The Effect of Imbalance in the “Filtrate Fraction” of the Vitamin B Complex in Dogs

By Dr. Agnes Fay Morgan

Summary: “The problem with synthetic vitamins is they’re pure,” said the great holistic nutritionist Dr. Royal Lee. What he meant is that, whereas vitamins in food are naturally accompanied by countless cofactors critical for the proper function of the nutrient, synthetic vitamins are lone chemicals, devoid of their required, synergistic helpers. The difference between the two, Dr. Lee said, is the difference between a nutritive and a pharmacological effect. And many early nutrition studies support this idea. In the experiment presented here, eminent nutrition scientist Dr. Agnes Fay Morgan discusses the surprising effects of “enriching” the feed of dogs on a low-vitamin-B diet with synthetic supplements. Whereas dogs with no supplementation developed the symptoms expected of a partial lack of vitamin B—fatigue, poor digestion, slowed growth—the dogs given synthetic B vitamins developed different and far more grave conditions, including progressive neuromuscular degeneration followed by paralysis and, finally, death. These “unexpected failures of nutrition” were exactly the type of pharmacological effects Dr. Lee decried regarding synthetic vitamins, and they compelled Dr. Morgan to warn of the “possible danger of the administration of large amounts” of artificial B vitamins, adding that “fortification of foods with those vitamins” could precipitate conditions worse than those created by a deficiency. This did not deter the Food and Drug Administration, however, which less than two years after this study launched its flour “enrichment” program, requiring the addition of various synthetic B vitamins to all white bread in America—some of those chemicals the very compounds that hurried Dr. Morgan’s dogs to an unnatural death. From Science, 1941.

A Few Facts About Vitamins

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary: In this succinct article from 1940, the great nutrition pioneer Dr. Royal Lee presents some of his foundational views about vitamins—facts that might go a long way toward righting the field of diet and health today were they more widely known. First, he points out, the effects of vitamins vary so immensely between species that it is completely nonsensical to recommend daily allowances for humans based on tests made on rats and guinea pigs (which is precisely how “recommended daily intakes” were developed). Second, he explains, no vitamin consists of a single compound. All vitamins in their original form—that is, as they are found in food—are in fact “complexes,” or mixtures of biochemically interrelated compounds that work together to deliver a nutritive effect to the body. Such natural vitamins are a far cry from the single, chemically pure, “most active” compounds that pass as vitamins today. Taking such isolated fractions without their accompanying synergists, Dr. Lee says, explains the disappointing, and sometimes disturbing, results of early research testing the efficacy of synthetic vitamins. Vitamin Products Company, 1940. 

The Facts Are Published—Why Not Be Honest About It?

By the Therapeutic Foods Company

Summary: In this brilliant missive from Dr. Royal Lee’s Therapeutic Foods Company, the “facts” published refer to studies showing that only natural vitamins—that is, vitamins as they are found in food, as complexes of many cooperating compounds—are capable of curing vitamin-deficiency diseases such as beriberi, scurvy, pellagra, and rickets. On the other hand, isolated or synthetic fractions of the vitamin complexes, which today we define as “vitamins,” do not cure deficiency diseases. For instance, few people realize that ascorbic acid (what is known today as “vitamin C” despite the fact that it is just one of numerous compounds in the natural vitamin C complex) has never been shown to cure scurvy. Nor does synthetic thiamine cure beriberi or synthetic vitamin D cure rickets. In fact, Dr. Lee points out, studies at the time indicated that isolated vitamin fractions might ultimately make these conditions worse. Scientific study supports these facts, he says, so why not be honest about it? Therapeutic Foods Company, 1941.

The Special Nutritional Qualities of Natural Foods

By Dr. Royal Lee and Jerome S. Stolzoff

Summary: In this landmark report from 1942, Dr. Royal Lee and coauthor Jerome Stolzoff contrast the nutritional merits of traditional, natural foods and their industrially processed counterparts. Whereas the foods of traditional diets have centuries of trial and error behind them affirming their ability to nourish the human body, the authors say, industrially processed foods were introduced into the food supply practically overnight, with no nutritional testing whatsoever. Only when people in droves began developing vitamin-deficiency diseases—which include the likes of heart disease and cancer, Dr. Lee points out—did nutritionists of the early twentieth century begin to realize the frightening truth: processing and refining render food nutritionally unfit by irrevocably damaging its vitamin complexes, and unless the human race returns to a diet of time-tested natural foods, it will quite literally starve itself to death. Includes an eye-opening chart listing almost 150 modern diseases and the vitamin deficiencies associated with them by scientific research of the early twentieth century. Published by the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research, 1942.

The Fallacy of “High Potency” in Vitamin Dosage

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary: There’s no harm in taking high doses of synthetic vitamins, right? That’s what most people believe anyway. Even many health practitioners think so. Yet early nutrition research showed clearly that ingesting large doses of synthetic, non-food-based supplements (what pass as “vitamins” in today’s world) can have serious consequences on your health. For instance, as Dr. Royal Lee points out in this 1950 article, even a moderate excess of synthetic thiamine (vitamin B1) induced disorders such as herpes zoster, hyperthyroidism, gallstones, and sterility in test subjects, and high doses of synthetic vitamin E caused calcium loss in the bones of test animals—the very opposite of the intended effect. The latter case, Dr. Lee says, illustrates the “little known and highly important” fact that high doses of a synthetic vitamin can cause the very same symptoms as a deficiency of that vitamin. Thus long-term use of most any supplement sold today may only make worse the condition it’s being taken for—something to think about your next trip down the vitamin aisle. Published by the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research, circa 1950.

How and Why Synthetic Poisons Are Being Sold as Imitations of Natural Foods and Drugs

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary: It is obvious why companies would opt for selling synthetic vitamins (made in a laboratory) over natural ones (found only in food): the former have a considerably higher profit margin. But just how synthetic vitamins became equated with natural ones is downright perplexing, given that there are such obvious and important differences between the two. In this profound report, Dr. Royal Lee presents some long-ignored distinctions between vitamins as made by nature and vitamins as made by human beings. For one, he points out, a natural vitamin is never a single compound, but rather it is a conglomerate of substances—or a “complex”—that work together to deliver a nutritive effect to the body. A synthetic vitamin, on the other hand, is merely one compound in such a conglomerate that has been deemed, somewhat arbitrarily, the “active” ingredient of the complex. Moreover, such an active ingredient, when produced in the lab, is never an exact replica of its natural counterpart but instead is often a mirror opposite of it, with very different and possibly toxic biochemical functioning. That these facts continue to be ignored—that synthetic vitamins are not recognized as crude and incomplete imitations of natural ones—is truly one of the great scandals of modern nutrition. Published by the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research1948.

Imbalance of Vitamin B Factors

By Marion B. Richards, DSc

Summary: While today synthetic supplements are generally considered beneficial or at worst harmless, early investigations into their therapeutic application painted a far different and disturbing picture. In this 1945 report from the British Medical Journal, pioneering biochemist Dr. Marion Richards reports on her investigations into the effects of synthetic vitamin B1 (known as aneurine in England at the time and as thiamine today). Dr. Richards found that female rats fed a supplement of synthetic B1 developed a subsequent deficiency of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) so grave that the animals’ offspring died from lack of it during weaning. These results echoed other studies of synthetic B vitamin therapy, she notes, in which “excessive dosing with one particular factor of the B complex” appeared to lead to “secondary deficiencies” of other vitamins in the complex. In one of the most alarming of these experiments, dogs fed a diet enriched with synthetic B vitamins died faster than dogs fed an unenriched diet. Also worth noting in the study discussed here is that supplementation with additional calcium in the form of chalk only worsened the animals’ resulting vitamin B6 deficiency. Such unintended consequences speak to why “naturalist” researchers of the time warned of the dangers of widespread supplementation with synthetic micronutrients, pointing out that only whole foods of time-tested nutritional value can be relied on to provide vitamins and minerals in the forms and ratios required for human health. From British Medical Journal, 1945. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 10.

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.

Protest Against Persecution of the Health Movement by the Food and Drug Administration

By Karl B. Lutz, Attorney

Summary: A landmark letter of protest to the U.S. Congress against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s blatant persecution of natural health practices in the United States. First, attorney Karl Lutz outlines some basic tenets of whole food nutrition—principles championed, ironically, by the first head of the FDA, Dr. Harvey Wiley, back in the early 1900s—such as the need to grow foods in mineral-rich soil, to process such foods as minimally as possible, and to keep them free of potentially harmful foreign substances. By 1963, when this letter was written, these principles had been thoroughly abandoned by the FDA, Lutz declares. In fact, he says, the agency had become the very opposite of what Dr. Wiley had envisioned for it. Instead of protecting natural foods and natural food therapies, the FDA had colluded with industrial food processors and institutional medicine to work against whole food nutrition by actively persecuting, prosecuting, and intimidating professionals promoting natural nutritional approaches to health. Lutz singles out the 1939 case of the FDA against Dr. Royal Lee as particularly egregious. “I have examined the records of that suit, and in my opinion as a lawyer with some knowledge of biochemistry, it was one of the greatest miscarriages of justice I have ever seen.” This document is a forerunner, by over a decade, of massive petitioning of Congress for relief from the pharma-medical cartel monopoly, whose agenda in healthcare was—and still is—preferentially enforced by the agencies of the U.S. government. National Health Federation, 1963. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 8-63.

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.

Prenatal Nutrition and Birth Defects

By Mark R. Anderson

Summary: “The first words spoken by a woman upon learning she is pregnant should be, ‘Am I well nourished?'” writes nutrition researcher and educator Mark Anderson. In this sweeping article, Anderson recounts the findings of some of the giants of early nutrition research—Sir Robert McCarrison, Dr. Weston Price, Dr. Royal Lee—to show that the key to being well nourished is a diet of whole, unprocessed foods prepared “in obedience to time-honored dietary traditions.” Indeed, regardless of which of the many tribal societies these intrepid pioneers observed, it appeared that “isolation from Western civilization and its foods of commerce…afforded a diet that protected health.” Unsurprisingly, birth defects among these societies were virtually nonexistent. And how did these traditional diets compare with the current recommendations of our public health officials? “[They] looked nothing like our modern USDA Food Pyramid,” Anderson writes, “unless, perhaps, if it is turned upside down and all the foodstuffs are consumed in their unrefined state.” This is an incredibly important document about not just prenatal nutrition but the core of nutrition in general: what to eat. From Whole Food Nutrition Journal, circa 2000.

Open Letters Concerning Dr. Frederick J. Stare (Modern Nutrition Magazine)

Various authors

Summary: In March 1957 Modern Nutrition printed the following excerpts from a stunning series of open letters by John Pearmain of the Boston Nutrition Society to Dr. Nathan Pusey, President of Harvard University, regarding “the matter of standards of research under Dr. Frederick Stare,” head of the university’s department of nutrition. Dr. Stare (1911–2002), probably more than any other public figure in U.S. history, was responsible for convincing Americans that sugar and other refined foods are harmless and that whole foods are no more valuable nutritionally than processed ones. “Actually,” he once wrote, “we get as much food value from refined foods that have been enriched as from natural foods, and sometimes more.” Dr. Stare also advised Americans to “eat your [food] additives—they’re good for you” and recommended Coca-Cola as “a healthy between-meals snack.” In the following excerpts, Mr. Pearmain questions the reasons for Dr. Stare’s pronouncements, suggesting it was not the weight of scientific evidence that underlay them but rather the financial might of his department’s funders, which comprised some of the country’s largest food processing companies (including, yes, Coca-Cola) as well as major chemical and drug interests. While these links were carefully kept from the public during Dr. Stare’s lifetime, recently they have begun to come to light, most notably in the 2016 exposé “Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease” in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine. The investigation pieces a paper trail from the Sugar Research Foundation—an industrial benefactor of Harvard’s nutrition department whose advisory board Dr. Stare served on—to research published by Harvard investigators intentionally obscuring evidence against sugar in the causation of heart disease. While the news of influence peddling at America’s most prestigious university came as a shock to many readers, Harvard’s “sugar scandal” is merely the tip of an iceberg of dubious activity by Dr. Stare and his department, as the following letters show. Included after the excerpts is some fascinating commentary by Dr. Royal Lee, a leading proponent of natural food nutrition during the 1950s and strong critic of Dr. Stare. From Modern Nutrition, 1957. Reprinted by the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research.

Recent Conclusions in Malnutrition

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary: In this stunning assessment of the widespread yet unacknowledged malnourishment of America, Dr. Royal Lee describes in detail the health effects of eating processed foods as well as the difference between natural and synthetic vitamins. “We have drifted into this deplorable position of national malnutrition quite inadvertently,” he adds. “It is the result of scientific research with the objective of finding the best ways to create foods that are non-perishable that can be made by mass production methods…and distributed so cheaply that they can sweep all local competition from the market. Then, after there develops a suspicion that these ‘foods’ are inadequate to support life, modern advertising science steps in to propagandize the people into believing that there is nothing wrong with them, that they are products of scientific research intended to afford a food that is the last word in nutritive value.” Also included is the infamous advertisement in the Journal of the American Medical Association promoting white bread, the result of a financial arrangement between the American Medical Association and the American Institute of Baking. From a lecture delivered to the American Naprapathic Association Convention. Reprint 30, 1943.

Natural Versus Synthetic Supplements

By Judith A. DeCava

Summary: This manifesto of whole food nutrition should be standard reading for anyone even thinking about taking or prescribing vitamin supplements. In it clinical nutritionist and researcher Judith DeCava spells out the precise differences between natural and synthetic supplements in light of modern nutritional discoveries. While science today ballyhoos the health benefits of phytochemicals such as lycopene and anthocyanins, for instance, DeCava notes that these substances are effective only when they are ingested as part of the food they come naturally packaged in; when chemically isolated or artificially synthesized, “they never seem to work as well.” This is similar to the message of Dr. Royal Lee, who eighty years ago insisted that vitamins are not isolated chemicals, as chemists and pharmacists defined them, but are complexes of cooperating compounds that work together synergistically to perform a nutritive function. While isolated food fractions may have a pharmacological (drug-like) effect, they are not nutritive, Dr. Lee warned, and do not belong in the category of nutrient. From Whole Food Nutrition Journal, 2003.

The National Malnutrition

By D.T. Quigley, MD

Summary: Daniel Quigley was a physician at the Nebraska College of Medicine who rose to prominence with the 1929 publication of his book The Conquest of Cancer. Like many doctors of the time, his clinical experience led him to believe that malnutrition—due to the replacement of natural foods with industrial ones—was not only more widespread in America than the medical establishment believed, but that vitamin and mineral deficiencies, more than anything else, were responsible for the exploding rates of degenerative illness throughout the country and world. In 1943, after years of observing the successful application of whole food nutritional therapy in his practice, Dr. Quigley published the following textbook through the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research. In it he warns Americans to avoid completely white flour, white sugar, and corn syrup, each of the refined products fostering disease by delivering calories but precious few of the micronutrients needed by the body for proper function and fighting infection. For optimal nutrition Dr. Quigley recommends a diet of raw milk, eggs, whole grains, seafood, organ meats, fresh vegetables, yeast, and butter—a prescription of highly nutrient dense foods that makes just as much sense today as it did then, when these substances were known to nutritionists simply as “the protective foods.” Published by the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research, 1943.

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.