The Scent of a Vitamin

Local Research Group Follows Their Noses to Better Nutritional Status – and Gets Healthy in the Bargain

“This smells absolutely delicious.”

“Really? It stinks to me.”

“You’re kidding. I can’t smell anything in there at all.”

The women are opening a bottle, pouring some into a glass and passing it under their noses with looks of concentration. No they are not oenophiles with a rare wine vintage. They are smelling vitamins. The B1 smells like candy to one of them; she thinks she probably needs a lot of it and could try adding it to her regimen. The B3 stinks to another; she thinks she doesn’t need more of that particular vitamin right now, although it’s water soluble and does not accumulate in the body. To another sniffer, the B2 smells as though there is nothing in the bottle; she thinks she may need only a small amount (the RDA for example) and should probably continue to take the supplement that is giving her this result.


The Health Pursuits Reading/Study Group has been meeting once a month for eleven years, reading books on health issues, discussing them, and using themselves as cautious guinea pigs in order to improve chronic health conditions like chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and chemical sensitivity as well as asthma, chronic pain, arthritis, osteoporosis, cancers and many others. They estimate they have spent over a half a million dollars over the years on practitioners, supplements, treatments and books. They have improved greatly by drinking more water, changing diets, cleaning their environments of mould and chemicals, and finding ways to exercise. They improved, but throwing money at the problem was obviously not efficient enough.

Four years ago, members of the group read an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Vol. 75 pg.616 – 658) which drew together all the studies showing that conditions caused by genetic enzyme variations could be reversed by supplying the correct co-factors (vitamins and minerals) to boost the function of the enzyme.

Eureka! If some of their problems had a genetic component, they realized they needed to know their deficiencies exactly in order to make more progress. The studies cited in the article used DNA testing – out of financial reach for the group members. Blood work is also expensive and difficult to obtain. Members of the group had also tried muscle testing with variable results.

Then they discovered a book, Feed Your Body Right by Dr. Lendon Smith, in which he and a biochemist reported that if you had the pure form of a single nutrient (e.g. B1), you could tell by the smell if you needed it or not. The group members set about gathering a kit of single vitamins in as pure a form as was possible to purchase commercially.

Reactions to the smell testing were obvious in many cases. As a specific vitamin was passed around, some people reacted by shoving it away quickly in disgust, while to others it smelled so yummy they wanted to rush out and buy some immediately. Still others had to look to see if there was anything in the bottle at all because for them there was no smell.

Then came the scary, difficult part – using the ‘smell’ test to adjust their supplement programs. The discussions that followed revealed that some people had immediate positive results with symptoms reduced. Others developed problems like intestinal upsets and rashes because they didn’t know that adding one nutrient to their regimen might necessitate adjusting the intake of a lot of others (like the people who were seemingly just needing vitamin C). After taking more vitamin C, they suddenly needed other nutrients to go with it. Still others had not much result at all. I was one of those.


B6 smelled yummy to me at first, and after two years of taking the maximum recommended dose it still smelled yummy, which indicated that I was still not reversing my deficiency.  Then one member of the group found out about an alternate form of B6, called pyridoxal 5’phosphate (P5P), which I decided to take instead of the usual pyridoxine that I had been taking. Within days of trying the alternate form, I and others experienced positive changes. That set us off on another quest to find as many alternate forms of the vitamins as we could to see if other resistant problems might be affected.

Over the past three years, the group has been lucky enough to find other forms of almost all the vitamins (e.g. folic acid also comes as L-5 methyltetrahyrdrofolate). This has been important because different forms of the vitamins suit different genetic variations. Finding the right form of vitamin will usually result in an improvement of symptoms within a week or two. Some of the areas that have improved include skin, chemical sensitivity, energy, pain, digestion, cholesterol levels, breathing, memory, and creativity. The financial aspect has improved too as we target our spending on products more likely to produce positive results for each individual’s needs.


When one member told the group about a taste test for minerals, we decided to try smell-testing the minerals too.  Although the minerals generally smell fainter, we have also had success there.

One man, who came to a meeting and tried the kit, thought the test was not working because all the vitamins smelled fairly neutral to him (they do seem to smell fainter to men anyway). But then he came to magnesium and was bowled over by the sweet smell. It is fortunate that he discovered his deficiency because he had been having severe muscle cramps for a year after surgery to have a stent placed in an artery and a few doses of a cholesterol-reducing drug. If he had not detected and treated his severe magnesium deficiency, the next muscle spasm could have been fatal.


This experience tuned us in to the possibilities of detecting drug-induced deficiencies as well. Two women who have had antibiotic therapy tested the B1 and found it sweet. Interestingly, when we looked up the antibiotic they were on in The Drug-Induced Depletion Handbook and the A-Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions, we found that this antibiotic depletes B1. We now wonder if the vitamin B1 deficiency came before, or allowed the infection that required the antibiotic, or whether it was just the action of the drug?

Some people are confused and assume they can smell test their multivitamins, herbs and EFAs. But the smell test does not work on these things because they are combinations of so many ingredients. So the best course of action is to smell test individual nutrients first, and then check the label on your multimineral or vitamin to see if it contains any nutrients that you do not need. Examples are things that you have sniffed, that smell bad to you, and that are not recommended to accumulate in the body such as copper, iron, or fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E or K. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if scientists would use the smell test to screen patients for clinical trials of vitamin E or D. It might reduce some conflicting results if only people who needed it, took it.

Dr. Martin Pall’s new book on the biochemistry of ‘unexplained’ illnesses like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, multiple chemical sensitivity, and post-traumatic stress disorder, came out in May. He gives The Health Pursuits Reading/Study Group credit for both discovering that P5P (alternate form of B6) worked, and for urging him to figure out why, even when according to what he knew it shouldn’t help. He did find out why, and it does work. The Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine has published a letter about the group’s work as well.


Since the objective is to keep the smell of the nutrients in the neutral range, group members are careful to use the test kit frequently (at least once a month) to monitor their status. They also keep in touch with their medical practitioners and maintain the water/diet/exercise/clean air strategies that are the basis for good health. For others wanting to research these ideas for themselves, the group now sells some of its test kits. The kit includes samples of the nutrients they have been testing, a handbook of their results, and a nutrient reference book. There is an expansion set of 9 more nutrients which have been tested by the group and it is available now too.

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