins improved intelligence and educational performance in learning disabled children, including those with Down syndrome. Though to many observers this seemingly came straight out of left field, Dr. Harrell, who had been investigating vitamin effects on learning for forty years, was not inventing the idea of megavitamin therapy in one paper. But she had at last succeeded in focusing much-needed public attention on the role of nutrition in learning disabilities, a problem that ink-well-era US RDA's and pharmaceuticals by the lunchbox-full have failed to solve.

The start of the second World War was breaking news when Ruth Flinn Harrell conducted her first investigations into what she called "superfeeding." Her 1942 Columbia University PhD thesis, "Effect of Added Thiamine on Learning" (2), was published by the university in 1943 and would be followed by "Further Effects of Added Thiamine on Learning and Other Processes" in 1947 (3). Her research was not about enriched or fortified foods; "added" meant "provided by supplement tablets." World War II had just ended when Dr. Harrell stated in a 1946 Journal of Nutrition article (4) that "a liberal thiamine intake improved a number of mental and physical skills of orphanage children." By 1956, Dr. Harrell had investigated "The Effect of Mothers' Diets on the Intelligence of Offspring" (5), finding that "supplementation of the pregnant and lactating mothers' diet by vitamins increased the intelligence quotients of their offspring at three and four years of age."

THIAMINE (Vitamin B-1)

Most everyone has heard of beri-beri, and few are all that passionate about it anymore. But beri-beri, which literally means "I can't, I can't," may all too well describe the learning disabled child. Such children, recognized as truly disabled by the Americans with Disabilities Act, are not unwilling but rather unable to perform well in school. To see the physical incapacitation thiamine deficiency causes in impoverished countries is all too easy. To see the mental incapacitation in American classrooms is not difficult, either. Yet both may be caused by thiamine deficiency, and both helped by thiamine supplementation. Harrell zeroed in on this topic sixty years ago, demonstrating that supplemental thiamine improves learning. One reporter wrote, "An experiment was conducted by Dr. Ruth Flinn Harrell which involved 104 children from nine to nineteen years of age. Half of the children were given a vitamin B1 (thiamine) pill each day, and the other half received a placebo. The test lasted 6 weeks. It was found by a series of tests that the group that was given the vitamin gained one- fourth more in learning ability than did the other group." (6) Carbohydrates, including sugar, increase the body's need for thiamine. Children eat a lot of sugar. An unmet increase is effectively the same as a deficiency. This may be part of the mechanism of ADHD and other children's learning and behavior disorders, as many so-called "food faddists" or "health nuts" have proclaimed for decades. Vitamin deficiency can become vitamin dependency. Chronic subclinical beri-beri may result in thiamine dependency in the same way that chronic subclinical pellegra results in niacin dependency.


The B-vitamins as a group are absolutely vital to nerve function, and it would be difficult to imagine the juvenile owner of malnourished nerves performing well in school. Specifically, it is well established that thiamine deficiency causes not only loss of nerve function and ultimately paralysis, but also according to The Nutrition Desk Reference (7), "memory loss, reduced attention span, irritability, confusion and depression." (p 43) Riboflavin (B-2) deficiency causes "nerve tissue damage that may manifest itself as depression and hysteria." (p 45) Niacin (B-3) deficiency causes "loss of memory and emotional instability." (p 46) Pyridoxine (B-6) deficiency results in "impaired production of neurotransmitters (and) mental confusion." (p 48) Folic acid deficiency causes irritability, apathy, forgetfulness and hostility. (p 49). Cobalamin (B-12) deficiency causes "degeneration of the spinal cord, fatigue, disorientation, ataxia, moodiness, and confusion." (p 51)

Though these symptoms generally appear after prolonged deficiency, they are very serious and, if untreated, the ultimate result in each case would be death. Practically speaking, a shortage of any one of the B-vitamins can be seen to lead to neurological damage sufficient to contribute to learning and behavioral troubles.

Harrell recognized that thiamine and the rest of the vitamins work better as a team. She used two clinically effective but oft-criticized therapeutic nutrition techniques: simultaneous supplementation with many nutrients (the "shotgun" approach), and megadoses. Working on the reasonable assumption that learning disabled children, because of functional deficiencies, might need higher than normal levels of nutrients, she progressed from her initial emphasis on thiamine to later providing a wide variety of supplemental nutrients.


The only escape from the inevitability of concluding that vitamin deficiency is a serious factor in learning is the political one: declare a victory. Dodging the issue is as easy as proclaiming that, thanks to food fortification (coupled with a generous portion of wishful thinking), no child has such deficiencies. Though the processed food industry and its apologists continue to assert exactly this, statistics fail to bear this out.

An analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) data from 1988 to 1994 by Gladys Block, PhD, indicates that over 85 percent of American elementary school-age children fail to eat the recommended five or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables. "NHANES III, a federally sponsored survey shows that on any given day, 45 percent of children eat no fruit, and 20 percent eat less than one serving of vegetables. The average 6 to 11 year-old eats only 3.5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, achieving only half the recommended 7 servings per day for this age group." (8) Additionally, Dr. Block reports, 20% of children's caloric intake comes from junk snacks, such as soda pop, cookies, and candy.

Though it is a stretch to say that all learning and behavioral disabilities are due to inadequate vitamin intake, it is certain that some are. Behavioral deficiency tends to show up before nutritional deficiency is recognized. Arthur Winter, MD, writes that "In thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency, symptoms such as lack of well being, anxiety, hysteria, depression, and loss of appetite preceded any clinical evidence of beriberi. Other studies using the Minnesota Multiphasic Personal Index (MMPI) have also demonstrated that adverse behavioral changes precede physical findings in thiamine deficiency." (9)


Dr. Harrell anticipated that her use of megadoses would result in "controversy and brickbats." (10) She was right. A number of well- publicized studies (11-15) conducted to "replicate" Dr. Harrell's work seemingly could not do so. Would-be "replications" fail the moment they start when they refuse to use adequate dosages. Surely it is the most basic condition for any replication that one must exactly copy the original experiment, or it is not a replication at all. When DNA replicates, it forms an exact and indistinguishable copy of the original. Even the smallest of changes can result in dysfunction, mutation, and death. Yet Harrell's "replicators" failed to adhere to her protocol, and consequently but not surprisingly, failed to get her results. (16) Probably one of the closer replications was done by Smith et al (17) and even that study totally omitted dessicated thyroid, a component of the Harrell protocol that her coauthor Donald R. Davis, PhD, says was "emphasized to Smith (as) Harrell's subjects received thyroid continuously." (18)

F. Jack Warner, MD, a supporter the Harrell approach (19) writes: "Even today many medical professionals scoff at the validity of Dr. Ruth Harrell's study with nutritional supplements and the important addition of thyroid medication. Dr. Harrell pleaded with her replicators to use exactly the same chemical values of supplements and medications. To date, this still has not been accomplished." (20) In spite of obvious bias, negative "replication" studies using incomplete or low doses are the ones that have been accepted, and Harrell's work shelved. This is saying that the results of inaccurate replication are more valuable than the original successful research. Imagine cloning a sheep, getting a hedgehog, and then claiming that it was the sheep's fault. Incredible. But that is what politicized medical apologetics are capable of.

The Harrell study was successful because her team gave learning- disabled kids much larger doses of vitamins than other researchers are inclined to use: over 100 times the adult (not child's) RDA for riboflavin; 37 times the RDA for niacin (given as niacinamide); 40 times the RDA for vitamin E; and 150 times the RDA for thiamine. Supplemental minerals were also given, as was natural desiccated thyroid. Harrell's team achieved results that were statistically significant, some with confidence levels so high that there was less than on chance in a thousand that the results were due to chance (P < 0.001) Simply stated, Ruth Harrell found IQ to be proportional to nutrient dosage. This may simultaneously be the most elementary and also the most controversial mathematical equation in medicine.

There is a tone to the controversy that does more than merely suggest that Harrell's research was careless or incompetent. This is unlikely in the extreme; Dr. Harrell, formerly the chairman of the psychology department at Old Dominion University, had been studying children before many of her critics were even born. What is more likely is that Harrell's critics embrace the assumption that medicine must ultimately prove to be the better approach, and if there are any megadoses to be given, they shall be megadoses of pharmaceutical products. Vitamin therapy is unattractive to pharmaceutical companies. There is no money in products that cannot be patented. Children learn at an early age that mud pies don't sell. No investment is made, no research is done where no money is to be recovered. Drug companies do not expect to find, nor do they want to find, a cure that does not involve a drug. A tragic example is modern medicine's approach to Down syndrome.


If there is orthodox resistance to using vitamins to enhance student learning, there is positively a fortified roadblock to the suggestion that vitamins can help children with Down syndrome. Nutrition, critics say, can not undo trisomy 21. But nutritional therapy is not a science-fiction attempt to rearrange chromosomes. Nutritional intervention may help the body to biochemically compensate for a genetic handicap. Roger Williams, discoverer of the vitamin pantothenic acid, termed this the "genetotrophic concept." Genetotrophic diseases are "diseases in which the genetic pattern of the afflicted individual requires an augmented supply of one or more nutrients such that when these nutrients are adequately supplied the disease is ameliorated." (1) Ruth Harrell's decades of research showed that it is plausible. Conventional Down syndrome educational material holds that it is hogwash.

As of August 2003, the National Down Syndrome Society's "Position Statement on Vitamin Related Therapies" states that "Despite the large sums of money which concerned parents have spent for such treatments in the hope that the conditions of their child with Down syndrome would be bettered, there is no evidence that any such benefit has been produced." (21)

At the heart of the issue are the usual, and largely philosophical, front-line disagreements of definition and interpretation. First, what precisely constitutes a "deficiency" in a society that, as nutritional legend would have it, has eliminated vitamin deficiency? Adherents of conventional dietetics presuppose that anyone who claims that there are widespread vitamin deficiencies among children must proceed from a false assumption. Those who advocate vitamin therapy would answer that Down's creates a "functional deficiency" which must be met with appropriate supplementation. The very idea that doses sufficiently high to effectively do so should be 100 times the RDA is positively repellent to most investigators. When asked about whether she had received National Institutes of Health funding for her study, Dr. Harrell replied, "Heavens, no! Nobody knows anything about the area of dietary supplementation, but the National Institutes of Health knows for sure it's impossible." (10)

Some reviews of Down nutrition studies actually state that doses as low as 500 mg of vitamin C are unsafe, and that other Harrell-sized dosages are harmful as well. In one such article posted at the Down Syndrome Information Network, the authors conclude that "If it is necessary for additional vitamins to be given to someone with Down syndrome, all that is usually needed is a multivitamin tablet, not more than once a day, at a cost of about one penny per tablet. Meanwhile, the best nutritional advice anyone can honestly offer is to consume a varied and balanced diet - whether you have Down syndrome or not." (22)

Another popular argument is that, even allowing that children eat poorly, there is insufficient evidence that Downs is aggravated by poor nutrition, or helped by good nutrition. After all, Downs is a genetically-determined disease. But surely the genes do not operate in a nutrient vacuum. For example, vitamin E has recently been demonstrated to preferentially protect genetic material in Down patients' cells. "Vitamin E treatment decreased the basal and G2 chromosomal aberrations both in control and Down Syndrome (DS) lymphocytes. In DS cells, this protective effect, expressed as a decrease in the chromosomal damage, was greater (50%) than in controls (30%). These results suggest that the increment in basal and G2 aberrations yield in DS lymphocytes may be related to the increase in oxidative damage reported in these patients." The results would also suggest that antioxidant vitamin supplements would be an especially good idea for Down's individuals. (23)

Although the greater question may be, can optimum nutrition help compensate for a genetic defect, the essential question must be this: can nutrition help a given Downs child? Dianne Craft, a special education teacher, comments on Harrell's 1981 research:

"Dr. Harrell noted that one of the observations that they made during this study was that when there was a ten point rise in IQ, the family noticed it. When there was a fifteen point rise in IQ, the teachers noticed it. When there was a twenty point rise in IQ, the neighborhood noticed it.

"The story of one child is particularly poignant. This seven year old child was still wearing diapers, didn't recognize his parents, and had no speech. His motor skills were relatively unimpaired and he could walk and run fairly well. In forty days, after some of the supplements were increased, his mother telephoned. . . saying, "He's turned on, just like an electric light. He's asking the name of everything. He points and says, 'What zis?' Finally he pointed to his father and said, 'zis?' I said, 'That's your father and you call him daddy, and he looked at him and said 'daddy.' I'm your mother; can you call me mommy?" She went on to say, "I think he saw us for the first time." This little boy went on to do very well in his learning, and eventually tested with an IQ of ninety, which an average IQ." (24) I have seen a beautiful photo in Medical Tribune (9) of Dr. Harrell being hugged by one of the study group children. The kids noticed their own improvement.

Perhaps Harrell's dramatic IQ gains were merely due to the placebo effect. If so, I want every school district on earth to lay in a stock of sugar pills, for gains like this, in only eight months, are astounding. Perhaps success was due to Dr. Harrell's group's expectations or to her bedside manner. But, as Abram Hoffer has said, "I am nice to all my patients. Only the ones on vitamins improve." Harrell colleague Donald Davis writes, "No amount of matching or variable control with Harrell's subjects could change their large IQ gains which are the crucial and so far unexplained difference between the Harrell group and others." (25)

When Dr. Harrell died in 1991, she was far from being alone in reporting success with high-dose nutrition therapy. Dianne Craft writes, "For over forty years, Dr. Henry Turkel (26, 27) treated Down's children successfully using orthomolecular methods. He used a combination of vitamins, minerals, and thyroid hormone replacement. His patients improved mentally and they lost the typical Down's syndrome facial appearance. With over 600 children treated, he found an eighty to ninety percent improvement rate." (24)

To date, the orthodox Down authorities' position may be summed up as, there is no evidence that it helps, so do not try it. Dr. Harrell's view would be, there is reason to believe that nutrition might help, so let's see if it does. The first view prevents physician reports. The second generates them. Theorization can only go so far. The proof is in the pudding, and Ruth Flinn Harrell's approach yielded smarter, happier children. Her results are sufficiently compelling justification for a therapeutic trial of orthomolecular supplementation for every learning-impaired child.


TRIVIA TIME: Quickly now: What animal has the world's longest sperm?

The Blue whale? The elephant? You're going to love the answer:

Are you ready?

The fruit fly.

Yes, the fruit fly: Drosophila bifurca, to be specific. And each sperm is about 2.3 INCHES long, 20 times as long as the fly itself. The fly is found in Central America, Mexico and Arizona. There's something to think about before you swat again. (Source: Fruit fly dwarfed by its sperm. The Associated Press. May 11, 1995, citing an article in NATURE of the same date by Scott Pitnick et al.)

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