View PDF: Vitamin F Research 1926 to 1957 1926 Boissevain, C.H. “The Action of Unsaturated Fatty Acids on Tubercle Bacilli.” Boissevain reports experiments showing the effect of unsaturated fatty acids on the virulence of tubercle bacilli in vitro. (Compare with the work of Larsen on the ricinoleates.) Linoleic and linolenic acids were among the most […]
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 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.
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 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.
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 John T. Alexander
Summary: A bittersweet newspaper account of a man who remineralizes soil using special organic composts, developed with the help of nutritional and agricultural scientists, to grow crops for concentration into whole-food supplements. On the one hand, the story is exciting and inspirational, revealing the difference that well-mineralized, well-bacterialized soil makes in the nutritional quality of foods grown in it. On the other hand, this is a sad reminder of the path industrial agriculture in this country did not take, opting instead for producing nutrient-deficient plants from sapped soil propped up with artificial fertilizers. Includes the famous quote by Dr. C.W. Cavanaugh of Cornell University: “The fact is there is only one major disease—and that is malnutrition.” From The Kansas City Star, 1952. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 55.
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.
By Jonathan Forman, MD
Summary: Dr. Jonathan Forman was an esteemed medical doctor who pioneered the field of environmental medicine and launched and edited the famous cutting-edge journal Clinical Physiology. From 1968 to the present, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine has presented the prestigious Jonathan Forman Award annually to doctors and researchers who make outstanding contributions to environmental medicine. In this biography of Dr. Royal Lee, Dr. Forman writes, “in the field of ‘health through nutrition’, [Dr. Lee] stands out as the Empire State Building on the New York skyline.” High praise indeed. Published by the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research, 1964.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
By Dr. Royal Lee
Summary: Dr. Royal Lee recalls numerous “miracle drugs” of his day that turned out to harmful or even lethal to many in the population. (With pharmaceutical-related deaths in America numbering in the tens to hundreds of thousands today, this practice has continued unabated.) It is the “cooperation with natural constructive forces” that brings health, Dr. Lee writes, not “drug or poison therapy by which the cell activities are subjected to new and unknown reactions with new and unknown end or side results that…undermine the future welfare of the patient.” This simple, sensible approach, Lee says, is the basis of his Vitamin Products Company, which provided complete, natural vitamins in the form of whole-food supplements. Lee also specifies some of the constituents of the natural vitamin C complex, which in addition to ascorbic acid includes an antihemorrhagic factor, a thrombin synthesis factor, a blood-oxygen factor, and a connective-tissue-integrity factor. From the Vitamin Products Company, circa 1940.
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.
“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.
By Dr. Royal Lee, Herbert C. White, and Arnold P. Yerkes
Summary: The Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprinted these three articles by leading natural-health authorities of the time to counter the “America is the best fed nation on earth” propaganda coming from government agencies and the commercial food industries. From soil destruction and depletion to food processing and synthetic vitamins, the three authors cogently expose the frauds, lies, and myths perpetrated by the “death-food industry,” so described by Royal Lee. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research special bulletin 1-52, 1952. Multiple original sources.