Contents in this issue: “Vitamins (Part I).” The following is a transcription of the July 1964 issue of Dr. Royal Lee’s Applied Trophology newsletter, originally published by Standard Process Laboratories. Vitamins (Part I) “Chapter XXVI: Vitamins” is reprinted in two parts from Meyler’s Side Effects of Drugs (4th ed.), Excerpta Medico. See the August 1964 […]
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.
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.
By Dr. Royal Lee
Summary: In this one-of-a-kind discussion of malnutrition and heart health, Dr. Royal Lee describes the characteristic sounds of various heart irregularities as detected by an Acoustic Cardiograph or Endocardiograph. First, he traces the cause of extra heartbeats and fibrillations to a deficiency of factors in the B vitamin complex. He then goes on to describe the connection between a number of other heart abnormalities and deficiencies in nutrients such as vitamins C, F, G, and E2. 1953. Original source unknown.
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.
By William Brady, MD
Summary: William Brady was a medical doctor who wrote a popular syndicated newspaper column in the 1940s and ’50s. In this article from 1947, Dr. Brady discusses the importance of the B-complex vitamins—specifically thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), and niacinamide (B3)—to both heart health and proper carbohydrate metabolism. In multiple studies conducted at the time, he notes, vitamin B supplementation had been shown to reduce or eliminate the need for exogenous insulin in diabetics, while the link between vitamin B deficiency and heart disease had been known since all the way back in the 1920s, thanks to the work of pioneering nutrition researcher Sir Dr. Robert McCarrison. Astoundingly, medicine still fails today to grasp the importance of B vitamins to proper heart function, while both conventional and alternative doctors remain woefully ignorant of Dr. McCarrison’s remarkable and still groundbreaking research. From the Waterloo Daily Courier, 1947.
Summary: The discovery of vitamins in the early twentieth century was profoundly big news in the field of science, with much of the original research reported by top scientific journals and publishing houses of the day. This would change around the middle of the century, when the monopolistic medical industry conspired to keep nutrition studies out of the leading scientific journals, forcing nutrition investigators to report their findings in lesser known publications. Yet before medicine’s clampdown, vitamin research commanded the full attention of the scientific world, as reflected by these abstracts from the 1930s addressing nutrition and heart disease. The excerpts, taken from a variety of prestigious science journals of the day, consistently report a connection between a lack of vitamins, particularly vitamin B1, and the development of heart disorders. With the rise of industrial food manufacturing fundamentally altering the country’s food supply—including destroying much of its vitamin B1—health authorities at the time would had to have gone out of their way not to see the connection between the processing of America’s foods and the degradation of its health. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 6, 1939.
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.
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 Research, 1948.
By J. Higginson, A.D. Gillanders, and J.F. Murray
Summary: A comprehensive review, reprinted from the April 1952 issue of the British Heart Journal, documenting heart lesions caused by malnutrition among Bantu adults in South Africa. In all twelve fatal cases studied, “the hearts were dilated and hypertrophied,” the authors note—a “distinctive pathological pattern” they attributed squarely to malnutrition. Specifically, the high-carbohydrate Bantu diet, along with B vitamin deficiencies, are implicated. From the British Heart Journal, 1952. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 74.
By N. Philip Norman, MD
Summary: Weston Price. Harold Hawkins. Percy Howe. Melvin Page. Royal Lee. What do these giants of early nutrition science have in common? They were all dentists—firsthand witnesses to the explosion of modernity’s most common disease, tooth decay. In their search for the cause of the epidemic confounding their profession, these practitioners discovered a startling fact: those patients with the worst oral health tended to have the worst overall health as well. Digging deeper, each researcher discovered that the reason for both tooth decay and the other degenerative diseases afflicting their patients was the same—malnutrition, brought on by a diet of industrially processed and adulterated foods. In this rousing 1947 article, New York City Hospital physician and nutritionist N. Philip Norman lauds the maverick dentists for their groundbreaking work while lambasting both mainstream dentistry and medicine for virtually ignoring the connection between diet and disease and allowing deranged foods to destroy the health of America. “The medical and dental professions failed to oppose the wholesale adulteration of our food supply, thereby allowing the insidious extension into our food culture of processed foods whose nutritional value was never questioned until after the damage was done.” From the American Journal of Orthodontics and Oral Surgery, 1947. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 33.
By W.J. McCormick, MD
Summary: A Canadian medical doctor explains why he believes nutritional deficiencies, primarily of vitamins B and C, combined with cigarettes, pesticides, and alcohol, lead to coronary thrombosis. From the Insurance Index, 1953. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 5B.
By H.M. Sinclair
Summary: With the invention of the steel roller mill in the late nineteenth century came the widespread availability of “70-percent extracted” flour—or refined flour, as we know it today. The 30 percent of the wheat grain left behind in refined flour’s production comprises mostly the bran and germ, which happen to contain almost all the food’s vitamins and minerals. In countries that historically relied on bread for their health, such as Great Britain, this was a major problem, and for years a debate raged over what to do about it. On one side there were the “chemical” nutritionists, who proposed doctoring 70-percent flour with synthetic versions of the “token nutrients”—that is, the handful of vitamins and minerals deemed most depleted during refining. Opposing them, as reflected in this 1957 lecture to the Royal Society of Health by Dr. Hugh Sinclair, were the more “naturalist” nutritionists. Since not all the nutrients provided by wheat were known nor the way they function truly understood, Dr. Sinclair says, a wiser course would be to mandate a minimum, higher extraction rate of wheat—as the British government had done during World War II—so that the nutrient-dense germ at least was included. “There have been very many tests on the lower animals of the two types of flour,” he adds, “and it is acknowledged that rats grow better on flour of high extraction than on [chemically] ‘fortified’ white flour.” Unfortunately, facts such as these—like the old-school-nutrition researchers who presented them—were simply ignored as the age of chemical nutrition prevailed. From The Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health, 1957. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 38.
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.
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.
By Harold Lee Snow, MD
Summary: “Excessive use of of refined sugar in the United States has become a serious nutritional problem.” You might think these words were uttered by some holistic nutritionist of today, but they are actually the first sentence of this remarkable article from 1948 by physician Harold Snow. Backed by 56 peer-reviewed references, Dr. Snow discusses in detail many of the seen and unseen dangers of refined sugar that have been criminally ignored for decades. Rashes, infections and allergies in children; arthritis, neuritis, and rheumatism; digestive dysfunction; hyperinsulinism; acidosis; and acne are just a few of the dangers of sugar identified by science, Snow says. “If one can avoid eating refined sugar,” he concludes, “one can expect more vibrant health, and a longer life with greater freedom from some of the acute and chronic diseases and complaints which many modern doctors are unable to diagnose or to treat successfully.” From The Improvement Era magazine. Reprint 126, 1948.
By Sir Robert McCarrison, MD
Summary: In this in-depth lecture before the Royal Society of Arts, Dr. Robert McCarrison discusses conclusions and observations of his pioneering research as Britain’s former Director of Research on Nutrition in India and its implications for the health of Britain’s population. “The greatest single factor in the acquisition and maintenance of good health,” he says, “is perfectly constituted [i.e., whole, natural] food.” 1936.
By Cyrill William Carter
Summary: An important article about one of the critical B complex vitamins that got lost in the rush to synthesize nutrients. Vitamin B4 is a vitamer of the B complex that promotes proper nerve impulse transmission, yet it is not recognized as an essential nutrient by modern science. In the report Oxford researcher Cyrill William Carter notes that in pigeons suffering heart block who had been fed a diet devoid of natural vitamin B complex, supplementation with vitamins B1 and B2 failed to resolve the problem. When supplementation was switched to a yeast extract, which naturally contained the then-unknown B4 vitamer in addition to vitamers B1 and B2, the heart block was resolved. Oxford University scientists worked for over a decade to resolve the relationship between vitamin B4 and vitamin B1. From the Biochemical Journal, 1934. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 3.
By L. Stambovsky
Summary: In this article, written amidst the Great Depression and the outset of World War II, the author describes the vitamin-poor state of the typical American citizen in terms that still apply today. “Quantitatively, most Americans get enough calories in the form of [refined] carbohydrates…But refined sugar and starch, while they are energy sources, provide little or no accessory or vital food factors [i.e., vitamins and minerals].” This basic message sums up the work of many of the early nutritionists, who tried in vain to communicate the fact that nutrient deficiencies are at the root of most modern degenerative illness. Includes an illuminating chart listing various vitamin deficiencies and their associated diseases. From Drug and Cosmetic Industry magazine, 1942. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 31.
By John H. Gunter, DDS, MD
Summary: In this thought-provoking chapter from 1943’s A Guide to Practical Nutrition, physician and dentist John Gunter connects the dots between malnutrition and tooth decay. “It is generally known that inadequate nutrition predisposes to lowered resistance to bacterial invasion,” he writes, and such invasion includes the attack of oral bacteria on teeth. Indeed, he notes, tooth decay and periodontal disease tend to flourish only in populations subsisting on foods of “deteriorated biological value”—that is, foods deficient in vitamin and mineral complexes—such as white flour, white sugar, and the other industrially manufactured foods of modern civilization. Dr. Gunter proceeds to detail the roles played by various nutrients in preventing not just tooth decay but oral disease in general, a list headlined by the vitamins A, B1, C, and D as well as the minerals calcium and phosphorus. While dentistry today sells tooth decay as a story of defenseless teeth being attacked by sugar-loving bacteria, Dr. Gunter’s article affirms what he and many other nutrition-minded dentists of the early twentieth century knew firsthand: a well fed tooth is well protected. From A Guide to Practical Nutrition, 1943. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 115A.