Summary: In 1948 the polio epidemic was nearing its frightening peak in the United States. While medicine attempted to find an answer to the problem with its usual recourse, pharmaceutical drugs, one doctor in North Carolina proposed a safer and easier way to prevent the disease: nutritional therapy. Dr. Benjamin Sandler, a former navy doctor, had discovered that patients who ate a diet low in refined carbohydrates and high in quality protein were resistant to infection by polio and other contagious diseases. Dr. Sandler would prove his point when he convinced the newspapers in the state to run stories, such as the one preserved here, recommending a low-carbohydrate diet as a means of preventing polio. The result was a dramatic drop in polio incidence statewide, transforming North Carolina’s rate of the disease from one of the highest in the country to one of the lowest. For a detailed analysis of the results of Dr. Sandler’s campaign—and for more on his theory of low-carbohydrate diet and disease prevention—see his remarkable 1951 book Diet Prevents Polio. See also “The Low-Carb Diet That Prevented Polio” for more media coverage of Dr. Sandler’s courageous effort to stem the polio epidemic through nutrition. From the Statesville Daily Record, 1948.[The following is a transcription of the original Archives document. To view or download the original document, click here.]
Doctor Claims Immunity Diet Prevents Polio
Sugar and Starch Elimination Advised
Asheville, Aug. 5 (U.P.)—A former Navy doctor today claimed “without reserve” the discovery that a controlled diet will immunize a person within 24 hours from infection by the dread infantile paralysis virus.
Dr. Benjamin P. Sandler said that he and other doctors had learned through experiments started ten years ago that elimination of sugars and starches from the diet will ward off polio.
Sandler, now a physician at the Oteen Veterans Hospital here, released the information about his reported discovery during the height of a record-breaking polio epidemic that to date has struck 1,172 persons in North Carolina.
“I am talking about this discovery now,” Sandler said, “because I think the polio crisis requires immediate release of all our research findings.”
Sandler said it had been learned after exhaustive experiments that infantile paralysis victims frequently have a low blood sugar content, caused by eating sugars and starches.
“Cut out those foods, and in one day’s time the body builds up sufficient resistance to ward off the polio virus,” he said. “I am willing to state this without reserve.”
Sandler’s “polio immunization” diet means avoiding all sweet foods. Soft drinks, fruits, ice cream, candy, and [other] such delicacies are forbidden, as are the starches like bread or rolls, pancakes, and potatoes.
Sandler recommends three square meals a day, however, with emphasis placed on protective protein foods such as meats, fish, poultry, milk, and milk products.
He agrees with most other polio researches that plenty of rest is also required.
Sandler explained the oddity of a low sugar count being caused by eating too much sugar. Eating sugar raises the blood sugar briefly, he said, but in the long run it lowers the count greatly.
From the Statesville Daily Record, Statesville, North Carolina, Thursday, August 5, 1948. Author unknown.