The Vitamins in Medicine, Part 1 (Vitamin A and the B Complex)

By Franklin Bicknell, MD, and Frederick Prescott, MD

Summary: Nutrition and medicine have seldom seen eye to eye. Though the discovery of the vitamins in the early twentieth century did cause some physicians to grasp the profound connection between vitamin deficiencies and degenerative disease, medicine as an institution never truly embraced this idea. Ultimately, the American Medical Association declared—in concert with the industrial food industry and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration—that most Americans do not suffer vitamin deficiencies of any consequence. This position, however, contradicts decades of scientific study, as famed natural nutritionist Dr. Royal Lee argued throughout his career. One of the books Dr. Lee cited most often in making his case was the text here, The Vitamins in Medicine, by British physicians Drs. Franklin Bicknell and Frederick Prescott. Backed by over 4500 scientific references, the text sums the totality of scientific knowledge about the vitamins at the time of its publication in the mid-twentieth century. While the book does take some typically medical views of vitamins, e.g., that they are single chemical substances and not synergistic biochemical complexes, as Dr. Lee taught, it nevertheless supports strongly the notion that many, if not most, of our modern ailments stem from partial (or “subclinical”) vitamin deficiencies. “This book not only tells of the ravages caused by ignoring nature’s ways,” Dr. Lee said, “but it also shows us the way to prevent these bodily damages.” In the first part of the text (see link to PDF below), the authors discuss vitamin A as well as the various B vitamins. In Part 2, Bicknell and Franklin go on to address vitamins C, D, E, and K and a host of other vital nutrients. Though the information in this book is over seven decades old, it is still incredibly valuable today, when so few health practitioners actually know what the vitamins do—or what a lack of them can cause. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research, 1953. Original publisher William Heinemann, London.

The Cause of Erosion

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary: Dr. Royal Lee grew up on a farm in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, giving him firsthand knowledge of what he called the “two most important problems of the land—the problem of erosion and the problem of maintenance of fertility of soil.” In this 1947 commentaryDr. Lee suggests that the two go hand in hand. He speculates that a depletion in mineral salts—or an unnatural imbalance of them like that created by artificial fertilization—leads to an inability of the soil to absorb water and leach from it the organic matter necessary for its health. In turn, he says, a precise make-up of organic matter is required in the soil to ensure the proper mineral constitution. “It seems,” he says, “that we must have organic matter to hold the mineral elements needed by plant life, and we must have mineral salts…to hold the organic matter.” Dr. Lee follows his discussion with excerpts from the classic 1863 text The Natural Laws of Husbandry by German chemist and agriculturist Justus von Liebig, who decries the simplicity with which most agricultural scientists view soil constitution and warns of the profound danger of partial soil fertilization—a practice that nonetheless has become the calling card of modern agriculture. Finally, in an unrelated piece from the January 21, 1944, issue of Science, Dr. Lee comments on the similarity of nutrient factors within and across species in an article titled “Vitamer or Isotel? Both?” Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 29, circa 1947. Multiple original sources.

Cost of Malnutrition

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary: In this creative and forward-thinking commentary on preventive healthcare, Dr. Royal Lee discusses the ways in which proper nutrition saves businesses money by fostering employee health. Getting enough vitamin A complex, for instance, helps maintain the integrity of mucous membranes and thus prevents infection and lost man hours. Sufficient vitamin B complex keeps the nerves and heart functioning properly, while adequate vitamin C complex promotes stamina by optimizing the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. A proper amount of vitamin D complex prevents cramps, irritability, and bone-calcium loss, and so on. From Let’s Live magazine, 1958.

Carbohydrate Not Essential

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary: “What is refined sugar?” Dr. Royal Lee asks in this provocative excerpt and then answers, “It is pure carbohydrate. [And] is carbohydrate an essential food, a food component without which we could not live? It certainly is not.” Today people are picking up on the fact that while there are essential fats and there are essential amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), there is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate. The content here is excerpted from the 1952 article “This Molasses War—Who Is Prevaricating,” in which Dr. Lee expounds on the critical difference between whole-food sweeteners and refined ones. From Let’s Live magazine, 1952. Reprinted by the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research.

Protomorphology: The Principles of Cell Auto-Regulation

By Royal Lee and William A. Hanson

Summary: The complete book on the subject of the Protomorphogen. In this seminal work, Dr. Royal Lee connects the dots between the endocrine, nutritional, and cellular control mechanisms of the living human cell as well as how growth and repair in the body are regulated. This is the basis for Dr. Lee’s theories of autoimmune disorders, in which he detailed the immune system’s ability and tendency, under conditions such as nutrient deficiency, to target the body’s own tissue. Lee’s visionary tome was released decades before any understanding of autoimmune disorder was acknowledged or accepted by medicine or any other field of healing. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research, 1947.

View PDF: Protomorphology: The Principles of Cell Auto-Regulation

Vitamins in Dental Care

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary: Originally published in Health Culture, this 1955 article outlines the critical roles of natural vitamin complexes, such as vitamins A, B, C, D and F, in maintaining and restoring dental health. Dr. Lee specifically credits the research of the celebrated Dr. Weston Price: “Dr. Weston A. Price was the first dentist to publish an article asserting that dental caries was primarily a result of vitamin deficiency. This was in 1927. In 1923, I had prepared a paper on the subject of ‘The Systemic Cause of Dental Caries,’ and read it to the senior class of Marquette Dental College, subscribing to the same hypothesis.” Amazingly, conventional dentistry still fails to comprehend the basic truth that a properly nourished body is resistant to tooth decay. Reprint 30G, 1955.

This Molasses War—Who Is Prevaricating? / Bone Meal—Nutritional Source of Calcium

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary: Two articles that appeared in Let’s Live magazine in 1952 and 1953. In “This Molasses War—Who is Prevaricating?,” Dr. Lee compares natural and refined sugars. He posits that carbohydrates are not essential in the human diet and offers proof by way of certain traditional peoples who eat no carbs and yet experience perfect health. He also discusses the virtues of molasses, which is rich in minerals and is protective against tooth decay, whereas white sugar promotes cavities. Lee also describes the famous experiments of Dr. Rosalind Wulzen of Oregon State College that led to the discovery of the “anti-arthritic factor” in molasses and raw cream that was later named after her. In “Bone Meal—Nutritional Source of Calcium,” Dr. Lee describes the virtues of finely powdered bone flour as a source of protein and minerals, particularly calcium. He states that for the teeth, cold-processed bone meal is unexcelled. He also discusses the role of trace minerals also found in bone meal. 1953.

Synthetic Versus Natural Vitamins

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary: Here Dr. Royal Lee delivers perhaps the most succinct explanation of why natural vitamins and synthetic vitamins are entirely different entities. Natural vitamins—that is, vitamins as they are found in food—are complexes of associated compounds, he explains, which act together synergistically to deliver a nutritive effect to the body. In turn these complexes require minerals, in organic form, to activate them. All these things are found, together, in whole foods. Synthetic vitamins, on the other hand, consist of a single compound that has been deemed the “most active” of a natural vitamin complex and either isolated from the food or, worse, synthesized in a lab. Dr. Lee asks, “How can a single factor be isolated from a complex…and be justifiably sold with the claim that it is equal?” It can’t. However, “do not infer from this that synthetic vitamins have no effect,” he warns. “They do have drug effects—pharmacological actions that may or may not have much in common with the normal nutritional action.” In a country where over half the population takes synthetic vitamins, the implications of this paper are staggering. Published by the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research, circa 1954.

The Scope of Vitamin E

By the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research

Summary: A 19-page booklet produced by the Lee Foundation reporting on the history and clinical applications of natural vitamin E. This is one of the most complete and concise reports on perhaps the most misunderstood vitamin complex: “Four vitamin factors have been isolated in the course of time from the E complex—alpha, beta, gamma and delta tocopherol. Of these, the alpha form has been found the most powerful and is often erroneously considered as the whole vitamin E. Actually the term ‘vitamin E’ should only be used in reference to the element which occurs in foods [since] in its entirety it includes factors not present in alpha tocopherol alone.” In fact, the report concludes, the natural vitamin E complex is “highly intricate, perhaps the most intricate of all [the] complexes” and the four tocopherols should be regarded merely “as factors and not as the entire E complex.” Much of the information in this critical document is completely lost to modern nutrition. 1955.

The Primary Cause of Disease

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary: Dr. Lee lays out a basic principle of his nutritional philosophy—the idea that bacterial infection is usually a secondary result of malnutrition. Properly nourished bodies, naturally stronger and well defended, are much better equipped to resist invasion of pathogens, which are always around us, Lee explains. A weaker, malnourished body, on the other hand, is much more susceptible to a successful attack by foreign invaders. From Let’s Live magazine, 1958.

The Pharmacology of Fluoride

By Gustav Wm. Rapp, PhD

Summary: A fourteen-page paper on fluorine and its effects in the human body. “All cells are affected by fluoride to a greater or lesser degree,” writes Dr. Rapp. “While most of the interest in fluoride as a drug has centered upon its activity on oral structures, there are many other parts of the human body that feel [its] effects [including] the bones…skin, hair, viscera, circulatory system, and genito-urinary system.” Scientifically sound, the author’s discussion raises many troubling questions. From The Bur magazine. Reprint 53, 1950.

Nutrition and Vitamins in Relation to the Heart

By Richard L. Chipman, MD

Summary: In this profound lecture from 1953, Dr. Richard Chipman elucidates the differences between natural and synthetic vitamins in terms of their effects on the human heart. Whereas lab-made vitamins comprise single chemical compounds, he explains, natural vitamins—or vitamins as they are found in food—are infinitely more complex, comprising “groups of associated principles of synergistic nature” that, if taken apart, “are no longer capable of producing [their] normal nutritional and metabolic effect.” Thus it is no surprise, he adds, that in studies synthetic vitamins failed to show positive effects on heart health, and in some cases even made matters worse, while natural vitamin complexes proved literally to be lifesavers. Dr. Chipman’s words will make you reconsider not just what vitamins truly are but what they are truly capable of in restoring human health. From The Journal of Medical-Physical Research, 1953. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research special reprint 5-54.

Maternal Malnutrition and Congenital Deformity

By Howard H. Hillemann, PhD

Summary: In this lecture from 1958, Oregon State professor Dr. Howard Hillemann breaks down the number of birth defects occurring in the United States by cause, noting in particular the increasing numbers of defects attributable to environmental chemicals, food additives, and prenatal malnutrition. The report includes a comprehensive discussion of the role of vitamins and minerals in prenatal nutrition, addressing each nutrient individually. Published by the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research, reprint 66B, 1958.

Natural Versus Synthetic or Crystalline Vitamins

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary: In this brief article, Dr. Royal Lee presents his classic metaphor of holistic nutrition likening a true vitamin to a watch. Just as a watch consists of numerous pieces that all work together to perform a function (telling time), a true vitamin is a complex of countless synergistic factors that work together to perform the function of delivering a nutritive effect to the body. And just as separating a few pieces from a watch and expecting them to tell time is absurd, isolating (or synthesizing) a single component of a natural vitamin and expecting it to nourish the body is folly. Vitamin Products Company, 1952.

The Menace of Synthetic Foods

“There is only one test for safety and wholesomeness in food,” Dr. Royal Lee proclaims in this succinct overview of his nutritional philosophy. “That is the test of time. The test of a long history of use, over many generations of life.” Dr. Lee expounds on the ill effects of processed foods, which were pushed hastily onto the market by industrial food processors seeking immediate profit. He cites evidence that bleached flour produces headaches, diarrhea and depression; corn syrup causes diabetes; and hydrogenated fats help cause heart disease. Dr. Lee also documents the negative effects of synthetic isolated vitamins, the “jackpot in synthetic foods.” Includes also a report on chicanery regarding food additives at the Food and Drug Administration from one of the most outspoken watchdog publications of its day, Morris Bealle’s American Capsule News. 1957.

The Trace Elements

By Warren L. Anderson

Summary: A three-part report on the important effects of trace minerals in soil, livestock, and humans. At the time of these articles, in 1949, the macro minerals—calcium, phosphorus, and potassium—were fairly well understood in terms of plant growth. On the other hand, the trace minerals, e.g., iodine, zinc, copper, manganese, iron, etc., were poorly understood until research like this began to appear. The role of trace minerals in the formation of nutrients such as cobalt and vitamin B12 had only just been discovered. This knowledgeable author shows the insidious effects and unsuspected diseases in plants, livestock, and humans caused by trace mineral deficiencies. From Hoard’s Dairyman magazine. Reprint 71, 1949.

View PDF: The Trace Elements

Some Interrelations Between Vitamins and Hormones

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary: Dr. Lee, citing the great British doctor and nutrition pioneer Sir Robert McCarrison, explains the critical connection between nutrition and the endocrine system. “McCarrison back in 1921 told us how the endocrine glands were the first structures to atrophy or degenerate following vitamin and mineral deficiencies. [For instance,] the adrenal glands…stopped functioning and soon became atrophied.” McCarrison noted that while the adrenals were usually the first endocrine gland to falter as a result of nutrient deficiency, in time others followed, including the thyroid and the pituitary. As Lee often pointed out, none of this would have been discovered had diets high in nutrient-deficient processed foods not initiated such problems in the human race. 1950.