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 following is a transcription of the original Archives document. To view or download the original document, click hereNote that while several pages of the original published article were lost, we were able to locate Dr. Lee’s original draft of the article and have used it to replace the text missing from the published article, as marked.

Calories—Nutritional and Harmful Types[spacer height=”20px”]

The calorie is a unit of energy and reflects the fuel value of a food. It is very important to specify the availability of the foodstuff to the species involved when the term calorie is used—some animals, for instance, can utilize even cellulose as carbohydrate, which is totally inert as food for others. Even methods of assay for carbohydrate afford very unreliable results, [since] the infinite forms of natural carbohydrates—from hemicelluloses to pentosans—have nutritional coefficients for the human species of indeterminate values.

So the logical course to follow is to use only food sources that have a long history of known usefulness to human physiology. That, in fact, is the secret of success in all animal husbandry, and it is a particular lesson to observe that experience gained on one species cannot be transferred to another.

While proteins as well as fats and carbohydrates have caloric value, it is the latter two categories that are considered as calorie sources alone. But we must here recognize a first principle of nutrition—the cardinal premise that once a foodstuff has acquired a reputation for wholesomeness and health building, it be always supplied in its unadulterated state and unaltered by improper processing, refining, or aging. Such damage may not be reflected in the caloric content [but] may only be evident by careful tests in feeding animals or humans.

Here we run afoul of much chicanery. If animal tests show damage, the processor immediately shouts, “No such effect occurs to human consumers.” To show such effects in tests on human subjects may well be impossible for we cannot run parallel experiments on human subjects like we do on animals unless we have expendable human lives to experiment with. This is not possible in a country that has officially subscribed to the Golden Rule, although unofficial tests are being imposed on a long-suffering public most of the time. (Refer to the transcript of the testimony before the Delaney Committee of Congress on poisons in food if you wish more information—free copies available from the author.)

It must be admitted here that animal tests indicating any adverse reaction to any food sold for human use should be accepted as also applying to the human species until unquestionable proof to the contrary has been established. No other policy can be justified. When flour bleached with nitrogen trichloride was proven to cause epileptic fits in dogs, the makers unanimously claimed such reactions were confined to the canine species. But in the March 1957 Cosmopolitan, bleached flour products were shown to cause epilepsy in the human, among other serious reactions. It required fifty years of the use of bleached flour by the human species before this was publicly reported.

Bleaches all destroy vitamin E in flour, and for that reason they are outlawed in Germany. [Text of Dr. Lee’s original draft from 1957 begins here:] Vitamin E deficiency in animal tests produced extensive degeneration of the peripheral musculature1,2,3,4,5,6 and of the heart muscle plus changes in the electrocardiogram.7,8,9 Vitamin E increases the power of the isolated heart, increases the coronary blood flow, [and] decreases the consumption of glucose and oxygen.10,11 Where test animals were deprived of vitamin E alone, 13 out of 28 dropped dead from heart failure within one year.12

Possibly no better example could be cited to show the terrible consequences of permitting a fraction of one percent of a vital food to be destroyed by ignorant processors. The vitamin of flour is lost as soon as the flour’s oils becomes rancid—a change that occurs in a few days after the milling of the grain unless the flour is refrigerated. To pretend that these consequences of vitamin E deficiency occur only in test animals, never in human subjects, is an important misconception unquestionably fostered by the makers of this common “foodless calorie” product, bleached flour. 

Synthetic imitations of natural foods are another great class of “foodless calories.” The hydrogenated fats are in this category; so is synthetic dextrose (corn syrup, glucose of commerce).

A high blood cholesterol is known to predispose to heart disease, hypertension, and cancer.13,14,15 Hydrogenated fats promote an increase in blood cholesterol; natural, unrefined vegetable oils promote a progressive reduction in blood cholesterol.16 In these synthetic products, we have new molecular forms that human physiology never has had an opportunity to become adjusted to. Also, they are totally unaccompanied by the vitamin and mineral compounds of organic nature that all natural foods contain, such as the vitamin E complex of cereals.

The carcinogenic effect of this high blood cholesterol has been known for a long time. Adding cholesterol to the diet of test animals susceptible to cancer caused metastases in 90 percent of the animals, where without the cholesterol there were no metastases.17 Patients with carcinoma were found to have an average of 66 percent more cholesterol in their body fat than normal persons do.18 Blood cholesterol has been found consistently higher in victims of carcinoma.19 We do not attribute a primary role to cholesterol in carcinogenesis, but it appears unquestionably to be one of the definite predisposing factors and is suspected to cause the occurrence of cancer in susceptible individuals at an earlier age than otherwise.20

All this represents evidence of unwholesomeness of the synthetic hydrogenated fat, a product that is not food to start with but a counterfeit, immoral imitation of natural food fats. Glucose, another synthetic food fraud made by hydrolyzing cornstarch, was condemned by Dr. Harvey W. Wiley when it first appeared, in these words:

“Now let me give you just a few more words about another feature of injury. You understand that we eat starch and fruit sugars. We digest those. If the sucrose has not been digested, we digest it. If the starch has not been digested, we digest it—with the functions that we have achieved in this life—and then the sugar enters the bloodstream.

“Now what happens with the levulose [fructose]? We never find levulose in the bloodstream. We find only dextrose [glucose]. The sugar that is in the blood and goes to the tissues and there is burned is always dextrose; it is never levulose. I wish I knew what became of levulose. I do not; but it is possible that there may be an enzyme, a digestive enzyme, that converts levulose into dextrose. [Note: Today we know that fructose is sent directly to the liver, where it is converted into fat and may be a primary contributor to the current epidemic of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.]

“Now suppose you have too much starch and too much sugar. You cannot burn it all at once. [The glucose] is converted into an inert substance called glycogen and is stored up in this condition in the liver and in the tissues. The burning of the sugar in the blood [on the other hand] is activated by the pancreas. So if we flood our stomachs with dextrose [and our glycogen stores are filled], we will need half a dozen artificial pancreases to take care of it, and there is a real danger—a threatening danger, as every wise physiologist will tell you—from that source.

“So by reason of paralysis of our digestive apparatus through lack of functioning, which is a threat in itself, and by reason of the increase in the amount of dextrose we ingest to far above what we need, we endanger our health in the most serious way. So that I voice now, and with all the emphasis I can put on it, my disagreement with every other person except Dr. Menges who has testified here—and it has been unanimous almost—who has said that this predigested and prechewed dextrose is harmless. I deny it, and I think I have most-scientific grounds to convince you, gentleman, that this is not a harmless substance.”21

It was not until 1942 that Lukens and Dohan, at the University of Pennsylvania, by animal tests showed that this synthetic dextrose was the only known form of sugar to cause diabetes in test animals—the very thing that Dr. Wiley predicted from his knowledge of human reactions to unnatural influences.22

As a final example of the tremendous difference in wholesomeness between natural foods and their synthetic counterfeits, I cite the fact that raw honey in reasonable amounts fails to disturb the blood sugar level of the diabetic patient, according to recent reports from German investigators. Furthermore, it is very important to note that in the field of dentistry, natural sugars, including honey, were found incapable of causing or increasing the incidence of tooth decay—in contrast with refined sugar, which promoted tremendous increase in carious teeth.23

In view of the total inadequacy of the pure food laws to protect us against these health-destroying, nonnutritious counterfeit foods, it is essential for everyone knowing of the situation to act to properly inform his fellows. Otherwise he becomes by his silence equally guilty with the food counterfeiters of undermining the public health and helping to “cover up” for the law violators. [End of text from original draft, dated April 15, 1957.]

By Dr. Royal Lee. Reprinted from Natural Food and Farming, Official Publication of Natural Food Associates, Inc., Vol. 7, No. 8, January 1961, by Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research.


1. Pappenheimer, A.M. and Goettsch. M. Jol Exper. Med., 53:11, 1931.
2. Pappenheimer, A.M. and Goettsch. M. Jol Exper. Med., 54:145, 1931.
3. Morgulis, S. Nutritional Muscle Dystrophy Ed. Hermann & Co., Paris, 1938.
4. Aloisi, M. Arch de Vecchi. Anat. Pst e Med. Clin., 3:1, 1940.
5. Aloisi, M. Arch di Fisiol., 40:412, 1940.
6. Aloisi, M. La Clin. Terapeutica, 2:5, 1952.
7. Gullickson, T.W. and Calverley, C.E. “Cardiac Failure in Cattle on Vitamin E Free Rations as Revealed by Electrocardiogram.” Science, 104:312, 1949.
8. Martin, G.J. and Faust, F.B., Exp. Med. & Surg., 5:405, 1947.
9. Filer, L.J. and Rumery, R.E., Yu, N.G., Mason, K.E. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sc., 52:284, 1949.
10. Vaccari, F. Cuore, E. Circulazione, 35:3, 1951.
11. Vaccari, F. Cuore, E. Circulazione, 35:227, 1951.
12. Gullickson, T.W. “The Relation of Vitamin E to Reproductivity in Dairy Cattle.” Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sc., 52:256, 1949.
13. Hieger, I. Brit. J. Cancer, 3:123–139, 1949.
14. Science News Letter, June 18, 1951, page 371.
15. Baldwin, E. Dynamic Aspects of Biochemistry. Macmillan, 1947, page 388.
16. Annual Review of Biochemistry, 1956, page 623. Annual Reviews Inc.
17. Sweet, J.E., Corson-White, E.P., and Saxon, G.J. Jol. Biol. Chem., XXI 309, 1915.
18. Wacker, L. Zeitschr.f. [sic]Physiol. Chem., LXXX, 383.
19. Luden, G., “Studies in Cholesterol (V).” Jol. Lab. & Clin. Med., IV, No. 1, 1918.
20. Robertson, T.B. The Chemical Basis of Growth & Senescence. Lippincott, 1923, page 281.
21. Harvey W. Wiley. The History of a Crime Against the Food Law. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research, Milwaukee 1, Wisconsin, 1930, page 315.
22. Dohan, F.C., and Lukens, F.D. “Lesions of the Pancreatic Islets Produced in Cuts by Administration of Glucose.” Science, 105:183, 1947.
23. Waugh, D.B. and Waugh, L.M. Amer. Jol. Dis. Children, 59:483–489, 1940.

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Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research
Milwaukee, WI 53201

Note: Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research is a nonprofit, public-service institution, chartered to investigate and disseminate nutritional information. The attached publication is not literature or labeling for any product, nor shall it be employed as such by anyone. In accordance with the right of freedom of the press guaranteed to the Foundation by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the attached publication is issued and distributed for informational purposes.

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