The Vitamins in Medicine, Part 2 (Vitamins C, D, E, K and More)

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 this second part of the book, Bicknell and Franklin discuss vitamins C, D, E, and K (along with a few other vital, if lesser known, nutrients). In Part 1, the authors examine vitamin A as well as the various B vitamins. 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 Direct Effect of Malnutrition on Tissue Degeneration

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary: In this 1949 address to the Seattle chapter of the American Academy of Applied Nutrition, Dr. Royal Lee touches on some of the major findings of early nutrition history that are still, incredibly, ignored to this day. Topics include the importance of calcium, phosphorus, and raw protein to tooth health; the total destruction of nutrients in bread caused by bleaching; the connection between vitamin E deficiency and heart disease; the dependency of connective-tissue integrity on adequate vitamin C levels; and the various lesions of B vitamin deficiencies. Dr. Lee explains that most of the health problems caused by nutrient deficiency are the result of the consumption of overcooked and processed foods and concludes with perhaps the most important edict for good health: “We must take the trouble in our homes to prepare our foods from the basic materials as far as possible, even to the extent of growing our vegetables and fruits on properly composted soil if we can. The dividends will be quite possibly twenty years added to our life span, to say nothing of the life added to our years.” 1949. Reprinted by Selene River Press in Lectures of Dr. Royal Lee, Volume I

Ascorbic Acid as a Chemotherapeutic Agent

By W.J. McCormick, MD

Summary: In this 1952 article, medical doctor W.J. McCormick reports on the remarkable success that he and other practitioners were achieving using ascorbic acid—or synthetic vitamin C—to counter bacterial and viral diseases. The key to the acid’s efficacy, Dr. McCormick writes, is its powerful oxidative action when administered in huge doses—especially impressive, he says, given the lack of serious side effects. While it is dismaying that medicine never pursued the use of ascorbic acid as a possibly safe and inexpensive antibiotic, it is also important to distinguish isolated ascorbic acid from natural vitamin C, that is, vitamin C as it is found in food. As the great holistic nutritionist Dr. Royal Lee taught, vitamins in nature are not single chemicals, but rather they are complexes of compounds that cooperate synergistically to deliver a nutritive effect. Vitamin C as it is found in food, for instance, comprises not just ascorbic acid but also the adrenal-stoking enzyme tyrosinase as well as various bioflavonoids essential for maintaining the integrity of the blood vessels. Ironically, the role of ascorbic acid in the natural vitamin C complex may be merely to protect these other fractions, probably through the same oxidative action that Dr. McCormick amplified to great success as a chemotherapeutic agent. Though synthetic vitamins may display such pharmacological effects, Dr. Lee said, it’s critical that we don’t confuse such effects for the nutritional functions that only natural vitamin complexes can perform. From the Archives of Pediatrics, 1952. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Foundation reprint 5C.

The Changing Incidence and Mortality of Infectious Disease in Relation to Changed Trends in Nutrition

By W.J. McCormick, MD

SummaryIn the nineteenth century, deadly infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, typhoid, and scarlet fever ran rampant in America and Europe. Then modern medicine came along in the 1900s and put an end to these epidemics through measures such as drug therapy, sanitation, and immunization. At least that’s how the conventional story goes. But does medicine really deserve credit for eradicating these infectious illnesses? In this fascinating article from 1947, Dr. W.J. McCormick points out a startling fact: the rate of each disease mentioned began steadily decreasing around the late 1800s—well before the advent of modern medicine. Moreover, the decline did not speed up as medical practices became standard in the early twentieth century, as one would expect if the “triumph of medicine” story were true. Given the facts, Dr. McCormick says, it appears some factor other than medicine was primarily responsible for bringing the great infectious diseases of the nineteenth century under control. That factor, he says, was the “anti-infection” nutrient, vitamin C. Thanks to revolutionary advances in food production, citrus fruits and other vitamin-C–packed foods became widely available for the first time in the late 1800s, steeling individuals against infection and spurring one of the great public health successes in history—a success wrongly credited to the medical and pharmaceutical fields, the author concludes. From The Medical Record, 1947. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 5A.

Cancer: A Collagen Disease, Secondary to a Nutritional Deficiency?

By W.J. McCormick, MD

SummaryCould a lack of vitamin C be the reason cancer spreads within a body? Nutrition-savvy physician W.J. McCormick thought so, and in this fascinating article from the April 1959 issue of the Archives of Pediatrics, he explains why. McCormick begins by citing the long-known observation that cancer tends to take root mainly in areas of the body that have become depleted in collagen—the elastic connective tissue responsible for “cementing” cells in their place. As collagen diminishes, he says, cancerous cells become free to exercise their natural “amoeboid activity” and move to other parts of the body (i.e., metastasize). Since the body requires vitamin C to produce collagen, Dr. McCormick argues, it stands to reason that a deficiency of the vitamin enables the spread of cancer—a notion supported by the fact that cancer patients tend to be severely depleted in the nutrient. Given the facts, McCormick concludes, the reason for the activity of many carcinogens—including cigarette smoke—may lie in their tendency to destroy the C vitamin. From the Archives of Pediatrics, 1959. Reprinted by the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research

Intervertebral Disc Lesions: A New Etiological Concept

By W.J. McCormick, MD

Summary: In this remarkable 1954 article, Canadian physician W.J. McCormick presents physiological and biochemical principles that go to the core of orthopedic medicine, chiropractic spinal care, and osteopathy. While many health experts fail to understand the ultimate cause of connective-tissue decay, McCormick is clear: “The most definitely established physiological function of vitamin C is that of assisting in the formation of collagen for the maintenance of stability and elasticity of connective tissues generally, and this would include the bones, cartilages, muscles, and vascular tissues…In deficiency of the vitamin, instability and fragility of all such tissues is believed to be caused by the breakdown of ‘the intercellular cement substance’ (collagen), resulting in easy rupture of any and all of these connective tissues, which would include the intervertebral discs.” As Dr. McCormick emphasized throughout his life, the effects of subclinical scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) cannot be understated, though they are often overlooked. From the Archives of Pediatrics, 1954. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 5D.

Have We Forgotten the Lesson of Scurvy?

By W.J. McCormick, MD

Summary: A Canadian medical doctor recounts the history of scurvy and its prevention, including a fascinating report by British medical officer James Lind, who describes his famous experiment of 1747 in which he cured sailors of the disease by feeding them fresh oranges and lemons. While full-blown scurvy had been virtually eliminated in twentieth-century America thanks to the widespread availability of citrus fruits, Dr. McCormick makes the case that subclinical vitamin C deficiency was a causative factor in many modern disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis, heart attack, cancer, pneumonia, and even stretch marks in birthing mothers. Failure to recognize the tissue dysfunction in these disorders to be the result of vitamin C deficiency has led medicine to devise countless unsuccessful approaches to what appear to be largely matters of starvation. From Journal of Applied Nutrition, 1962. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 5H.

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.

Postulating a New Concept of the Etiology, Pathology, and Treatment of Chronic Idiopathic Ulcerative Colitis

By N. Philip Norman, MD

Summary: A classic, definitive work on ulcerative colitis. Dr. Royal Lee described this remarkable book, which his foundation published in its entirety in 1950, as “worth its weight in gold.” Groundbreaking in its understanding of the lesions of malnutrition, the book makes a cogent case that ulcerative colitis is closely related to scurvy, the result of a deficiency of the vitamin C complex, along with additional nutrient deficiencies and other ill effects of a processed-food diet. 1950.

View PDF: Postulating a New Concept of the Etiology, Pathology, and Treatment of Chronic Idiopathic Ulcerative Colitis

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.

Nutrition and National Health: The Cantor Lectures

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.

The Need for Vitamins

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.

A Rapid and Simple Lingual Ascorbic Acid Test

By W.M. Ringsdorf, Jr., DMD, and Dr. E. Cheraskin, MD, DMD

Summary: Dr. Royal Lee and other early nutritionists maintained that ascorbic acid is only one of the many components constituting the natural vitamin C complex—and not necessarily the functional one at that. On the other hand, ascorbic acid serves as a useful biomarker for determining the level of vitamin C complex in the body. Acknowledging that subclinical vitamin C deficiency is common, the authors outline a fast and inexpensive method of determining plasma and intradermal levels of vitamin C in an individual. From GP, journal of the American Academy of General Practice, 1962. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 124.

Quotations on Vitamins from the United States Department of Agriculture Yearbook for 1939

By the United States Department of Agriculture

Summary: Excerpts from one of the most quotable government documents ever published. In the 1930s, even as the FDA was harassing doctors and companies promoting nutritional therapy, the USDA published independent studies demonstrating the widespread effects of vitamin malnutrition in the American public (proving that not everyone in the department was asleep at the switch as America’s food supply became adulterated, refined, and chemicalized). The USDA Yearbook for 1939 was such a surprisingly candid assessment of nutritional deficiencies in the country that the Lee Foundation published and distributed highlights from it in the form of the booklet shown here. If the statements in the USDA’s yearbook had been published by supplement companies, the FDA would have brought legal actions. Unsurprisingly, reports like this stopped coming out of the USDA in subsequent years. From The United States Department of Agriculture Yearbook for 1939.

Vitamins in Dentistry

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary: A classic Royal Lee document, read before a New York dental group in 1940. In it Dr. Lee outlines how far the understanding of nutrition and dental health had come and how poorly the dental profession had stayed current with this advance of knowledge. He cites many examples—fully referenced—of the direct effect of nutrients on dental health. A great paper if anyone bothered to read and understand it. “Drill ’em and fill ’em” was the dental mantra then, as it is today. Reprint 30B, 1940.

Vitamins and Their Relation to Deficiency Diseases of the Alimentary Tract

By Edward A. Johnston, MD

Summary: This excellent report, a reprint from the Journal of the American College of Proctology, starts with a clear description of the all-important connection between vitamin complexes (as they are found in whole foods) and the endocrine system. “When we consider that vitamins in the food are the substances with which the endocrines are able to secrete their active principles, it is apparent that a glandular insufficiency may take place in the absence of vitamins….All of the ductless glands, the thyroid, parathyroid, thymus, pineal body, pituitary, adrenals, gonads, pancreas, islets of Langerhans, and spleen must have one or more of the vitamins in order to secrete their vital fluids, and if deprived of the vitamins, will atrophy and cease to function.” Such events, Dr. Johnston says, are obviously bound to weaken the body and make it more susceptible to disease. “Stomach ulcers are probably the best instance of bacterial invasion primarily due to a lowered resistance resulting from a vitamin deficiency. Other instances of vitamin A deficiency, and often found in conjunction with infections of the intestinal tract, are infections of the eyes, tonsils, sinuses, lungs, buccal and lingual mucosa, and the skin.” This is the Royal Lee philosophy writ large. From Journal of the American College of Proctology, circa 1940. Lee Foundation of Nutritional Research reprint 2.

The Vitamin P Group of the C Complex

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary: In this extensively referenced article, Dr. Royal Lee shows that the natural vitamin C complex is more than just ascorbic acid, in this case discussing the important part of the complex known as the vitamin P group (which includes rutin and other bioflavonoids). For decades, Lee and others knew that focusing on just ascorbic acid led to an incomplete understanding of the function of vitamin C, just as using only ascorbic acid in clinical studies had failed to bring complete systemic relief to scurvy. This scientific explanation of the complete vitamin C complex should serve as a cornerstone for approaching the subject of vitamins in general and vitamin C in particular. From Vitamin News, 1948.

The Use of Raw Potatoes

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary: Dr. Lee discusses the nutritional value of potatoes, explaining that much of that value is lost when they are cooked. “We may estimate that 25 percent of the vitamins are lost in cooking either by heat or leaching. The loss of vitamin C is particularly fast….” In addition, he says, “the cooked potato contains no enzymes, as all enzymes are destroyed by heat.” One such enzyme, studies showed, helps relieve constipation, while others are even more precious. “One of the enzymes found in raw potatoes is phosphatase, which promotes assimilation of calcium and iron in particular; another is tyrosinase, an essential component of the vitamin C complex and associated directly with the function of the adrenal glands.” (Dr. Lee often referred to raw potatoes and raw mushrooms as the best food sources of tyrosinase available.) Lee gives tips on conserving potatoes’ nutrients when cooking them and instructs readers to be sure to add lemon juice to freshly extracted potato juice, which keeps the juice from oxidizing and turning black. From Let’s Live magazine, 1958.