The Orthomolecular Universe: Where Nature Rules and Patients are CuredHelke Ferrie November 1, 2006
In polite society, the “F” word is bad form. Financial pundits avoid the “R” word to prevent upsetting the markets. In medicine, the “O” word has been a problem for a long time, but now yields 219,000 entries on Google. “Orthomolecular” was coined in 1968 by the late great two-time Nobel laureate Linus Pauling who published it for the first time that year on April 19 in the prestigious journal Science. Ortho is Greek for “correct”. Pauling defined orthomolecular medicine as using “the right molecule in the right concentration” for the purpose of “the preservation of health and the treatment of disease by varying the concentrations in the human body of substances that are normally present in the body and are required for health”.
Orthomolecular medicine professionals provide the body with the requisite vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, enzymes, phytonutrients, and more, to heal and prevent illness. The entire supplement industry was born in the 60’s because of Pauling’s work with vitamin C, as well as Dr. Abram Hoffer’s spectacularly successful application of B vitamins in psychiatry. In the 1970s, Pauling and Hoffer were joined by University of Chicago allergist and immunologist Dr. Theron Randolph who adopted orthomolecular modalities to treat petrochemical and pesticide induced illness.
Unlike synthetic drugs, essential nutrients not only are capable of effectively controlling symptoms, but do so because nutrients have four fundamental properties that no human-made substance can ever have: nutrients are diagnostic of disease when depleted; they are therapeutic and curative when used in optimal doses; they detoxify because they neutralize or chelate harmful substances; and they are fundamentally preventive of disease by regulating and maintaining homeostasis. In clinical application, orthomolecular medicine is a language that permits doctors to dialogue with Nature and find out what it needs for life.
As to the sheer waste of money involved in focusing only on development of patentable medicines, Dr. Frederic Calon of Laval University observed in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, on Feb14, 2006, that the price modern medicine pays for its ignorance about nonpatentable drugs is simply unsustainable. Calon is a molecular endocrinologist and oncologist who criticizes the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on researching patentable molecules for cancer and Alzheimer’s when, in fact, “it is quite possible that suboptimal consumption of [essential] fatty acids … will soon translate into increasingly more patients with Alzheimer’s disease.”
Calon goes on to support what was once heresy: “Folic acid, mineral and vitamin supplements are good examples of low-cost nonpatentable drugs commonly recommended by health professionals. Americans experience osteoporotic fractures each year, with an annual cost of US$14 billion in health care alone” while “a 400 UI vitamin D and a 1,000 mg calcium supplement reduces the risk of fracture by at least 15% [and] costs less than CN$200 per patient per year.”
Orthomolecular medicine has made it into Wikipedia’s; its 13-page entry is highly recommended. While its author insists that this is very “controversial”, this entry simultaneously provides an excellent bibliography (right up to 2006) from gilt-edged mainstream medical publications and research websites, thereby proving how orthomolecular ideas have not just infiltrated but saturated modern medical research. Included are the pharmaceutical and food industry condemnations of all things orthomolecular coming from such ignorant outfits as Quackwatch and the American Council on Science and Health. But, given that the current state of human health could be considered as a tragedy, this liberal sprinkling of nonsense among all the correct information is best viewed as dashes of slapstick comedy that Shakespeare used effectively even in his greatest tragedies. One must also never forget that manure makes plants healthier and more nutritious.
Orthomolecular physicians base their diagnoses exclusively on testable biochemical and physiological reality in the patient and then tailor their therapies to that patient’s bio-individual needs. Most importantly, orthomolecular doctors teach us how to eat correctly, what environmental and food-based poisons to avoid and, therefore, how to live in accordance with the laws of nature. This is truly scientific medicine.
As such it presents a challenge to what Dr. Hoffer calls “the Chronically Ethically Sick Medical Industrial Complex, or CESMIC”, whose immense profits and state-bankrupting potential are supported by patent law.
Orthomolecular medicine was born in the minds of leading mainstream scientists and is no longer a small voice crying in the wilderness; it has become a parallel universe of scientists working at the most prestigious mainstream institutions (who do not, if they can help it, use the word “orthomolecular”). Dr. Hoffer describes in his scientific memoirs, which span the history and evolution of orthomolecular medicine, how the Ben Gorion University in Israel attempted to quietly drop the “O” word in the title of their newly endowed chair for orthomolecular psychiatry. Dr. Hoffer and Linus Pauling (who spoke at the endowment ceremonies in 1987) remained firm: “No word, no chair.” Thankfully, since then Israel has begun to employ these effective, humane and truly science-based therapies for psychiatric patients and doctors.
The following brief survey of the presence of orthomolecular research in modern medicine will come as a delightful surprise to those of us who are refugees from the authoritarian world of allopathic medicine.
The areas in which the results of orthomolecular research have established themselves solidly include:
1) therapeutic diets for specific diseases and disease prevention;
2) mainstream trials that compare the safety and effectiveness of nutrients with standard drugs;
3) the prevention of potentially deadly side-effects from synthetic drugs;
4) the treatment of specific chronic diseases;
5) in the courts, which now occasionally stop the prejudicial heavy-handedness of regulatory agencies and have begun to affirm a patient’s right of choice.
THE ROLE OF NUTRIENTS IN CURING DISEASE
While insulin for diabetes, iodine for thyroid insufficiency, cod liver oil and vitamin D for rickets, and vitamin C for scurvy are old orthomolecular treatments, there is much new research to get excited about. For example, we now know, as one of the world’s most famous nutritional researchers, Bruce Ames, described in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (April 2002), that there are no less than “50 human genetic diseases due to defective enzymes [which] can be remedied or ameliorated by the administration of high doses of the vitamin component of the corresponding coenzyme which at least partially restores” the patient.
And it is not difficult to figure out the critical role of nutrition when considering the most recent report on birth defects commissioned by the March of Dimes showing that nearly 8 million babies are born annually worldwide with genetic defects – 70% being preventable simply by adding sufficient amounts of folates (B vitamins) or by preventing nutrient loss caused by food processing methods (Los Angeles Times Jan 31, 2006 and Environmental Health Perspectives October 2006). Supporting this is the latest US government report on the nutritional status of Americans: it showed that 93% of Americans are seriously deficient (below RDA levels) in vitamin E; 56% are deficient in magnesium, 44% in vitamin C. (NHANES Report on http://www.lef.org, Oct 1, 2005)
Current research from genetics shows that without adequate nutrients chromosomes are damaged and our DNA program cannot build or repair. On April 16, 2003 the National Institutes of Health held a press conference announcing that the Human Genome Project had sequenced more than 200 “environmentally responsive genes” all dependent upon specific nutrients, without which they provide “links to vascular disease and leukemia.” (www.apps.niehs.nih.gov)
A study published in the February 2006 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives showed that placing children on an organic diet for merely 5 days reduced the measurable amounts of pesticide metabolites in their urine to zero. Organic food not only provides the required nutrients, but rapidly detoxes present pesticides, all of which are known to interfere with DNA activity.
Apparently the news is getting through to hospitals. Since 1999 the percentage of hospitals offering nutritional supplementation has increased from a mere 7.7% to 19%, and 2,000 hospitals in the US have started to serve only organic food (Organic Consumers Association July 20, 2006, Integrative Medicine Oct/Nov2006). Of further interest, the British prison system showed in a pilot study that violence was reduced by 40% by switching to whole foods (The Guardian Oct 17, 2006).
PRESCRIPTION DRUG TOXICITY
The world’s premier science journal, Nature, reported on September 28 that according to the Institute of Medicine, the US Food and Drug Administration is “unsafe, outdated, weak, disorganized, underfunded” and lacking “the money and muscle to police the safety of drugs already on the market”. Business as usual is more deadly than usual. Yet the safety of vitamins and other supplements is better than ever: a report from New Zealand shows that natural medicines carry less risk to health and survival than being hit by a meteor, while the most risky thing you can do is go to a hospital – apparently even bungee jumping is safer. (www.zeusinfoservice.com Oct 13, 2006)
Support for this finding came from the 2003 annual report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers: 106,000 deaths were caused by pharmaceutical drugs, but only 2 deaths were suspected from nutritional supplements of which 53 billion doses are taken by Americans annually. (Orthomolecular Medicine News Service November 9, 2005)
The American Association of Pharmacists published a book detailing which pharmaceutical drugs deplete essential nutrients. It comes in two versions: one for patients in ordinary language available on amazon.com; the other for doctors with all the scientific literature. I have successfully used this information with family members who temporarily needed to take toxic drugs and recommend it highly.
EXCITING RESEARCH IN ORTHOMOLECULAR MEDICINE
There are many studies which show that natural substances work best. Two examples: the extreme toxicity of antidepressants is in most cases easily avoided by taking non-toxic St. John’s Wort instead (British Medical Journal Feb. 11, 2005), and the terrors of statin drugs are avoidable by taking essential fatty acids, B vitamins and magnesium instead (Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Oct 23, 2004).
The effectiveness of the B vitamin, Niacin, to control high blood pressure and treat most cardiac conditions is well established. Even fetal alcohol syndrome can be prevented with B vitamin supplementation in alcoholic mothers. Multiple sclerosis responds to these vitamins, and selenium has been shown to effectively treat HIV-AIDS and prevent mother-to-child transmission in studies conducted by the European Union (Prostaglandins, August 1989, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, no 103, 2006; PloS Medicine vol 3 issue 4, free on-line www.plosmedicine.org; Brain Research 2006 p. 1073-74:25f; Journal of Neuroscience, Sept 20, 2006; Medical Hypothesis volume 62: 549f, 2004; Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome volume 42:523f, 2006; bibliographies on www.alternativehealth.com)
Vitamin A has been shown to cure leukemia as reported by the Anderson Cancer Centre in Texas (Pharmaceutical News June 7, 2004). The B vitamins cut the risk of esophageal and colon cancer in half, and successfully treat migraine, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, as reported by Harvard Medical School, Dalhousie University, Australia’s Griffith University and in many journals. Recently, the Canadian Medical Association Journal published the excellent results achieved in cancer patients with intravenous vitamin C (March 28, 2006); Dr. Zoltan Rona and Charlotte Gerson will have more to tell about this at the upcoming Whole Life Expo.
Vitamin D should be taken in amounts of at least 1,000 IU daily and only from wild fish, never from farmed ones, according to the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research and the revised views of the Institute of Medicine (Medical Post October 3, 2006). Vitamin E is now proven to slow the progression of cataracts (Medical Post September 13, 2005). Big Pharma even knows that their toxic drugs do less damage if they add some essential nutrients like Coenzyme Q10, upon which the functioning of the heart depends (Integrative Medicine October/November 2006 p. 24 f).
Dr. Telford of the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria, BC, reported recently that he cures skin cancer patients with creams consisting of vitamins A, C and E (August 23, 2005). As for longevity, McMaster University researchers showed that supplementing lab animals with vitamins B, C, E, Cod Liver Oil, various enzymes, Alpha-lipoic Acid and minerals makes them live a lot longer and stay healthy (Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, 2003 or firstname.lastname@example.org)
VICTORY IN THE COURTS
In July this year, Justice Gerald Meagher’s ruling struck down Health Canada’s long-standing vendetta against TrueHope’s product Empowerplus (contains 36 minerals, vitamins and antioxidants), which had been shown to be effective and safe in the treatment of severe bi-polar disorder. The ruling stated that TrueHope had provided a “vital and essential support program” and sought to “avoid serious incapacitation or death in patients due to mental illness”.
A few years back, Justice Robert N. Fournier refused to grant custody (to Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and the Children’s Aid Society) of a teenager who had refused chemotherapy and radiation and opted for an orthomolecular cancer therapy supervised by a licensed medical doctor. Citing the depressing and well-known risks and side-effects of standard therapy, the judge opined that oncology is “not as yet an exact science” and that “this court rules against [the CAS and hospital], for in our view the child’s right to ‘the security of his person’ pursuant to Section 7 of the Charter of Rights, exercised in refusing conventional or standard medical treatment … takes precedence over the provisions of any Child Welfare Legislation in this Province.” (Townsend Letter August/September 2006 p. 30f.)
With apologies to Shakespeare, let me use Juliet’s observation, that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, to say that “good medicine by any other name works because it is orthomolecular.”
- J. Alexander et al. LABORATORY EVALUATIONS IN MOLECULAR MEDICINE: Nutrients, Toxicants and Cell Regulators. Institute for Advances in Molecular Medicine, 2001. describes the tests used in orthomolecular medicine.
- A. Hoffer, ADVENTURES IN PSYCHIATRY: The Scientific Memoirs, KOS, 2005. Call 519-927-1049 or order through email@example.com
- R. Pelton & J. LaValle, THE NUTRITIONAL COST OF PRESCRIPTION DRUGS, Morton, 2004. On amazon.com
- K.-G. Wenzel & R. Pataracchia, THE EARTH’S GIFT TO MEDICINE: Minerals in Hnealth and Disease, Kos 2005. An orthomolecular source book on the importance of minerals in food and therapeutics. Order info under Hoffer above.
- M. Werbach, TEXTBOOK OF NUTRITIONAL MEDICINE, Third Line Press, 2000.
- Dr. Sherry Rogers’ monthly “Total Wellness” (1-800-846-6687 or http://www.prestigepublishing.com. $ 54 annually) and VitaSearch (a weekly, web-based review of orthomolecular research): firstname.lastname@example.org. Linus Pauling Institute www.lpi.oregonstate.edu, and www.orthomed.org