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.

Vitamins F and F2

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary: Few people today have heard of vitamin F, but back in the heyday of vitamin research, this fat-based complex and vitamin D synergist was widely recognized as an essential nutrient for the human body, obtainable only from food and ideally from animal fats. In this 1949 article, Dr. Royal Lee expounds the nature of vitamin F as a complex of compounds that includes—but is not limited to—the famous “essential fatty acids” of today’s nutrition, linolenic acid and linoleic acid. In vitamin F these two compounds work in tandem with a host of other cofactors, including the critical arachidonic acid, Dr. Lee explains, to promote such important actions as calcium transport, prostate function, immunity, and even cancer prevention. Moreover, he writes, when vitamin F combines with phospholipids (as occurs in mammalian livers), it forms a complex that exhibits different nutritional activity than that of vitamin F. This complex, which Dr. Lee calls vitamin F2, is intimately involved in the repair and generation of new tissue, making it vital for any therapy of “muscular dystrophies, creeping paralyses, anemic states, weakness, and atrophy.” While modern science continues to underplay vitamins and minerals, articles like this remind us that these essential micronutrients are involved in the most fundamental functions of the body, and even a slight deficiency in any one of them can have catastrophic consequences on our health.

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

Butter, Vitamin E, and the “X” Factor of Dr. Price

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary: Could eating butter prevent hot flashes? Such a suggestion would sound outlandish to today’s nutrition “experts.” Yet not only did researchers in the mid-twentieth century show butter helps counter disorders associated with menopause, but the now maligned food was once regarded as a powerful healer in general, with physicians prescribing it for everything from psoriasis to tuberculosis. The reason for butter’s formerly stellar reputation is simple, explains Dr. Royal Lee in this wide-ranging 1942 publication. Butter is loaded with bioactive fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A, D, and E, and as Dr. Weston Price observed in his classic book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, these nutrients are so critical to good health that human populations have historically placed a special emphasis on foods containing them. Butter produced by cows pasturing in the springtime is particularly nutritious, Dr. Lee adds, its deep yellow color indicating a high content of the famous “Activator X,” an elusive fat-soluble nutrient shown by Dr. Price to be essential for moving calcium from the blood into the bones and teeth. Given modern nutrition’s proscription against butter and other animal fats in the diet, it’s no wonder that today America is plagued by osteoporosis and other calcium-related disorders—not to mention the myriad other ailments Drs. Price and Lee would have predicted for a nation starving itself of fat-soluble vitamins. Published by the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research, 1942.

Calories—Nutritional and Harmful Types

By Dr. Royal Lee

SummaryOne of the truly perplexing assumptions of conventional nutrition is that industrially refining and processing a food has minimal effect on the food’s nutritional value. Look through the history of scientific studies on diet and health, and rarely will you find a distinction made between pasteurized and raw milk, bleached and unbleached flour, refined and unrefined vegetable oil. Yet the chemical and thermal mauling of the food supply is precisely at the root of our ill health, writes Dr. Royal Lee in this 1961 manifesto of holistic nutrition. The reason for mainstream nutrition’s blind spot when it comes to food processing, Dr. Lee explains, is its tendency to view foods solely in terms of calories—the measure of how much fuel a food supplies. Because processing and refining do not tend to alter the caloric content of foods, we have allowed uncontrolled damage to be done to the foods’ noncaloric elements—the vitamins, minerals, and countless other known and unknown cofactors that spur the thousands of biochemical reactions required to repair and sustain the body. The result of this destruction is a sea of “foodless calorie products” that, while giving the illusion of sustenance, fail on the most basic level to sustain human health. From Natural Food and Farming, 1961. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 30H.

The Battlefront for Better Nutrition

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary“Yes, there is a battle going on,” Dr. Royal Lee writes in this 1950 article from the magazine The Interpreter. But the war Dr. Lee was referring to did not involve guns or missiles. It was a contest hidden from public view, waged between the nation’s food manufacturers and its first nutritionists—a war regarding the truth about processed foods. While modern beliefs about diet and health stem largely from the disproven idea that fat and cholesterol cause heart disease, the picture looked quite different to America’s nutrition pioneers. These practitioners and researchers, living at a time when industrially processed foods morphed from novelty to staple of the country’s food supply, witnessed firsthand a phenomenon repeated across the globe throughout the twentieth century: wherever processed foods were introduced, the “modern” diseases—heart attacks, cancer, stroke, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, liver disease, ulcers, tooth decay, and so on—soon followed, where they had been virtually nonexistent before. This phenomenon was so obvious and so predictable that only a massive conspiracy between industrial food manufacturers and the federal government, as Dr. Lee bravely outlines in this explosive essay, could hoodwink the American people into believing that processed and refined foods are capable of nourishing the human body. From The Interpreter, 1950. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 30-E.

Certain Nutritional Disorders of Laboratory Animals Due to Vitamin E Deficiency

By Alwin M. Pappenheimer, MD

Summary: A fascinating snapshot of some of the early animal research testing vitamin E deficiency. In this 1940 lecture, Dr. Alwin Pappenheimer details the grave and varied muscular and neural dystrophies that result in different species fed a diet lacking vitamin E. The young are particularly susceptible, he notes, often showing no symptoms for months after birth before being suddenly struck with neural or muscular dysfunction—the latter a condition he terms “nutritional muscular dystrophy.” In perhaps the most disturbing finding, a partial vitamin E deficiency in the diet of pregnant rats was shown to affect only the offspring—not the mothers, suggesting that what we today attribute to genetic inheritance is actually a problem of inherited malnutrition. In the words of Dr. Pappenheimer: “The fact that a partial deficiency of vitamin E in the mother may manifest itself only in the offspring seems to me to be one of the most significant lessons that one can draw from this work. May not similar things happen in human diseases and help explain the supposed hereditary or familial character of certain nervous and muscular disorders?” From Journal of the Mount Sinai Hospital, 1941. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 57.

For Heart Disease: Vitamin E

By J.D. Ratcliff

Summary: In this rare excerpt from the October 1948 issue of Coronet magazine, author J.D. Ratcliff discusses the function of  vitamin E (known originally as “the fertility vitamin” because of its critical role in animal reproduction) in the area of heart health. In particular, Ratcliff discusses the clinical work of the famous Shute brothers of Canada, medical doctors and researchers who gained international notoriety by successfully treating heart disease with vitamin E instead of pharmaceutical drugs. Ratcliff also addresses the wholesale destruction of naturally occurring vitamins in the modern diet. From Coronet, 1948. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 40.

The Fight over Vitamin E

By Eric Hutton

Summary: The story of the famous Shute brothers, Canadian medical doctors who gained international renown for treating heart disease with vitamin E. In spite of countless patients testifying to the success of the therapy, the medical professions in the United States and Canada tried every measure to silence and discredit the Shutes, much of it playing out in the popular press. The author of the article explains how the Shutes believed vitamin E helps alleve heart disorders: “The Shutes’ theory about vitamin E is this: It is not specifically a heart medication; that is, vitamin E has no affinity for the heart as insulin has for the pancreas or iodine for the thyroid gland. The chief effect of vitamin E is to reduce the amount of oxygen which the cells and tissues of the body and its organs require for efficient, healthy functioning. Heart diseases happens to be the most dramatic example of the result of oxygen deprivation, and vitamin E’s effect, simply stated, is to condition the tissues involved so that they are able to function normally, or at any rate to survive, on the greatly reduced amount of oxygen available to them when a coronary clot cuts down the oxygen-bearing blood supply reaching them.” Includes a commentary on the Shutes’ theory by the Canadian Medical Association. From Maclean’s Magazine, 1953. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research special reprint 4-54.

Do You Want to Lose the Hair on Your Chest?

By Dr. Royal Lee and unknown author

Summary: Two articles featuring quotes and commentary by Dr. Royal Lee that contrast the incredible nutritional value of butter with the equally incredible lack of nutritional value of “oleomargarine” (what we call simply margarine today). In particular, the relationship between vitamin E and pubescent development is discussed, with Dr. Lee reminding readers that “sex development demands vitamin E, and butter is our main source in the American diet.” Dr. Lee presents photos of boys and girls demonstrating the failure of sexual differentiation to occur as a result of nutrient starvation. He also discusses the vital roles of the vitamin F and D complexes—both found naturally and in their entirety in butter but not in margarine—in assimilating and distributing calcium in the body. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 59, 1948. 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.

Cardiac Failure in Cattle on Vitamin-E-free Rations as Revealed by Electrocardiograms

By T.W. Gullikson and C.E. Calverley

Summary: In 1922 researchers at the University of California at Berkeley showed that rats deprived of an unidentified substance found in leafy greens and wheat germ failed to reproduce. The fat-soluble nutrient was named vitamin E, and soon research groups around the world were studying the effects of its deficiency in species ranging from turkeys to the tree-kangaroo. In this 1946 report, researchers at the Minnesota Agricultural Station reveal the surprising results of a ten-year investigation into the effects of vitamin E deficiency on the reproductive health of cows. While the animals were able to reproduce, many of them suffered another, unforeseen calamity: sudden, fatal heart failure. Meanwhile, clinicians were reporting a variety of successful applications of vitamin E therapy in humans, as epitomized by the famous Shute brothers, two Canadian doctors who documented the effective use of vitamin E in nearly ten thousand heart patients—results discredited and ignored by the medical community to this day. From Science, 1946. Reprinted by the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research.

What Is Wrong with White Bread!

By Philip Harris and Paul Dunbar

Summary: A portfolio of four articles—two scientific studies and two commentaries—on the effects of deficiency diseases caused by white bread and other foods that have had the vitamin E complex refined out of their structure. A poignant example of how industrial-scale food refinement led to an industrial-scale deficiency in the diet of modern humankind. Articles published between 1949 to 1961 from various sources. Reprint 137A.

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.

New Light on the Biological Role of Vitamin E

By Herbert M. Evans

Summary: In 1922 biologists Herbert Evans and Katharine Bishop discovered that rats deprived of a certain fat-soluble substance in their diet failed to reproduce. Thanks to this research, the substance—later named vitamin E—was known initially as “the antisterility vitamin.” In subsequent years, however, researchers would discover that vitamin E is responsible for much more than fertility, its deficiency leading to muscular and neural dystrophies in various species of animals, particularly in the young. In this lecture from 1939, Dr. Evans discusses both his own research and that of others into vitamin E’s critical role in the health of muscle and nerves, adding that while a certain minimal amount of the vitamin may ward of full-blown degeneration, there are likely effects of partial inadequacy as well, such as slowed growth. While today medicine has nebulously reduced the function of vitamin E to that of an antioxidant, Dr. Evans’s discussion speaks to a role much more immediately involved in the physiology of the body. Indeed, he notes, when scientists fed rabbits a diet deficient in vitamin E but supplemented with a known antioxidant, the animals “developed the [same] dystrophy and succumbed in the usual way.” From Journal of the Mount Sinai Hospital, 1939. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 56.

Raw Food Vitamins

By Dr. Royal Lee

Summary: In this article from Health Culture magazine, Dr. Royal Lee describes in detail the negative effects of cooking and pasteurizing foods, specifically with regard to the destruction of vitamins, amino acids such as lysine and glutamine, and enzymes such as the phosphatase group, which help free up calcium in raw milk for absorption and aid its digestion (phosphatase is destroyed in pasteurized milk). Phosphatase also neutralizes the infamous compound phytic acid, so abundant in whole grains, that binds minerals and prevents them from being taken up by the body. Lee also discusses the vital role of vitamin E in nutrition. Reprint 30C, 1956.

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.

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.

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.

Vitamin E Versus Wheat Germ Oil

By Ezra Levin

Summary: The author of this report founded Viobin Corp, which developed wheat germ oil concentration methods. Fully referenced, the article declares that there is far more to wheat germ oil than alpha-tocopherol and that the effect delivered by natural vitamin E depends on much more than the isolated tocopherol. For instance, Levin writes, “It appears that, for the first time, evidence has been presented of the presence in wheat germ oil of a factor that exerts a beneficial effect in neuromuscular disturbances other than vitamin E [i.e., tocopherol].” Levin’s claims support Dr. Royal Lee’s contention that vitamins are synergistically combined complexes and not isolated chemicals. “For many years,” he adds, “we in our laboratory have suggested that research workers, in reporting their work. make a sharp distinction between vitamin E [tocopherol] and wheat germ oil. [The neuromuscular study] makes such differentiation imperative.” From the American Journal of Digestive Diseases, 1945. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 9.